Thursday, November 22, 2018

Less (Or More) Than It Appears


Charlie Sykes is energized, tweeting "it's on" following a tiff between President Trump and Chief Justice John Roberts on Friday. After an unfavorable court ruling on asylum applications, Trump startedit just before boarding Air Force One by stating

The 9th Circuit — we’re going to have to look at that.  Because every case, no matter where it is, they file it — practically, I mean practically — for all intents and purposes — they file it in what’s called the 9th Circuit.  This was an Obama judge.  And I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to happen like this anymore.





Chief Justice John Roberts responded

We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.

 Then Trump countered with a pair of tweets:

Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have “Obama judges,” and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country. It would be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an “independent judiciary,” but if it is why......

.....are so many opposing view (on Border and Safety) cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned. Please study the numbers, they are shocking. We need protection and security - these rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise!

An hour later, Trump added a third tweet criticizing the 9th Circuit.

Obviously, Trump  misrepresents- probably intentionally- the role of the Judiciary. Of course, judges have a different perspective than the cops. The latter group is charged with law enforcement, the former group with the rule of law. However, Trump understands that many, probably most, people don't fully grasp the concept of role.  Motivated by values, they take sides; in this case, anti-immigrant or pro-diversity, and if they are with Trump on immigration, they are with the border patrol and against the courts.

"Surely, comrades, you don't want Jones back?" Napoleon rhetorically asks the animals in George Orwell's Animal Farm.  The question itself reinforces the myth of the benevolence and altruism of the farm's new owners, as if they are much better than farmer Jones. If Trump implies that judges are Democratic stooges, voters may not notice that he has packed the courts with Republicans.   In August, Rolling Stone's Andy Kroll explained

As of this writing, Trump has put 26 new judges onto the appellate courts, more than any other chief executive at this point in the presidency. He has also nominated over 100 district-court judges and gotten 26 of those picks confirmed. These judges are overwhelmingly young, ideological and now set to serve lifetime appointments. And then, of course, there’s Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first pick for the Supreme Court, and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the president’s second Supreme Court nominee, who stands a strong chance of confirmation. “Whatever anyone wants to say about President Trump, he was very explicit about which judges he wanted, and he’s gone about appointing them,” says Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. “He made a promise and they’re keeping it.

President Trump would like to undermine the Judiciary, but that would be more consequential if and when he is re-elected and thus able to put the country under his complete control. In the short term- his more pressing concern- he wants to strengthen support for his draconian anti-immigrant, anti-refugee policies. Additionally, he is trying to divert attention, to impede recognition that the courts are increasingly Republican, conservative, and crafted in his image. And there is no one better at diversion than Donald Trump.

Chief Justice Roberts, by contrast, is concerned only with preserving the integrity of the Court- especially his own, which (ironically) will be handing down decisions which in most cases will be favorable to the right and Donald Trump. Notwithstanding his protestation, he is aware that virtually every judge brings his or her opinions, values, or perspectives to the table. Not surprisingly, he is allowing the leader of his party, the President, to have the last word.

Consequently, it is not "on," notwithstanding Charlie Sykes' excitement.  Judges and border patrol agents are not antagonists, but rather address different aspects of  the same issue. Chief Justice Roberts may successfully defend the integrity of the court system he leads but Donald Trump is playing a different game with different rules. 


                                                  HAPPY THANKSGIVING


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