I was very happy that Hillary Clinton lost the election and have been trying to be just as happy that Donald Trump won. Trump’s juvenile bragging and outright rudeness trouble me. For better or worse, though, he brings to Washington a new way of doing business. Trump insists on being the leader, expects those whom he leads to follow, and demands that his orders be carried out.
It is an executive style almost completely absent from the White House for at least a hundred years. Theodore Roosevelt may have been the last occupant of the presidential mansion to lead in such a vigorous, forthright manner. (“Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Of course, Trump does not speak softly, so we won’t carry that metaphor any further.)
Teddy Roosevelt left office in March, 1909. Most of those who followed him have been less assertive, and more likely to govern with a soft rein. There have been exceptions. Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, even George W., occasionally and ruthlessly used a harsh bit. However, most of the 18 presidents since TR have tread softly and carried a small switch in dealing with Congress and executive department underlings.
Some, like Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, were notable for trying to lead with little mincing steps, hoping their followers would docilely tag along.
A new way of doing business
Now comes Donald Trump, spurs jangling and quirt in gloved hand, expecting the beast beneath him to obey his wishes. The beast bucks, spins, rears up, rolls over doing all it can to dislodge its demanding rider.
Best rodeo in a long time, and there’s no telling who will win.
I will not argue here the merits, or lack thereof, of Trump’s order regarding immigration from certain Muslim countries. However, the “Obama-holdover” Acting Attorney General’s Monday night action, instructing Justice Department prosecutors to ignore the President’s directive, was a stupid and outrageous act.
Early Monday evening most of the network “analysts” wrung their hands and said how brave Sally Yates was to defy the president. Some opined that his immigration orders were “unconstitutional.” Wiser, more knowledgeable experts, such as tough old Alan Dershowitz, said Yates had made a serious mistake. Though Dershowitz labeled Yates a “holdover hero,” he said Trump would be wrong to fire her.
My first thought was that they must all have forgotten that Donald Trump became famous for saying, “You’re fired.” Of course he fired her! He promised a whole new way of doing business.
Meanwhile, those Republican politicians at the east end of Pennsylvania Avenue–Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Paul Ryan, all experienced in the “little mincing steps” style of politics, were also wringing their hands. Some complained that Trump had failed to consult them before issuing the order he’d promised throughout his entire campaign.
The courts will test elements of Trump’s order, and he may lose some points, perhaps all of them. In any case, do not expect The Donald to bow his arrogant head and meekly abandon the fight.
This is not meant to suggest that Trump will or should defy court orders, but, if he does, he would not be the first president to do so. At least twice before, Jackson in 1832 and Lincoln in 1861, presidents have ignored orders of the U.S. Supreme Court and gone ahead with what they intended.
Although the quotations are probably apocryphal, both presidents were reported to have uttered words too rich to pass up here. Jackson, regarding an order signed by the Chief Justice: “John Marshall has made his ruling. Let him enforce it.” And Lincoln, refusing to obey writs of habeas corpus signed by Chief Justice Roger Taney: “Tell that old man to be quiet or I’ll put him in jail, too.”
Whether his policies are right or wrong, whether he prevails long-term or not, Trump clearly means to keep his promise to bring to Washington a new way of conducting business.
by R. R. Reasoner
for more by Mr. Reasoner: Trump and cowardly media