Monday, February 13, 2017


This doesn't seem reassuring:
Senior White House policy adviser Stephen Miller made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows over the weekend, and his comments about voter fraud have earned him justifiably dim reviews....

But amid all the baseless and false statements about electoral integrity, Miller did something even more controversial: He expanded upon his boss's views of whether judges are allowed to question President Trump's authority. And at one point, Miller even said Trump's national security decisions "will not be questioned."
On Face the Nation, Miller said:
One unelected judge in Seattle cannot remake laws for the entire country. I mean this is just crazy, John, the idea that you have a judge in Seattle say that a foreign national living in Libya has an effective right to enter the United States is -- is -- is beyond anything we've ever seen before.

The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.
Is Miller telling us in all seriousness that the Trump administration won't be constrained by the checks and balances built into our system? Or is it a lot of empty bluster?

The administration's actions have been very harsh, but the Trumpers don't seem ready yet to ignore the courts and impose their will by brute force. Greg Sargent writes this:
Taken together, Miller’s comments signal that, if the White House does manage to get a version of the ban past legal hurdles, it will have demonstrated that Trump’s powers “will not be questioned,” meaning that the judiciary will not stand in his way. There is simply no reason to assume in advance that this will end here.... the possibility cannot be ruled out that Trump could seek to extend the ban and expand it, in effect trying to simulate an indefinite ban on legal immigration from many Muslim-majority nations -- particularly if there is a major terrorist attack.
That's true, and it's bad enough, but if the way the administration plans to prove that it "will not be questioned" is by getting a revised version of the travel ban "past legal hurdles," that means it's respecting the legal system, however begrudgingly.

Or maybe the administration isn't respecting the legal administration so much as it's unprepared to launch a totalitarian assault on the legal system. I think that's closer to the truth. And I do mean "unprepared" in a very literal sense: Serious authoritarians would have have had a plan to neutralize the courts if they wanted to do something that could be blocked by a lawsuit. The Trumpers couldn't think one additional move ahead, and never consolidated power enough to try to rule with that kind of ruthlessness. They seemed to think had all the power they wanted already. They apparently believed they'd issue an executive order and that would be the last word on the subject.

This could change -- there might be people in the government who are not only as ruthless as Trump and Steve Bannon but who also possess the Government 101 level of knowledge necessary to grasp where the implementation of the agenda can be slowed or stopped.

One would assume that Miller understands how the government actually works -- he was, after all, an aide to Jeff Sessions when Sessions was a senator. But he offers no evidence that his idle threat because will be carried out -- he seems to be holding forth like the school-paper op-ed writer and talk-radio frequent caller he used to be:
In a column in his high school newspaper, titled “A Time to Kill,” he urged violent response to radical Islamists....

Ari Rosmarin, a civil rights lawyer who edited the student newspaper at time, recalled that Miller was especially critical of a Mexican American student group.

“I think he’s got a very sharp understanding of what words and issues will poke and provoke progressives, because he came up around it and really cut his teeth picking these fights that had low stakes but high offense,” Rosmarin said.

That skill led Miller to become a mini-celebrity in conservative intellectual circles because of his passion, age and home town. He appeared 70 times on [Larry] Elder’s show before his high school graduation, according to the host.
The Trumpers came into this full of revenge fantasies but with no idea how to rule by fiat in what is still a nation of laws, if barely. Miller doesn't scare me until the administration starts defying the courts or roughing up judges and journalists. For now the Trumpers are awful, and they still need to be passionately opposed, but they don't seem to have the will to be worse than that.


Steve M. said...

My fear is that in their incompetence they'll invite another 9/11 and blame the courts and there you are, their reason to do what ever the hell they want.

Steve M. said...

@RC, Trump has already tweeted we are to blame the courts for the next attack.

@Steve, absolutist but not totalitarian. Think Charles II.

These shouting fits in the fascist style of Mussolini, are they intentional distractions?

What's behind the smokescreen?

Steve M. said...

I think that's exactly right.