Inconceivable! How the Dread President Trump may bring about a constitutional crisis
Say what you will about President Donald Trump, but he regularly makes the inconceivable look routine. Most recently, Trump declared a “complete power to pardon” and hinted at firing the special prosecutor tasked with investigating Trump ties to Russia.
In the Era of Trump, that word no longer means what we thought it meant. The political backlash created by either action surely would have reined in any fleeting thought in past presidents, much less the urge to tweet it out to the entire world. Yet the swashbuckling Trump charges ahead. If the checks and balances built into our co-equal branches of government don’t begin to take more direct action, our country may soon teeter atop a constitutional crisis steeper than the Cliffs of Insanity.
Because there is no such thing as too much Princess Bride metaphor, let’s play this out.
Alone and behind, sailing across the primary election sea, the Dread Pirate Trump closed on campaigns’ conventional wisdom that thought they were too far ahead to catch. Climbing from the bottom of the cliff in polls, Trump gained ground. He bested opponents renowned for their skill (such as Rand Paul) and strength (a la Ted Cruz), eventually enlisting them as allies. He vanquished a cold, calculating opponent with a dizzying intellect. Is there really any better way to visualize Hillary Clinton’s campaign against Trump than Vizzini at the picnic table? Wallace Shawn’s face when he keels over is precisely how I imagine Clinton looked when the AP called Wisconsin.
Trump traveled into the Washington Fire Swamp, and promptly got burned by spurting travel bans, swallowed by the lightning sand of health care reform, and attacked over something he doesn’t think exists, R.O.U.S.es – Russians Of Unusual Standing. At some point, someone may check Steve Bannon for six fingers.
Just as Westley acts the part of the Dread Pirate, Trump plays the role of the Dread President. His heart doesn’t really seem to be into the daily grind, but our coiffed, flaxen-haired leading man has an image to maintain. And then there are the slew of liberals screaming “Liar!” and analysts declaring Trump’s presidency mostly dead. But as Billy Crystal’s Miracle Max pointed out, “there is a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.”
That brings us to storming the castle. The only thing standing between Trump and his ultimate goal — unfettered power appears to be his version of “true love” — are fifty-two senators willing to hold him accountable. It seems that Trump recently had lawyers taking stock of his assets. While Westley had a wheelbarrow and a cloak, Trump has the pardon power and authority to fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
If Trumps acts on an impulse and proceeds down either path, the Senate must fulfill its constitutional obligation to act as a check to the Dread President’s power. Pardoning friends and allies for meeting with agents of a hostile foreign government intent on undermining our elections smacks of rule by royal decree. Eliminating the men charged with investigating potential impropriety sounds like the act of authoritarian king.
If the members of the Senate, particularly those from the GOP, cut-and-run before the Dread President Trump as quickly as the guards before the Dread Pirate Roberts, we are likely to see Trump act out another character he seems to have down: the arrogant, cruel, and pitiless Prince Humperdinck.
While the comparisons are fun, the prospect of unchecked presidential power is not. It is a recipe for abuse, corruption, and democratic decay. Considering that possible future, it seems fitting that at the end of the Princess Bride, the Dread Pirate rode off into the sunset with future First Lady Claire Underwood. But that’s a metaphor for another day.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and writes columns on law enforcement, the legal system, and public policy. Follow him @MarioNicolaiEsq