I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV. I am not a constitutional scholar. At the same time, I have read the Constitution of the United States.
The first thing that struck me was the fact that it is not a GOP Constitution nor a Democratic Constitution; it is the American Constitution, by which I assume it must apply to all Americans.
And yet, one morning last week, I learned that Mr. Trump's attorneys, in the attempt to conceal his tax returns, argued in federal court, that the president could--literally--pull out a pistol on Fifth Avenue, New York City, and begin shooting people without constraint.
He could not be arrested. His murders could not be investigated, and the police could not even make him stop killing people.
Listening to the audio recording of the hearing, I must say that the judge sounded a little shocked by that claim of absolute immunity for the president. I was overwhelmingly shocked.
I was brought up to believe that no one is above the law. In fact, I think the whole purpose of the American Revolution was to get out from under a ruler who believed his Divine Right of Kings meant he was above the law.
What we have witnessed leading up to and during the impeachment inquiry seems exactly the misbehavior the founders were worried about. We currently are suffering under a ruler who is convinced that he has absolute, unconstrained powers. It seems some of his actions have been plainly illegal. His interaction with Ukraine's new leader was like something out of mobster movie. "You got a nice country here; I'd hate to see anything happen to it."
The GOP response to the Ukraine scandal has been an attempt to focus on the whistle-blower--demanding he or she be identified, in clear violation of the law. That's presumably another law Trump is above.
I can only imagine how the GOP would treat Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes." I can hear the likes of Devin Nunes now: "Okay, we can see the emperor is stark naked, but we want the name of the little boy who broke the news. Who is he? What was his motive? That's the real issue here."
Some of Trump's behaviors have been impulsive and uninformed but possibly not illegal--as far as we know.
Abandoning the Kurds is a tragic example. None of his military or diplomatic teams knew he was going to do it. It all reportedly came about as a consequence of his phone call with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. We are not allowed to know the content of the call, but I need to wonder if Trump heard, "You have a nice hotel in Istanbul; I'd hate to see anything happen to it."
Please, Mr. President, show us the transcript of the call, and I'll apologize if I'm wrong. But if I'm right, you should resign.
"[T]he rule of law does more than ensure freedom from high-handed action by rulers. It ensures justice between man and man, however humble the one and however powerful the other. A man with $5 in the bank can call to account the corporation with $5 billion in assets--and the two will be heard as equals before the law."--Dwight D. Eisenhower, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1958.
Dr. Earl Babbie of Hot Springs Village is the Campbell professor emeritus in behavioral sciences at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.
Editorial on 10/28/2019
Print Headline: EARL BABBIE: The rule of law