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News Link • Imperialism

Donald Trump Didn't Create Danger of Presidential Dictatorship, He Inherited it

• Ron Paul Institute - by james bovard

Trump's saber rattling, rude outbursts and rancorous tweets have spooked folks far and wide. But most Americans are not sufficiently informed on recent history to recognize where Trump poses dire threats beyond the usual Washington machinations. Most citizens are unaware that both political parties have perennially championed bureaucratic aggrandizement over civil liberties.

Many of the experts who have condemned Trump are also clueless about how far federal control has stretched. Yale professor Samuel Moyn and Oxford professor David Priestland recently declared in a New York Times op-ed that "there is no real evidence that Mr. Trump wants to seize power unconstitutionally, and there is no reason to think he could succeed."

But violating the Constitution is practically the job description for modern presidents. It was George W. Bush's White House, not Trump, that asserted a "commander-in-chief override" entitling presidents to ignore the law and the Bill of Rights. Congress utterly failed to thwart that outrageous claim.

Presidents have amassed vast authority because they are judged on their rhetoric and purported goals, not on their constitutional fidelity. Former president Barack Obama's drone assassinations of U.S. citizens were non-issues because observers think he "meant well." When Obama decided to bomb Libya in 2011, his appointees made it clear that he'd ignore the War Powers Act of 1973, enacted to prevent presidents from launching wars on their whim. When a federal judge ruled in May 2016 that the Obama administration's consumer subsidies under the Affordable Care Act violated the Constitution, the decision was almost completely ignored — perhaps because Obama's illegalities were progressive. When President Trump ended the subsidies, he was denounced for trampling congressional prerogatives.

Much of the response to Trump is akin to a novice cable weather reporter who treats each morning's sunrise as a shocking development. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., responded to Trump's media bashing by warning, "That's how dictators get started." By this standard, practically every president since Thomas Jefferson has been a dictator in the making.

Trump is being denounced as a dictator for rescinding Obama's executive decrees. Nothing frightens some Trump opponents more than his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio denounced that decision as "an immoral assault on the public health, safety and security of everyone on this planet." But Obama chose not to submit that agreement for ratification to the Senate. As The Times noted, Obama relied on "bureaucratic bulldozing rather than legislative transparency," issuing nearly 50% more "major regulations" than the Bush administration.

 

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