Liberals and progressives, if they were honest, would say that Donald Trump should resign or jump off Trump Tower. Conservatives and libertarians, even if they would have preferred another Republican candidate to Trump, have been feverishly issuing proposals regarding what they believe Trump should do. Conservative think tanks and organizations especially would like nothing better than to draw Trump into their respective orbits.
I take a different approach.
Although there are certainly things that I think Trump should do, I am more interested in what he shouldn’t do.
This is not because I am a hardcore libertarian. This is not because I am a conservative Christian. This is simply because I have read what the Constitution says about the office of the presidency.
Spoiler alert: The Constitution doesn’t say much.
Article II of the Constitution concerns the presidency. It has four sections. Section 1 deals with the election, installation, removal, compensation, and oath of office of the president. Section 4 relates to the impeachment of the president (and vice president and civil officers). That leaves sections 2 and 3:
The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.
He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.
The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.
He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.
That’s it. What are we to conclude from this other than that the modern office of the presidency is a grotesque perversion of that set up by the Founders?
Most of the things that conservatives and libertarians are saying that Trump should do are things that he can’t do without the cooperation of the Congress. For example, Trump can’t wave a magic wand and abolish the Department of Education. Trump can’t blink his eyes and eliminate the TSA. Trump can’t snap his fingers and end the food stamp program. And of course, there is no indication that Trump wants to do these things anyway. Trump can name federal judges, but they must be approved by the Senate. As dictatorial as the U.S. presidency has become, the U.S. president is still not a dictator. And as authoritarian a person, as Trump is, he is still limited by the 535 members of Congress.
So, instead of a list of suggestions of things for Trump to do, here is a list of things that Trump shouldn’t do.
Don’t issue any executive orders.
Don’t issue any signing statements.
Don’t authorize anyone to be tortured.
Don’t order any drone strikes.
Don’t negotiate any trade deals.
Don’t order any assassinations.
Don’t launch any preemptive strikes.
Don’t appoint anyone to head federal departments that ought to be shut down.
Don’t appoint anyone to head federal agencies that ought to be shut down.
Don’t send anyone to Guantanamo.
Don’t violate the Constitution.
Don’t impose or increase tariffs.
Don’t impose sanctions or embargoes.
Don’t establish any no-fly zones.
Don’t invade any countries.
Don’t occupy any countries.
Don’t fight any foreign wars.
Don’t restart the Cold War.
Don’t send any disaster aid unless it is your own money.
Don’t take sides in another country’s civil war.
Don’t declare any disaster areas.
Don’t ask for an authorization to use military force.
Don’t put your signature on any bill with unconstitutional spending.
Don’t try to create jobs.
Don’t enforce unjust federal laws.
Don’t do these things, President Trump, don’t do them.
I would love to see Trump do whatever he can to drain the swamp and scale back the welfare/warfare/surveillance/police state, but I am not holding my breath. I tried that for years and almost died waiting for the Republicans in Congress to actually for once eliminate a regulation, a tax, an agency, or a program instead of trying to change it, improve it, reform it, or replace it with something else.