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The President Should Break Established Norms, But Only Bad Ones

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Charles Kesler, a friend from college, defends Trump’s breaking presidential norms by saying that democracy makes progress when long lasting, but suboptimal norms are broken so long as they are not hard-wired into the Constitution. I agree in principle, but do not believe that this President’s norm-breaking has been beneficial on balance. He has broken some norms that are essential to democracy—like treating opponents with respect. Civility to opponents is particularly important because democracy is a fragile thing that rests on the ability to compromise even with people with whom one fundamentally disagrees. Moreover, breaking good norms, particularly those around civility, has deprived him of the political capital to end some entrenched Washington insider norms that would be vulnerable to an outsider like Trump.

Let me stipulate that sometimes President Trump has beneficially changed our norms. Perhaps the best new norm on offer is announcing before the election and adding to it afterwards a list of Supreme Court nominees from whom he will choose. That list creates transparency and greater discussion about justices who will interpret our fundamental law. That he makes this list in consultation with experts that he trusts is also to be applauded. Most Presidents know relatively little about constitutional law, let alone constitutional theory. Who would help them fill out their basic intuitions by choosing talented justices other than experts who are in general agreement with them?

But who can doubt either that the President’s intemperance on Twitter and failure to treat opponents civilly is alienating many independents who are necessary to maintain a winning political coalition? And his failure to fire officials with whom he publicly disagrees makes him seems a bystander to his own administration, a kind of Twitterer-in-Chief, something that is not a good norm to create.

Here are four insider norms that President Trump should seek to break. These actions would advance his  outsider agenda and would be vote winners or at least vote-neutral.

  1. Break up the Washington bureaucracy. Move departments to the vast land outside the beltway. There is no reason that most departments in this age of instant communication need to be in D.C. Put the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Indianapolis, Commerce in Phoenix and so on. It is a real problem that most bureaucrats have views that are to the left of median Democrat. Part of that ideological slant comes from geography and another part group-think. Dispersing government across the nation would help create more ideological and cultural balance.
  2. Rein in the Independent Agencies. Put independent agencies under the cost-benefit analysis executive order. Fire some independent agency heads who are out of step with the President’s policies.  This exercise of  political control would create more accountability in government.
  3. Put political appointees on a budget. Require all cabinet officials who want to spend more than $1,000 on refurbishing their office to get approval of the White House and do not give such approval unless their office cannot be made otherwise to work.  If the President were to sign this order even now with a flourish, his popularity would tick up.
  4. Cut tax withholding.  Withhold only 3/4  what is estimated to be due in taxes and move the payment date right before the election. Making taxes somewhat more painful will restrain government by harnessing taxpayer outrage.
Reader Discussion

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on August 28, 2018 at 13:09:16 pm

" Civility to opponents is particularly important because democracy is a fragile thing that rests on the ability to compromise even with people with whom one fundamentally disagrees. Moreover, breaking good norms, particularly those around civility, has deprived him of the political capital to end some entrenched Washington insider norms that would be vulnerable to an outsider like Trump."

It will be a struggle to continue to read this tripe - but I will try .
In the meantime:

"What civility? When, in the past 4 decades has the Left exhibited restraint or civility toward ANYone on the right? How many more images of a BEHEADED TRUMP, or a GW Bush swinging from the Gallows will it take for our *respectable* Never (or perhaps Almost Never) Trumpers to realize that civility is defined and practiced quite differently by the Loonie Left than by the Right. Frankly, it is a welcome change to see The Trumpster give as good, or better than, he gets. Is McGinnis old enough to remember Give "Em Hell Harry? Geez Luise, he was applauded for it.

As for political capital - REALLY! Before he ever assumed Office, it was assumed, indeed, it was determined that he would NOT have any political capital. He was to be the outcast, that *lout* from Queens, who would probably fart at the dinner table.
Capital, you say, my boy! The Left and the Media were determined to deny that to him. Indeed, the effort began before he was even nominated with Operation CrossFire, lead by the FBI under the tender ministrations of the Obama Admin and the Clinton Machine. CAPITAL????? What then was the purpose of all the slanders, dressed up as counterintelligence findings directed at The Trumpster. Capital??? What is the purpose of the Mueller Inquisition but to further reduce whatever credibility the man may have?

No, as far as the Left is concerned the only *capital* that The Trumpster should have comes attached to the word "punishment" - that and that alone will satisfy them.

And one should also point out that The Trumpster may not gain political capital in the eyes of the Left, the Media (oops, a redundancy) and the Never and Almost Never Trumpsters on this site, the galvanizing effect it has had on the populace is quite considerable.

I will now risk further *agita* and continue reading what at first glance is more "polite" tripe.

Let us hope that McGinnis, in the remaining essay, acknowledges The Trumpsters efforts to end some of the *bad norms* that The LightBringer, Obama, established -i.e., Executive Orders on DACA, College Sexual Assault Guidelines, A Nuclear Treaty that was NOT atreaty - and all done with the *pen* that he frequently assured us he did not possess, nor could it be deployed even if he possessed.

NOPE, I'll take the *lout* from Queens. To me, it feels just like HOME!!!

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gabe
on August 28, 2018 at 13:19:54 pm

I want to thank the above poster for showing what the perfect Trump supporter looks like. After all, freedom from sexual assault is so unnecessary, because when you're rich, 'they let you do it' (though a couple of lawsuits outstanding might indicate that this actually isn't the case). Also, the norm of financial stability and...not so much open greed for government benefits and personal enrichment, well, obviously the above poster doesn't think that's necessary either. This administration has certainly shown the way towards the wonderfulness of the Harding administration (cf Teapot Dome). Clearly integrity is obsolete, and totally unnecessary according to at least one Trump supporter.

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excessivelyperky
on August 28, 2018 at 13:29:11 pm

OK, now past *agita*:

If McGinnis and others can get over their dislike (FEAR?) of plain-speaking individuals, take a break from those Ivy encrusted towers and talk with real human beings engaged in real life they may finally be able to remove their "snootY" blinders and begin to recognize that The Trumpster is actually working to break many of those "bad norms" (or at least weaken them).

McGinnis does have a point - re: Trump NOT firing Agency Heads who disagree with him. Prime example - Jeff Sessions. BUT: Let us consider this Sessions matter AND from McGinnis capital perspective. Consider how many Senators have indicated that they will not accept the firing of Sessions with a number of them "incorrectly) claiming that this would be grounds for impeachment. Could it be that The Trumpster hesitates to fire Sessions because that incalculably valuable *capital* of which McGinnis speaks HAD already been diminished PRIOR to the Trumpster assuming office and that the weak-kneed RINO'S in the House and The Senate, ever so needful of media approbation, are afraid to support such a decision by The Trumpster. (Personally, I believe that /Sessions is a) doing a good job and b) doing MORE than is apparent) The Trumpster should DIRECT / ORDER Sessions to do that which Trump believes is proper and take the consequences.

The Trumpster has order review / reorganization of agencies to be studied. Point in The Trumpster favor.

Moving out of Washington by Agencies: Sounds nice - it ain't gunna happen, brudda.

Cut tax withholding: Another *seemingly* sensible idea BUT one that would fail in practice. Just consider the impact upon those persons who owe considerable sums of money to the IRS. We are not talking about, say, a University professor who can afford tax planners but about the plumber or electrician who would be suddenly expected to come up with a six-figure payment.
Yep, this would "piss-off' a lot of people.
Question: At whom would their anger be directed? One would think that they would be upset at THOSE who instituted this new *folly*
The underlying theory behind this proposal is that once people see how much they pay they will TAKE ACTION.
Nonsense, anyone who reads their W-2 Form KNOWS exactly how much they pay AND still after a century of income taxes growing, along with State and Local taxes, etc - WE HEAR nothing.

A bit of Right Wing, Free Marketeers fantasy.

Ah, it is good to relieve oneself of agita!!!

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gabe
on August 28, 2018 at 13:33:59 pm

Holy Christmas, BatGirl:

You have successfully linked Teapot Dome and sexual assault.

Bloody Brilliant - now back to your mothers basement.

I guess anyone who has a job, saves some money for retirement and periodically comes up from their parents basement is to be considered rich and thus must be condemned by the silly little no-nothings of the world capable only of repeating the utter idiocies they hear on the telly!

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gabe
on August 28, 2018 at 19:49:12 pm

McGinnis' commentary is truly astonishing for its political naivete, ignorance of how Washington normally works (or doesn't) and what has actually transpired here during the Trump presidency. McGinnis' criticism is mere child-like silliness utterly ignorant of the harsh reality Trump has confronted. It is also wrong on most of its factual assertions.

Only an academic bubble-boy could be so cut-off as McGinnis from the world of Washington politics as it was before Trump, as he found it when he showed up here and as it is now as Trump slogs his way through the sewer. (It's not a "swamp," it's a sewer, and Trump is the first sanitary engineer in 37 years to volunteer here for the heavy, slimy, odious labor of cleaning out the sewage and dousing the place in disinfectant.

McGinnis is an outsider who needs to leave his academic bubble and get a political education. I recommend that McGinnis take the time he normally spends writing for L&L and employ that time instead reading American Greatness, Victor Davis Hanson and Charles Kesler on Trump in Washington. He and L&L's readers would be better off.

BTW: as to McGinnis' recommendation of "four insider norms that President Trump should seek to break:'
#'s 1 & 2 are central to Trump's ongoing war, both being fought by Dem's and Never Trumpers at every step.
# 3 is kinda silly, the trivial tinkering that one might find in a suggestion box at the Washington Post.
#4 is a good idea for a president seeking tax reform, but Trump just did that, so implementing the suggestion would actually harm Trump now.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on August 28, 2018 at 20:30:42 pm

I misstated re #4: Trump is "breaking up the Washington bureaucracy" by dis-empowering the Deep State. Moving the physical location of various departments and agencies is a Congressional pork barrel matter beyond the President's power and, in any event, which is essentially impossible these days in which Congress no longer has Committee Chairmen who can wield the power necessary. Robert C. Byrd was the last of that then dying now dead powerful pol.
Nor would moving the physical plant have a weakening impact on the power or cost-saving effect on the cost of the bureaucratic state.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on August 28, 2018 at 22:16:58 pm

OMG:

Can you imagine the 'cat-fighting" that would ensue once it was determined that the Bureau of Buffalo Talon Regulations was to be moved to anywhere other than Bulls Balls, Montana.

would it mean then that the *resident* ( and I do mean *resident* facetiously) Senator for that State would have almost exclusive "ombudsman" access and power over that subject agency.

What is worse is that this would be akin to willful spreading of a contagious disease. Consider if our friend Mark Pulliam's district were suddenly to be infested with 10,000 helpful Agency bureaucrats hell bent and determined to reshape the economy or eliminate hate speech.

OMG, leave me be, Edith!!!! and get me another bottle of Peroni - a cold one this time!

BTW: Pukka (not on this thread. I was sent a rather interesting audio recording of a sermon recently given in a Pittsburgh parish re: the RC church's "homosexual" problem. I suspect (from your comments) that this is something you may find of interest.
If interested in receiving, let me know. I will forward it to you via Richard Reinsch as I believe that the site has your e-mail - and I like my privacy.

seeya
gabe

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gabe
on August 28, 2018 at 22:52:36 pm

Senator Booby KKK Byrd Dropping, when he was Chairman of Senate Finance and then the Majority Leader, moved all kinds of stuff to West By God Virginia, the biggest of which was the FBI's Fingerprint Division (2-3000 jobs, as I recall) to my hometown of Clarksburg. Actually worked out well for Clarksburg economy, but did not improve the agency, as we have seen. And it did increase Byrd's and Democrat clout in WVa.

As far as queer priests, I see the problem as homosexuality not pedophilia. Looks like Francis may be in trouble on a cover up. Hope to see him go; he's part of a lot of the Church's big problems.

No need to send the Pittsburgh stuff. Lots of stories and analysis on line.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on August 29, 2018 at 16:01:07 pm

Funny, that is EXACTLY what this lowly parish priest argued and he backs it up with his own experiences at seminary.

It would appear that the three of us are in agreement.

seeya

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gabe
on August 29, 2018 at 21:08:51 pm

And tonight there's this as a show of Democrat civility and the feasibility of the "If Trump would just show more respect to the Dem's things would go much better for him and the rest of us" school of Washington politics.

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/aug/29/barbara-litalien-vows-impeach-clarence-thomas-if-e/?utm_source=Boomtrain&utm_medium=manual&utm_campaign=20180326&utm_term=newsalert&utm_content=newsalert&bt_ee=sSmVIpWyD2BeBNBe90Wg+Mmpacwl1dzXld7mkj7eXSNbxFpqzfP/SgEPo0gLlZ63&bt_ts=1535588348187

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Pukka Luftmensch
on August 31, 2018 at 17:50:47 pm

Compliments on an ability to voice something interesting with brevity.

I'm not as strident, but have to echo Gabe above... civility is a one way street at this point. I realize that Trump is vulgar, but really - I don't see branding folks as racist because they complained about their taxes as "civil". It is not. And it is part of our normal political discourse at this point. I think we need someone vulgar to point out how stupid that is and actually get the point across.

Maybe it's naive and overly optimistic, but I do think that breaking the federal bureaucracy up geographically would help things. It could be as bad as making a bunch of micro-bubbles instead of one big bubble, but it may also help. And I think it would decrease the inbred environment in the federal government.

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mnemos

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.