Trump: A ‘Shutdown’ for the Constitution

Terry H. Schwadron

I’m tempted to say that Donald Trump apparently no longer wants to be President.

In seeking the job, in accepting the job, in declaring on a Bible on Inauguration Day that he would protect the country, there was nothing about just overturning the game board if he did not get his way 100 percent of the time. Or even far less than 100 percent.

Yet, there is was, finally, out in the open: A tweet yesterday that said “Our country need a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix the mess!”

September is the newly set date for expiration of funds to run the government, the new date as a result of a bipartisan deal that extended government financing through the summer and happened to raise military spending, border security funds, re-affirmed payments that will be owed to Planned Parenthood, but that did not include money to start building The Wall along the southern border.

If you are an effective President, you don’t threaten to shut the government that you run — on my behalf!

In his petulant tweet, the President also basically called for elimination of Senate rules that call for 60 vote supermajorities in certain legislation and suggested electing more Republican Senators to get by the idea of Congressional review altogether.

In other words, Congress (and the courts) are a good idea only if they agree fully with him as President.

Not only is Donald Trump wrong on the issues, he is wrong on the process. In effect, in his snit, he is turning up his nose at American government. It may not be an impeachable offense, but, in my mind at least, we are now officially entering into a new politically fraught era, even within the Trump administration.

The fights that President Trump has had with Congress basically have been among opposing factions of the majority Republican Party alone. He has not even bothered to talk with Democrats. But to ignore that Congress is a co-equal branch of government along with the judiciary, which he also attacks when convenient, is to suggest that the President does not want to uphold the Constitution.

As an aside, weekend interviews with the President and with Vice President Mike Pence strayed into these waters as well, but more in matters of overall satisfaction in office rather than as direct attacks. Pence went out of his way, in fact, to argue that Donald Trump reaches out to opponents to seek alternative ideas before settling on his own. As evidence, he noted that the President had gone to Pennsylvania on Saturday night to meet voters; that, of course, was a Trump rally, drawing thousands of supporters, not opponents of his policies.

The tote board is already heavy on the side of weirdness and unthinking acts by the President. It is further complicated by a lack of personal and business ethics in office by the President and his family. Adding to that are unresolved issues around Russian influence in the election, the actions of White House staff, the beginnings of long-term investigations. And, of course, there are the Trump policies, all within legal constraints, but nearly all without context and putting the country in an increasingly frail position regarding the environment, consumer protection, and general fairness.

This President took office with an economy that was at least intact and healing, if too staid for his tastes, with a cultural balance that was trending towards inclusion, a world balance that recognized the power of the United States but was willing to question it, and an approach to health care that was beginning to build. He has unceremoniously undercut the power of the federal government to regulate, has turned his back on environment, clean air and water, and has turned citizens against immigrants and refugees in an openly xenophobic frenzy, using the lure of good jobs as a constant refrain.

Even with a Republican majority that is willing to step all over minority Democrats, he has but one legislative victory — consent for appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, and has lost multiple times on health care votes, as he will on tax cuts, infrastructure and general reprioritizing of government spending. His successes have come by executive order, where he asks no one outside of his circle of ideologues.

Still, despite his strangeness as a person, an “historian” and someone for whom logic is itself a non-sequitur, the President in his first 100-plus days has until this point remained Constitutional.

This tweet calls to mind all the authoritarian rulers for whom the President curiously has expressed admiration — Putin, al Sisi of Egypt, Duterte of the Philippines, even Kim Jung Un of North Korea. They don’t have to worry about a Congressional vote, of course.

Mr. Trump, wake up. If you don’t want the job, walk away.


Journalist, musician, community volunteer