OK, so, look…umm…well, now, ah…OK. OK, just gimme a sec to gather my thoughts… [COUGHS] [FAINT RATTLING SOUND AS WRITER APPARENTLY SHAKES HEAD] Ahem. [FURTHER COUGHING]. Just a little stunned here. Struggling with disbelief…fumbling for words…what this guy Dershowitz said…
Right. Right. I can do this. Pull yourself together, man. Right.
So, first, let me stress that I’ve read about 30 different accounts of what Trump Attorney Alan Dershowitz, esq., said tonight, and over the past couple of hours I’ve listened to a broad set of TV pundits lay it out, just to make sure others heard what I did. Gotta make sure I’m not getting this mixed up. Extraordinary conclusions require extraordinary evidence. It’s important, before going off half-cocked and screaming bloody murder, to be certain that the purported lawyer – everybody insists he’s a lawyer, so I guess he is, all evidence to the contrary – really said what he seems to have said. Which, swear to God, he really did, best as I can tell. I double-double-checked.
Now, what Dershowitz just said – no, really – is that as long as the President does something in the honest belief that it’s in the public interest that he gets re-elected, whatever he does cannot, by definition, be impeachable. It’s not just that abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are outside a strict interpretation of the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanours” (itself a brain-roasting proposition). Nope. This takes it much further. It’s now being contended that a President is entitled to view his own political interest as identical to the national interest, and moreover can do anything, anything at all, to promote that unified interest.
This seems a very close cousin to the once frowned-upon Nixon Doctrine, which has largely been subsumed within a broader theory referred to nowadays as the Unitary Executive: when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal. Tricky Dicky said exactly that, verbatim, to David Frost in an interview that was quite notorious at the time. David’s staffers had to run over and manually push his slackened jaw back up to the closed position, it was so hard for the poor fellow to process, but yup, that’s what Nixon said. He wasn’t the first to promote this presumably un-American theory of government, mind you. It’s not far removed, actually, from the older and equally democratic declaration of Louis XIV, the Bourbon Sun King Himself, that l‘etat c’est moi, and has similarities to an even older dogma they used to call The Divine Right of Kings. The idea isn’t that the Executive is above the law, so much as that the Royal Personage is the law, and therefore, logically, everything done by that Personage is legal.
I just saw, right this minute, another replay on the tube. Dershowitz really endorsed this notion. He really said that. See for yourself, it’s on YouTube. Don’t take my word for it.
But – but – now see here, Alan, suppose for the sake of argument that the President sets up an off-the-books squad of shady dirty tricks operatives, calling them, oh I don’t know, “the plumbers”, and tasks them with messing with the electoral efforts of his opponents in an election-rigging program of sabotage, subterfuge, and covert surveillance dubbed, say, “rat fucking”, which program involves things like bugging campaign offices, circulating false documents, planting false stories in the press, and breaking into the opposite side’s national campaign headquarters, financed all the while with dirty, undeclared money raised illegally and disbursed by dubious bagmen touting literal brown paper bags stuffed with cash. Let’s just say. That would be cool? Because he’s President?
You know, I did not think that. I thought not. You must be right though, Alan, old sock, because the Chief Justice of SCOTUS was sitting right there the whole time, and he didn’t do a spit take, or even go “say what now?”. He just sat there, smiling quietly and quite juridically to himself. Geesh. Colour me stupefied, or, as I sometimes say, well truss my legs and call me hogtied!
One wonders why those silly Founders didn’t make this a little more transparent in their silly constitution. Those guys! They couldn’t have been less clear, you ask me. And those poor misguided Dems could have been spared a lot of time, effort, and grief, you know? In fact, since that was their attitude, I’m starting to wonder why Madison, Hamilton and the boys had such a beef with the British monarchy in the first place, they liked having a king so much. All that fuss, with the flowery rhetoric, and a proper revolution to boot, with people getting killed and everything, and for what?