The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dangerous Place

Thankfully, the last presidential debate is now over. The pro-Clinton main stream media has gotten the vapors because Donald Trump would not commit unequivocally to accepting the results of the upcoming election. Mind you, he didn't say he wouldn't accept the result, but almost every media outlet lead with that headline, just to ensure that every reader, viewer or listener realize how "un-American" Trump is. They conveniently forget Al Gore in 2000 who, with some justification at the time, refused to accept the result and asked for a recount. But Gore was a Democrat and therefore on the side of angels. Trump? He is evil incarnate, if you were to believe Clinton-trained media hamsters.

The debate itself was a push. Clinton wiggled and squirmed, but the format has never been designed to force a candidate to answer tough questions. She didn't. Trump is simply not a debater. His arguments were muddled, he is not quick on his feet, he doesn't think 2 or 3 points ahead. It's mildly satisfying to hear Trump describe Hillary accurately, but it serves no useful purpose unless he can present his argument cogently. He cannot.

No matter who wins the presidential election, we'll be left in either a bad or crazy place. If Hillary Clinton prevails (a high probability) we'll be left with a dishonest politician who is demonstrably corrupt and at the same time, incompetent. We'll be in a bad place. If Donald Trump prevails (a much lower probability) well have a crude, egomaniac with little policy depth and highly questionable interpersonal/diplomatic skills. We'll be in a crazy place.

Luckily, the U.S. Constitution provides a remedy for either the bad or the crazy place—impeachment. Andrew McCarthy comments:
... besides the ballot box, the most vital limitations on presidential power are Congress’s powers to control spending and impeach. These were thought sufficiently strong checks that, for over 160 years, the president was not even term-limited (i.e., until the 22nd Amendment in 1951). This confidence owed to the principle that members of Congress had a solemn duty to defend their institutional authority and the constitutional framework. In essence, the president can act as a rogue only if Congress allows that to happen.
During the tenure of Barack Obama, the Congress has ceded most of its power and virtually all of its checks and balances to the executive branch. Obama now creates "laws" via executive action, regulation and subterfuge. He creates "treaties" without Congress's approval. The presidency is becoming dangerously imperial, and there's little likelihood that either Clinton or Trump would voluntarily return to it to its constitutionally defined role.

McCarthy continues:
As I argued in Faithless Execution, while Congress’s powers to thwart abuse of presidential power are dispositive, there are, really, only two of them. If Congress refuses to use its authority to limit or cut off funding, the only remaining limitation is impeachment. If, in addition, Congress takes impeachment off the table, there is nothing left but a rogue president’s subjective sense of what he (or she) can get away with politically. The same, obviously, is true of the president’s subordinates: If, despite their lawlessness or incompetence, Congress maintains (or increases) their budgets and shrinks from impeaching them, then they are limited only by the whims of the rogue president they serve.

This is why our system no longer works. The Congress is AWOL: an increasingly irrelevant institution that: (a) does not see itself (either individually or collectively) as obliged to defend the Constitution; (b) delegates its legislative tasks to the sprawling bureaucracy, over which the president has far more influence; (c) punts tough calls to the judiciary, simultaneously refusing to exploit its constitutional authority over the courts’ jurisdiction in order to prevent or reverse judicial imperialism; and (d) is incompetent to perform basic tasks, such as imposing “regular order” on the appropriations process and compelling presidents to submit international agreements to the Constitution’s treaty process.

The power of the purse is now a toothless check. In the last century, the federal government’s most basic role has been transitioned from national security to social welfare, wealth redistribution, and economic regulation (including transfer payments to industries and research institutions based on political favoritism, not market forces). Congress is paralyzed by fear that any cutting off of funds will be portrayed as a denial of someone’s entitlement or other transfer payments.
Because Congress refuses to perform its constitutionally defined role, we'll be unable to escape from the bad or crazy place that we find ourselves in. We have no remedy for a rogue President Clinton or President Trump, and that in itself puts every citizen in a really dangerous place.