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A Question for Checks & Balances—Could You Make Your Case Against Trump? 

Recently, a group of high profile attorneys and law professors formed a new organization—named Checks & Balances—intended to challenge what they perceive as wrongful behavior by the Trump Administration. I know some of the members of this group—some have been my friends for over three decades—and I have great respect for them.

I have seen statements by group members praising the Trump Administration’s efforts on judges and regulatory reform. Clearly, these are significant accomplishments from a conservative or libertarian perspective. There are also other accomplishments of the Administration, such as its Mideast policy—which has moved against ISIS, Palestinian recalcitrance, global discrimination against Israel, and a nuclear Iran by promoting an alliance of opponents, without entering into a major war.

So if there are significant accomplishments, which I might add far exceed some traditional Republican administrations in these areas, what is the cause for concern about the Trump Administration? I do not doubt that there are serious questions and criticisms to be asked about the Administration. But the problem is that there is so much hysteria about Trump from the media and some of his critics, it is hard to know what are the strongest complaints about him and his administration.

So what could Checks & Balances do that would be most valuable? I think that they should make the case why they believe that Trump is especially problematic. First, do their criticisms of Trump extend beyond his departure from historical norms governing the presidency and some of his extravagant statements? Clearly, Trump has departed from such norms. One can argue whether Trump’s behavior is the continuation of a trend from earlier presidents or represents a sharp departure from prior practices. And one can certainly be concerned about such behavior, just as one can be concerned by isolated statements, such as those involving his criticisms of birthright citizenship, that do not appear to result in policy change.

But is the main complaint about Trump or does the critique extend to more substantive matters? And if so, what are those substantive matters? I am genuinely curious as to whether the members of Checks & Balances believe that Trump’s behavior differs from traditional Republicans and if so, whether it is better or worse.

One issue that often comes up is the Mueller investigation. If that is their concern, then that will not be helpful. One can believe that the appointment of special counsel Mueller was justified, but it is a hard case to be made. For one, not much has been uncovered so far. But much more importantly, the investigation was not justified under traditional standards for appointing special counsels. The Mueller appointment was not for a criminal investigation but for a counterintelligence investigation. Thus, the appointment did not follow—indeed, it actually ignored—the Special Counsel regulation. In any event, despite the appearances created by president’s usual loose talk, neither Trump nor his agents have taken actions to restrict Mueller.

So what are the legitimate complaints? There could be many, such as Trump’s trade policy. But it would be helpful to see the complaints listed and developed in a sober way so that one could evaluate them. I regard myself as someone who should be Checks & Balances’ core audience – someone who shares their political principles, who is open to persuasive criticisms of the President.

But so far I have not really seen anything along these lines from the group (although I may have missed it – if so, please let me know). George Conway co-wrote an op-ed attacking the Whitaker appointment. I agree, at least under the original meaning of the Constitution, the appointment was unconstitutional. Indeed, I developed the theory 12 years ago. But so what? Presidents regularly do not follow the original meaning. Obama rarely did. And in this case, there is a long practice suggesting it is not unconstitutional. This is not the type of criticism that would justify the formation of their group.

So Checks & Balances, it is your move.

Reader Discussion

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on November 27, 2018 at 10:19:06 am

You haven't seen anything because there isn't anything to be seen. The widespread loathing of Trump is purely an impressionistic reaction, based in aesthetics only. He offends people and their offense stands for a reason. It is evident that, while the loathing is genuine, the loathers themselves are at an absolute loss to explain their emotion even to themselves, let alone to the rest of us. The loathing occurred independently and ever since there has been a furious search for "objective reasons." Trump is only the occasion for a mass catharsis that may yet prove beneficial to us in the long term.

This claim--his departure from historical norms governing the presidency--is absurd, considering the behaviors of FDR & JFK (extramarital affair while in office), LBJ (too many to list), Clinton, just to name a few obvious ones. What Trump departs from is the vacuous Presidential-political idiom, whereby nothing definite is ever said lest it cause offense to someone somewhere--a certainty in this age--or provide grist for the many media mills on deadline. As for Twitter, well, Trump is a President for his Time. Clinton unPresidentially played the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show (if memory serves); Obama joined in the progressive mockery of this country by a "slow jam" of the news on the Daily Show. Twitter is the TV of today and Trump's thin skin joins that of the progressive Twitterati who take umbrage at everything. Trump was publicly abandoned even by his own party and has been condemned in continuous, unprecedented fashion since before he was even sworn in. I'm sure he is a difficult man to work with; someone please demonstrate how that makes him exceptional. His policies can be disagreed with but none are beyond the political pale for this country except to today's "by any means necessary" Left who have given over all thought and simply accuse any Trump or Republican policy of being mass murder.

Whatever "norms" Trump may disregard, and as far as I can tell the only one is the Corleone norm of never letting anyone outside the family know what you're thinking, this cannot account for the Bacchic frenzy which our intellectual class denounces him. And as for Checks & Balances, tell your friends to go back and re-read their Brutus.

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QET
on November 27, 2018 at 11:23:46 am

Ausgezeichnet!

With focused indignation QET has said what is corroborated at greater length by Presidential historians (Conrad Black and Charles Kesler have done some of that academic lifting,) by the finest scholars of group psychology (read, say, Freud's "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego" and Eric Hoffer's " The True Believer" on the psycho-dynamics of mob behavior) and by political scientists of nationalism and real politique (read Yoram Hazony's 2018 "The Virtue of Nationalism" and Hans Morganthau's 1948 "Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace." )

More importantly, what QET say about Trump should be obvious to any intelligent observer (regardless of his/her knowledge of history, psychology or political science) whose judgement is not addled by debilitating personal neurosis or group psychosis (yes, a nation can go mad with mental illness; Russia, Germany and China did and ours has) or warped by ulterior ideological purpose. One need do only what Francis Bacon advised (more or less) in 1620 ("Novum Organum") and what John Lennon advised in 1968 ("The Yellow Submarine".)

"Be empirical. Look." And you will see.

As for Rappaport's concern with "Checks and Balances" (what a self-inflating, pompous name!) I would say, "Who cares?" (Except, sadly, for the estimable Kellyanne Conway who has been callously humiliated by her self-seeking, moronic husband, ''Checks and Balances" is of no significance; it was created solely as a media event, exists solely to feed the media and in a month will be forgotten even by MSNBC.)

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Pukka Luftmensch
on November 27, 2018 at 12:44:48 pm

It isn't the responsibility of any outside appendages with checks and balances. As outlined in the Constitution checks and balances start with Congress. Unfortunately Congress feels that it no longer is there as check and balance against the other two branches of government over stepping their bounds but they have become an active arm of their perspective parties and have become a check and balance against the other political party over stepping. The current members of the GOP have become silently complacent in any vocal opposition and trough errors of omission, inadvertent inattention, deliberate distortions and willful disregard have become parasitic enablers to the president. They fear to anger him or his base by openly opposing him for fear of losing re-election as exhibited by Trumps reaction to Mia Love's loss in Utah. When the president finally realized he faced losing the House the 2018 midterms went from purging the party to a flat out "Save Trump".

As far as the third branch of government their check and balance is being nullified by Trump packing the court. There doesn't seem to be any "Profiles in Courage" from any where but the presidents sinking approval numbers.

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Bob Manderville
on November 27, 2018 at 14:22:26 pm

You lose all credibility when you agree that the Whitaker appointment is likely unconstitutional and then say "But so what?" Does the Constitution apply only when it suits your political agenda?" We need an organization like checks and balances precisely because it's NOT acceptable, to advance or accomplish a conservative or libertarian agenda as you argue is being served by Trump, if in the process this administration ignores the Constitution and chips away at our democratic institutions. The means do not justify the ends.

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Susan Aledort
on November 27, 2018 at 18:45:04 pm

So as to exclude myself from those who "lose all credibility when (they) agree that the Whitaker appointment is likely unconstitutional and then say “But so what? " I will say that the Whitaker appointment is both constitutional and compliant with the statute which Congress enacted to cover the potentially-crippling contingency of a temporary vacancy in an office for which Senate confirmation is required.

And rather than say, "But so what?" I would say to the Trump-haters: 1) it is patently obvious that you seek to disguise psychologically-unhinged personal animus for Trump behind an intellectual façade of faux-constitutionalism; 2) that the constitution and the Congress empower the president to undertake unilateral action on myriad matters and 3) that Trump's doing so here (and in every other case so far) should not be cited as an abuse of the rule of law, contrary to numerous Obama actions which the Left, the Never-Trumpers and their media benefactors found unremarkable.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on November 28, 2018 at 10:47:31 am

Apparently, there is nothing that the "unhinged' will not do to take down Trump. Mr Mueller has even resorted to the following:

"BREAKING: FBI and Mueller team coerced 72-year-old Jerome Corsi to undergo regressive memory therapy techniques during interrogation to “remember” a meeting with Russians in Italy that Corsi was adamant never happened" (From today's PJ Media - Live Blog)

Talk about fake news - once again we have "fake memories" or in this case "manufactured" memories.

Hey didn't we just go through a similar round of this in the Kavanaugh hearings?

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gargamel rules smurfs
on November 28, 2018 at 13:00:10 pm

Most men and women of limited resources and short life expectancy who are threatened with financial destruction and life in prison can be persuaded to remember anything and to say anything. The technique, a form of psychological torture and extortion, is one that Stalin used extensively in the great purges of 1937 and again after victory in the Battle of Stalingrad had dispensed with his existential needs to rely on Russian nationalism and to restrain anti-Semitism and, thus, enabled him to loose the dogs of the NKVD.

Dr. Jerome Corsi at the mercy of the Special Counsel faces to a lesser degree the fate of Stalin's victims, confess according to government script or be destroyed, as did General Flynn and the other hapless targets of the lawless, unrestrained Special Counsel who has squeezed/extorted his victims as an inducement for them to harm the president.

The national insanity and political hypocrisy of the Mueller Affair (think Dreyfus) arise from the fact that the country's major media and federal law enforcement ignore what is patently obvious, enormous evidence of the greatest abuse of law enforcement and intelligence gathering power and the most outrageous, successful episode of election-interference in US history, both undertaken by the Democrats, while squabbling over Trump's effort to fill temporarily a vacancy in the Office of Attorney General and obsessing over Russia's clumsy, ineffective attempts at election interference in 2016, election interference that the Soviets attempted routinely after the Bolshevik Revolution, that the Red Chinese attempt every day in a much bigger way than the Russians and that Facebook, Twitter, Google, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and MSNBC do as a routine part of their propaganda businesses.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on November 28, 2018 at 15:40:15 pm

Yes, this recalls a statement of the pre-NKVD Soviet security service recalled by Solzhenitsyn: “What we need is five percent truth and the rest can be your imagination."

So--what is to be done?

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QET
on November 28, 2018 at 16:25:41 pm

I always get a laugh out of reading deplorable conspiracy theories that usually make Lyndon La Rouch look normal

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Bob Manderville
on November 28, 2018 at 16:49:06 pm

Is your laughter induced by "deplorable conspiracy theories" (shouldn't that be "deplorables' conspiracy theories"?) as personally pleasurable for you as the joy ("schadenfreude" is what you called it) you get from your country's misery?

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Image of Pukka Luftmensch
Pukka Luftmensch
on November 28, 2018 at 20:07:22 pm

Apparently, Mr Mandible is fond of mandibular arguments which reduces to nothing more than the usual "jaw, jaw, jaw" and like most mandibular activity spreads half chewed, salivations upon all within reach! There is, of course, an accompanying stench of vitriol which effuses from these half-chewed "truths".

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gargamel rules smurfs
on November 28, 2018 at 22:13:04 pm

Pukka:

You conveniently misinterpret my previous remark to mean my country while the pleasure I attain is watching a rogue bunch of intellectual idiots who believe themselves to be patriots suffer. You say you passionately want the truth exploited , but it must be YOUR truth, couched in YOUR words, in the hands of YOUR people, and achieved by YOUR methods. People who believe in conspiracy theories cease to believe in the possibility of discourse and deliberation. Sorry but that isn't how America works.

gargamel rules smurfs:

A Trump supporter should be the last one to accuse anyone of "half chewed truths'. You are goaded into a tribalism that makes ideas, facts, truth, and basic decency expendable and instead rely on distorted views and murky certainties. Trump supporters live in a bubble of virtual reality. it's not in academia or politics where they aspire but in the fake reality echo chamber of blogs, chat rooms, and message boards patting each other on the back and complimenting each others tunnel insight.

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Bob Manderville
on November 29, 2018 at 09:38:13 am

Hmmm!
What about Bob?
Well, the few things we know about Bob suggest he's a Democrat at heart:
1) Bob said (shouted) an awful thing ("SCHADENFREUDE") in reply to my comment about the nation's misery, then denied he said it. So we know that Bob, Democrat-like, is in reality denial mode. A charitable explanation for the discrepancy would be that either Bob does not say what he means or Bob does not mean what he says. Again, very Democrat-like.
2) Bob raised the specter of "deplorable conspiracy theories" in reply to a comment that was devoid of any mention of conspiracy, so we know that Bob sees things that aren't there. Democrat Party to a T.
3) Bob says he left the Republican Party because of Trump. Thus, like every other Democrat, Bob has contracted PTSD. But there is a good side to Post Trump Stress Disorder, and conservatives must applaud the president's achievement in ridding the Party of Lincoln of myriad RINO's. Driving from Republican ranks the likes of Senators Corker and Flake (whose sole Senatorial mission and success was to live up to their names,) George Will, Bill Kristol and ole Bob, along with Trump's dispatching Hillary Clinton and Claire McCaskill to the political dustbin, warrant a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on November 29, 2018 at 10:36:23 am

The sentence should read:
"1) Bob said (shouted) an awful thing (“SCHADENFREUDE”) in reply to my comment about the nation’s misery, then denied what his statement clearly meant."

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Pukka Luftmensch
on November 29, 2018 at 18:03:42 pm

Goodness gracious, Bobbie! That must be quite the MIRROR you have before you as you compose your acidic and inane "half-chewed" slanders while simultaneously imbibing the Jonestown (like) Kool-Aid on offer from the current batch of socialist Messiahs including the Never Trumpers along with the usual miscreants that inhabit the Democrat Party.

No, Bobbie is nothing more than a lifelong Democrat who poses as a disappointed Republican in order to convince others that Trump is horrid, horrid man and worthy only of contempt.

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gargamel rules smurfs
on November 29, 2018 at 19:10:57 pm

Pukka:

Mr Manderville is, or was, a Republican in the same manner that Jeff FLAKE is a Republican and his "Damascus" moment, no doubt has caused him to behave and think in a manner not dissimilar to that other, but more well known FLAKE. Undoubtedly, Mr Manderville will soon shower The Flake from Arizona with high praise for his *fidelity* to the "real" GOP principles as evidenced by Flake's most recent tantrum in the Senate:

https://hotair.com/archives/2018/11/29/gop-forced-cancel-committee-vote-advance-judicial-nominees-due-flakes-blockade-mueller-bill/

If this is a conservative (both Flake and Manderville) then there truly is only ONE Party, which of course is the aim of all the RINO's, Never Trumpers and the RICO-like syndicate known as the Democrat Party.

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gabe
on November 30, 2018 at 01:25:34 am

One after another. The same sorry azz rebuttal of dismissing someone's comments by accusing them of being a Democrat. It's not hard belonging to a cult when no thought is required of you and you all have the same robotic juvenile answer is it? What a sorry azz bunch. LMAO.........You can keep the GOP.

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Bob Manderville
on November 30, 2018 at 09:26:36 am

"LMAO....."
That's another thing that Ole Bob brings to the Democrat Party, he laughs at EVERYTHING: the nation's misery gives Bob "SCADENFREUDE;" Bob "always gets a laugh out of reading" about political conspiracy and Hillary's deplorables, and the political division within the GOP causes him to "Laugh My Ass Off."

Maybe that's what Rahm Emanuel meant when he said "A crisis is too good an opportunity to waste." Disaster is an opportunity for Democrats to laugh. I bet Obama's economy was a real knee-slapper for Bob.

It may be that such a fun guy as Bob can teach his Democrat Party to laugh at all the opportunities they generate.

Ole Bob's not much on vocabulary and spelling, though. Used and misspelled the same word twice in a mere three lines.
Needs Gabe's spell-checker. Reading more might help Bob expand his limited vocabulary and mind.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on December 05, 2018 at 00:49:19 am

[…] I wrote a post that challenged Checks & Balances—the new conservative and libertarian group that has formed […]

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Checks & Balances Responds

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