Over the past few decades the American Presidency has accumulated more and more power, making effectively true Nixon's famous claim that "if the President does it, it's not illegal." It's been a bipartisan effort, and the disinterest by both parties in reigning it in is further demonstration why the top priority this year is to break open the two-party system. In the meantime, though, maybe we should use the specter of a President Trump (though that seems more remote today, there are still months to go before the election) to motivate reform.
While writing or sharing articles that compare Trump to Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco, few if any have called on Obama or Congress to act now “to tyrant-proof the White House.” However much they fear Trump, however rhetorically maximalist they are in warning against his elevation, even the prospect of him controlling the entire apparatus of the national security state is not enough to cause them to rethink their reckless embrace of what Gene Healy calls “The Cult of the Presidency,” a centrist religion that persisted across the Bush administration’s torture chambers and the Obama administration’s unlawful War in Libya.
With a reality-TV bully is on the doorstep of the White House, still they hesitate to urge reform to a branch of government they’ve long regarded as more than co-equal.
They needn’t wait for the Nixon-era abuses to replay themselves as farce or worse to change course. Their inaction is irresponsible....
...The establishment centrists who oppose Trump worry, as they should, that he will violate the civil liberties of Muslim Americans, yet few spoke up when Michael Bloomberg presided over a secret program that profiled and spied on Muslim American students, sowing mistrust while generating zero counterterrorism leads.
The establishment centrists who denounced Edward Snowden would have to admit that, if Trump is half as bad as they fear, Americans will be better served knowing the scope and capabilities of NSA surveillance than living in ignorance of it. Some will be forced to admit to themselves that they hope the military remains sprinkled with whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning to speak out against serious abuses.
For 16 years or more, establishment centrists have been complicit in a historically reckless trend. Come 2017, it may place Donald Trump at a big table, much like the one on The Apprentice, where he’ll decide not which B-list celebrity to fire, but which humans to kill. Establishment centrists could work to strip the presidency of that power.
Instead they do nothing.