Commentary: The rule of checks and balances hasn’t always worked

By Arthur E. Sowers

Kirsten Carlson’s DSN commentary (Feb. 23), “Impeachment didn’t work. How else can Congress keep Trump in check?”, presented a story about how our government works and how it was meant to let voters hold officials accountable.

Unfortunately her piece was more like a story about a glass of water but the glass was mostly empty instead of half-full. I will show one possible way President Trump could become our first permanent king.

First we need to see past examples where the POTUS got away with a big crime. At the time of peak turmoil in the Nixon era, the problem was Watergate. But that crime was minor compared to President Nixon’s illegal and secret order to drop over 100,000 tons of bombs from B-52s over Cambodia (during the Vietnam War) and then having all millitary logs altered to show that it never happened. It was a war crime never pursued by any entity, office or branch of government to seek justice but the story did get out and the media played a big role.

The war in Iraq was another example. The short version is that it was started by George W. Bush after his announcement (lie) that WMD were in Iraq. Inspections showed that the WMD never existed but the war was started and became extended into Afghanistan and — to some degree — Pakistan. There may have been some virtuous value to removing Saddam and “getting” Osama, but Iraq is still in poor shape and so is Afghanistan.

A large number of Iraqis were killed and a larger number are now displaced refugees in countries not where they were born. To me, starting a war based on false and made-up information is certainly also a war crime. And I am not the first to say this.

This brings me to the conclusion that all of the checks and balances of our government did not “keep in check” the presidents of the time.

One recent disinformation story meant to confuse instead of inform is that the Democrats and the impeachment process represented an attempted coup to overthrow President Trump, who was legitimately elected by the people. My impression of where we really are on this is that the coup already took place three years ago, right in front of our eyes. Because of continual obstruction of justice and massive refusal to cooperate in various investigations, we really have a functional but otherwise silent declaration of independence. Thus the power of the House of Representatives got neutralized by the White House.

The power of the Senate is only a threat if a two-thirds vote can be expected against the POTUS and that will probably never happen. Overall this time, President Trump has been continually packing courts with pro-Trump judges and ramping up both his expansion of executive privilege and use of presidential pardons.

President Trump has openly mused many times about being “No. 1” beyond the two normal four-year terms. It has been speculated that even if he lost the 2020 election, he might just refuse to leave the office.

Here is a rough scenario about how that could happen (and his team is surely already working on this). The rumor is already out there that he will lose only if the election is rigged against him. Since some efforts have been made to pass laws so that electoral votes can only go for popular vote winners, Team Trump sues based on unconstitutionality.

It bounces to SCOTUS where a pro-Trump majority does a “Mitch McConnel-type-slow-walk” allowing President Trump to stay in the White House indefinitely. President Trump — famous for lawsuits and litigation — can thus initiate lawsuits directed at anybody-anything, repeatedly, while he continually expands executive priviledge and pardons anybody he likes or has maybe done “special favors,” at least for the rest of his life. The possible variations on this play are just breathtaking.

Arthur E. Sowers is a resident of Harbeson.