Former CBS news anchor Dan Rather has written a scathing essay about President Donald Trump’s disdain for the checks and balances enshrined in the American Constitution and lambastes Trump for his refusal to take responsibility for his duties as Commander-in-Chief. When a federal judge temporarily halted Trump’s travel ban targeting seven majority Muslim countries due to Constitutional concerns, Trump quickly took to Twitter to berate the judge.
Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2017
He preemptively assigned blame to the judge should any terrorist attack occur on American soil. That is not how our government works. The judiciary serves as a check on presidential power, and it is the president’s job to work within the framework of the Constitution to protect American citizens, as Rather eloquently point out:
No sir, Mr. President, with all due respect. The job of protecting this country from a terrorist attack falls on your shoulders.
In the past few days Mr. Trump has launched a very serious and very dangerous campaign of suggesting that if an attack occurs it will be the fault of federal judges who ruled that his Executive Order on immigration was Constitutionally problematic. And more recently he suggested it might be the fault of the press for not reporting on terrorist attacks – an assertion which any fair read of the evidence shows is a lie. As with the sweeping allegations of millions of fraudulent voters (where is the investigation of that dire threat to our democracy now?), the White House cannot supply facts to back up the President’s claim.
Mr. Trump is the Commander in Chief. The armed services and intelligence community report to him. Searching for scapegoats to blame even before an event occurs is to sow the seeds of destabilization to the very fabric of our republic. These are the tactics of a thin-skinned bully who may realize he is in far over his head. No doubt there are many in Mr. Trump’s base who are being whipped up into a misguided frenzy fueled by “fake news” and right-wing media. This is a common tactic of authoritarian rulers I have seen around the globe. It is stoking civic unrest and paving a path to crack downs and repression.
I do not think – or perhaps a desperate hope is father to the thought – that this tactic will work here. Mr. Trump built his brand on a bold, brash form of leadership and I think most Americans will see through the rhetoric of dodging responsibility. Furthermore we cherish an independent judiciary as a bedrock of our checks and balances. We can see that the press has covered terrorist attacks fully. And I do not see either judges or reporters backing down. Quite the contrary.
But Mr. Trump is signaling how he will react in a time of crisis. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Trump has displayed a worrying disregard for the most fundamental institutions of American democracy. No matter what threats to national security he perceives, he must recognize that he is bound by the Constitution. Trump must recognize that it is not the responsibility of federal judges to set security policy; their job is to stop executive overreach. As Rather suggests, Trump is probably lashing out because he knows he is in over his head when it comes to national security. Trump knows he will fail and he needs someone for his supporters to blame when it inevitably happens.
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.