[David] charged Solomon his son, saying, “I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn… 1 kings 2:1-3
- Walk in His ways; keep His statues, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the law….
Over the past three weeks I’ve been doing a lot of observing. It’s really one of the primary responsibilities of writing, and of journalism across the board. Unfortunately, with our contemporary 24/7 news cycle, there’s seldom enough time for the in depth rumination that must accompany observation if we’re going to be anything other than reactive. Or, worse, pre-conclusive.
Take too long to file a story, share an opinion, post a blog… and the moment will have passed. In consequence the articles that get read, and shared, and high in the rankings, are seldom those that are so well thought out or well considered.
So here we are, three weeks into this new presidency, and thus far I haven’t posted much about it at all. The truth is, by the time I think I may have something useful to share, the nation has already moved on. There’s always something new, that distracts us – and maybe that’s the point, maybe we’re being kept off balance by design?
However, rather than chase down that rabbit hole, I want to point out some good news that has taken all twenty-one days to begin to kick in. It is – I believe – one of the most carefully calibrated elements of genius in the United States Constitution; I’m talking about the checks and balances; or – as I like to call it – the Rock Paper Scissors of good government.
The Rock Paper Scissors of good government.
- Congress legislates – the President can veto legislation – Congress can overturn a veto by two-thirds majority;
- The Supreme Court can rule legislation unconstitutional – Congress (and The States) can amend the constitution;
- Presidents appoint justices – The People elect presidents – Congress can impeach Presidents – The People can elect a new Congress;
- Presidents can bypass Congress via the issue of Executive Orders – Judges can stay Executive orders – Presidents can work with Congress to make those orders into law;
- Paper covers rock – scissors cut paper – rock breaks scissors….
My biggest concern right now is when I observe our President systematically undermining legitimate institutions, in a petulant response to being disagreed with or not getting his own way.
The Fourth Estate: Journalism has played an important questioning role as The Fourth Estate ** for the entire history of our democracy, but that fourth estate is under a constant attack, and that is dangerous for a free society. Of course, journalism is not above reproach, but the professional standards represented and practiced in U.S. journalism are unequaled in the world. (** In the United States, the media is often called the fourth branch of government – or “fourth estate” because it monitors the political process in order to ensure political players don’t abuse the democratic process.)
The judiciary: Mr. Trump’s suggestion that the definition of “getting the Constitution right” is to agree with him is worrisome; his attempt to influence the decision of judges by berating them personally and publicly smacks of bullying; his appeal to the public to “blame” certain judges if there is a terrorist attack is troubling in a Burn the Reichstag sense of troubling…
There are three branches of government, Mr. President, and they are co-equal. Rock; paper; scissors.
Fact is, most of us are wrong much of the time (yours truly included), and that is why our constitutional republic is designed as a community experience of governance. Every last one of us needs checks, balances, accountability, and a community of others who are co-equal yet wired differently.
Fact is, most of us are wrong much of the time, and that is why our constitutional republic is designed as a community experience of governance.
That’s my observation. After three weeks of the Trump administration I pray hard that our president will learn to value the beautiful and nuanced symmetry of our amazing, complimentary, unprecedented, widely coveted, and balanced form of government.
Rock. Paper. Scissors. It’s all good – DEREK