The King Can Do No Wrong

You’ve heard by now that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Trump in his immunity case. How bad is this?  It reverses the Revolutionary War and what George Washington gave to make this nation possible. May this Independence not be our last.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has come out punching like the new RBG, wrote the main dissent, and holy moly, is that woman freaked out. There’s not a whole lot more I can add that she didn’t say:

“A President’s use of any official power for any purpose, even the most corrupt, is immune from prosecution. That is just as bad as it sounds,” she wrote.

Then, “In every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law.”

But wait, there’s more:

“Today’s decision to grant former Presidents criminal immunity reshapes the institution of the Presidency. It makes a mockery of the principle, foundational to our Constitution and system of Government, that no man is above the law.”

Ash Bhagwat, a professor and expert in constitutional law at UC Davis, told me none of that was an exaggeration. The office of the president is now weaponized for personal use — as long as the president can claim some sort of official connection.

He brought up Trump’s famous line: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?”

“After this decision, if he did it, he’d be in trouble,” Bhagwat said. “But if he ordered the Army to do it, he’s immune.”

And if you aren’t scared enough, let me bring up another Supreme Court decision last week: Chevron vs. Natural Resources Defense Council.

For 40 years, the legal precedent has largely given power to federal agencies to determine how best to regulate industries that don’t like to be regulated but that Congress has ordered be watched.

The Supreme Court overturned that precedent and said if Congress didn’t spell out every itty-bitty detail on something like, say, what constitutes polluting our water supply, then the agency in question can’t decide for itself.

Basically, it guts federal regulation — all of it, across the board — by making it subject to court interpretation. This has long been a dream of ultra-conservatives and goes hand-in-hand with Trump/Project 2025 threats to fire civil servants if elected.

So little things like how Medicare and Medicaid health plans are administered, how clean air and water rules are implemented and how tobacco sales are regulated are all up for grabs. If any industry doesn’t like it, it need only find a like-minded judge.

A president who can do whatever he wants and new power for corporations to do whatever they want. What could go wrong?

Bhagwat told me he’s less worried about it than I am, because courts can be pretty good at figuring these things out.

But he’s got a bigger worry. Over the past decade, he said, there have been a series of rulings giving the executive office greater power over the federal bureaucracy.

Combine that increase in power with today’s immunity ruling — and top it off with the purge of civil servants Trump has promised if elected, the last line of defense of anyone willing to argue with him — and we are a democracy in name only.

The national nervous breakdown

Which brings us to the debate, also known as the national nervous breakdown. It wasn’t just hard to watch Biden stumble and fumble — it hurt our collective, democracy-loving psyche. If we can’t have clean water, can we at least replace the fluoride with Prozac?

Rightfully, Biden’s disturbing performance has led to endless calls for him to step aside and let another candidate take over. The somewhat hilarious part of that is that Vice President Kamala Harris’ name is, for most people, about fifth on the list of possible replacements, even though obviously she would be next in line and is polling the same or better than any other. More on that below.

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