President Trump seemed to read the teleprompter just fine last night during his State of the Union address, managing to avoid the worse of what could happen when he veers off course into an extemporaneous spewing of what’s in his brain.
The relatively smooth presentation of his pernicious agenda has caused many people to ignore one of the most truly frightening aspects of the speech, as pointed out today in a perceptive article on Slate.
Yascha Mounk, the author of the article, describes Trump’s State of the Union speech as “deeply dangerous” because of a single sentence buried in the body of the speech:
“Tonight,” Trump declared, “I call on the congress to empower every Cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers—and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.”
While the request might seem perfectly innocuous at face value as a request for more accountability for federal employees, looking deeper into what is actually being proposed here once can see a form of creeping authoritarianism that would allow cabinet secretaries to bypass due process and the rule of law in the hiring and firing of government workers.
Trump’s request could mean giving his hand-picked cabinet members the power to do what Trump has been trying to do with the intelligence and law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, fire all employees who are not aligned with their policies and install political appointees to their positions. When you realize that what Trump is really asking for, the true nature of the proposal becomes apparent.
“Under Trump’s proposal, any Cabinet secretary could decide that, say, a law enforcement official investigating the president had ‘undermined the public trust’ or ‘failed the American people’—and fire him on the spot. In other words, Trump is calling for an end to any semblance of independence for the IRS, the FBI, the Department of Justice, or any other federal agency.”
When you look at the Trump administration’s record to date, that has been exactly what Trump has been trying to achieve with those agencies, all in the act of trying to obstruct justice in the investigation of his campaign’s shady collusion attempts first by the FBI and then, after the investigation was handed off to the Special Prosecutor’s office, by Robert Mueller and his team.
Luckily, the U.S. Constitution’s institution of the separation of powers between the branches of government means that Trump won’t be able to achieve his dream of complete and total power easily.
He’ll have to convince the Republican Congress to enact new laws giving his cabinet the authority he seeks for them before the 2018 mid-terms hopefully end their majority control of the body.
Then, the Supreme Court will surely have to rule on the constitutionality of the move which is only likely if one of the more liberal current justices resigns or dies in office.
Yet, as the article concludes:
“the fact that Trump’s authoritarian demand is unlikely to be realized anytime soon does not make it unimportant. In his first State of the Union, the 45th president of the United States asked Congress for the authority to end the rule of law. And that—not Trump’s supposedly unifying policy proposals, much less his supposedly presidential ability to read a speech off a teleprompter—should be the headline of every newspaper tomorrow.”
Unfortunately, the only headline this morning pointing out this horrifying implication came from Slate itself. If you are as concerned about this fascistic attempt to grab power outside the norms of the U.S. Constitution as you should be, share this article with your friends, family and co-workers. They all should be deeply troubled by this and only with firm, outspoken opposition can we prevent this from actually taking place and destroying our democratic rule of law in favor of a personality-driven dictatorship.