Missing: checks and balances

Remember the soothing murmurs before and even after the election that “checks and balances” would prevent Trump from getting away with authoritarian excesses? I do.

The Times points out the obvious fact that there don’t seem to be any.

By circumventing normal practices for formulating policies and their execution, the White House has created still-swirling confusion about whom the order targets and how it will be enforced. There is also ambiguity about the legality of the order, which the White House calls extreme vetting but which critics call a Muslim ban, and about how court challenges, already underway, will proceed.

For many abroad, the ban raised questions about how an American president could undertake such an action suddenly and unilaterally, seemingly unfettered by checks and balances. The order’s apparent breaches with usual protocol over how policy is made, and potentially with the law, are already creating major problems in its enforcement.

That’s putting it a good deal too politely. Trump is carrying on as if he had been handed absolute power on January 20th. Trump doesn’t give a rat’s ass about “usual protocol” because he thinks he’s the best person in the universe and that he can and should act accordingly.

Several federal courts have already prohibited deportations under the ban and have ordered that individuals detained at airports or at the border have access to lawyers. But there have been reports of customs and border officials refusing to comply.

This appears to set up a potential conflict between the branches of government — a worrying possibility, as the separation of powers is a cornerstone of American democracy. Should the judicial branch be blocked from performing its role as a check on the executive, it would lead to a constitutional crisis. It is unclear how Mr. Trump would respond to such a crisis or how it would resolve.

Again – carefully Timesesque wording for a starkly terrifying situation. To put it more bluntly: it seems to be entirely possible that Trump will respond to such a crisis the way he has responded all along: by imposing his will by force, by any means necessary. He’ll put us all in camps if that’s what it takes.

The president has broad powers to regulate and restrict immigration without congressional approval, though this is limited by certain constitutional protections that could apply.

Mr. Trump broke radically in this case with long-held norms of how executive power is exercised. Ordinarily, a president drafts policy changes by consulting, over a period of weeks or months, with federal agencies and other stakeholders in and outside the government.

Because even shitty presidents understand they are part of a government, not absolute rulers. But Trump is both too stupid and too conceited to understand that, and also to care if he did understand it. Malignant narcissists don’t understand things like that.

Those practices are meant to vet a policy for its legality and ability to be enforced, as well as for unforeseen consequences. The process also lets agencies begin planning how they will execute the policy and allows those affected to prepare.

The administration appears to have largely skipped that process, drafting this and other recent orders within a small circle of political advisers. Relevant agencies and the National Security Council were granted little or no review over the immigration order before it was signed.

Because he’s that stupid and incompetent, and he’s surrounded himself with enablers. The grownups have all left the building.

There is no law mandating such an internal review. But, by forgoing it, the administration circumvented an important internal check on executive power, while creating the impression that it is making critical national policy in slapdash fashion.

No, not “creating the impression” – actually doing it. It is obviously  making critical national policy in slapdash fashion.

But internal vetting is about more than practicalities and legalities; it is also meant to protect the core values and interests of the United States. More voices are emerging to challenge the order on those grounds, a concern that will probably remain even if the administration amends the order to pass legal muster.

That of course is the real horror. With one violent yank, he has pulled us into the moral world of Nazi Germany, and we don’t want to go there.

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