Terry H. Schwadron
May 9, 2019
All of a sudden, it seems, we’re reaping a bumper crop of Threats.
It seems that everywhere one looks, there is a threat being lowered, escalating disagreement to discord, to threat of mortal combat.
You can understand how we’ve gotten here, but it is a very uncomfortable place for citizens who can easily feel that they are mere indistinguishable fluff in social arguments. The problem is that it is way too easy for opponents in politics, sports, military affairs, almost any arena now, to threaten the very existence of the other side rather than spend a moment trying to reach some kind of compromise.
So, we’re seeing the White House threatening Congress — the Democratic-majority House, in specifics — with its executive privilege claims, and Congress threatening everyone not complying with its needs with contempt. The House Judiciary Committee threatens (and now has acted) to recommend citing Atty. Gen. William P. Barr with contempt, and Barr and the White House have rejoined the effort with a threat to hide documents from the special counsel Robert S. Muller III investigation.
We’re sending an aircraft carrier flotilla to the Middle East as a public threat to Iran, which, in turn, is threatening to light up its uranium-processing machinery against to make nuclear weapons. North Korea has restarted missile launches into the sea as an open threat with its nuclear weapons unless the United States moves to lift sanctions. The United States is standing on its hind legs, yelling for others to remove troops from Venezuela, even as it threatens to send in the U.S. military into that country in support of Democracy. We all feel under constant threat from terrorists and from natural causes amped by climate disruption.
We’re threatening China with massive tariff costs and threatening any woman who dares have an abortion in states like Georgia and Alabama with jail time and criminal conviction, all the while ignoring the actual effect on individuals, businesses and families that make up our country.
It has made it terrifying to be a citizen rather than any sense that these Washington leaders are fighting for us. They’re just fighting, talking past one another, using the broadest of brushes to push for mottos rather than actual solutions to real problems. Don’t threaten to take away my health care policies, or to limit by civil rights or to ignore basic humane behavior.
Yes, our language about sports has long been filled with death threats to the other side, a kind of casual trash talk about murdering the other team. But there is a difference between the colorful language of good-natured competition and what now is coming across as true lethal intent. What we tell our kids is to gather real information, to use it to persuade, to use their words rather than to threaten others. What have our leaders forgotten about basic ethics?
Something in this Trump era has gone screwy over the perceived need to threaten.
The smart piece by The New York Times’ Adam Liptak properly and frighteningly spells out how “President Trump’s wholesale refusal to provide information to Congress threatens to upend the delicate balance that is the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution.”
Unlike other administrations, which have had isolated instances of contention between executive and legislative, this trend has “legal experts across the ideological spectrum warning that the president’s categorical opposition to what he sees as partisan meddling could create a constitutional crisis — an impasse that the allocation of interlocking powers and responsibilities by the framers cannot solve.”
The threats about launching impeachment proceedings are growing louder and more insistent in response to White House resistance to House requests for testimony, documents and explanations about behaviors detailed in the Mueller Report and in decision-making throughout the administration.
In coming days, we will see some of these threats take hold, and others result in decisions that walk up to the edge before halting for a better answer. Every public official in Washington, starting with the president, ought to be remembering that he or she works for us, and not for the applause and limelight of Donald Trump.
Former Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI, argued in an op-edthis week that “The broad sweep (the president’s refusals) threatens the country’s history of accommodation between the two branches and the checks and balances that are the cornerstone of our democracy.” He adds, “Congress is vested by the Constitution with oversight of the executive branch. The Supreme Court, moreover, has been explicit that Congress has broad power to seek information connected to a “legislative function” and to enforce its demands through its inherent contempt authority. This can include imprisoning someone who declines to comply with a subpoena. President Trump doesn’t seem to understand any of this. His cavalier refusal to provide information requested by Congress has dangerously upended the careful architecture of the Constitution, and the nation will pay a price for his recklessness if he succeeds.”
That is not a threat. It is a certainty.