The secret power of an American President

The Framers separated the power of the federal government into three branches for a number of different reasons.  In part, it was a way for a rogue President, Congress, or Supreme Court to be held in check by the other two branches.

The check on the power of the President and the Supreme Court is the Congressional power of impeachment.  There is no equivalent check on the power of Congress.  Congressmen can’t be recalled, and they can’t be impeached.  Presidential vetoes can be overridden.  And the Supreme Court is institutionally incapable of restraining a determined Congress.  Search “the switch in time that saved nine.”

Under Article V, the states do have the authority to control Congress, but they successfully used it only once, when the states forced it to pass the 17th Amendment.  The language of Article V contains no reference to the President, so he has no role to play.

Or does he?

As he runs for reelection, Trump will be forced to address the issue of trillion dollar annual deficits and a $22 trillion national debt.  What’s his plan to fix it?  If he couldn’t do anything with a Republican Congress for at least two years, why should anyone believe he’ll do anything about it in a second term?

We know what he wants  —  the line item veto.  But that requires an amendment to the Constitution, which Congress will never propose.  What’s he to do?

He could go to the six Republican-controlled state legislatures that have not passed an Article V Balanced Budget Amendment Resolution, and ask for these Republican state legislators to give him a line item veto.  They wouldn’t say no.  They’re the most pro-Trump politicians in the country.

Part of the problem with campaigning for a Balanced Budget Amendment is that nobody knows what it would look like.  Once the Amendment Convention is called, they can propose any amendment that helps balance the budget.

President Trump can make clear that he is only campaigning and supporting a line item veto.  That, in itself, will be sufficient.  He can make clear that he will work to assure ratification of the line item veto.  Not necessarily for anything else.

For the President’s secret power is political, not legal or constitutional.  He is the leader of the country.  He has the ability to explain Article V to the people, and describe how it is the only constitutional means to rein in Congress.

If the Democrats take the House, the logic of this argument becomes overwhelming.  Like Truman in 1948, he can run against Congress, and for the use of Article V to bring it under control.

And everybody hates Congress.

The secret pleasures of the Rosenstein mob

From The Bonfire of the Vanities:

An excellent feeling came over Kramer, in every cell and every neural fiber.  In that instant, the instant of that little swallow, his scuffed attache’ case meant nothing, nor did his clodhopper shoes nor his cheap suit nor his measly salary nor his New York accent nor his barbarisms and solecisms of speech.  For in that moment he had something that these Wasp counselors, these immaculate Wall Street partners from the universe of Currys & Goads & Pesteralls & Dunnings and Spongets and Leaches would never know and never feel the inexpressible pleasure of possessing.   And they would remain silent and polite in the face of it, as they were right now, and they would swallow in fear when and if their time came.  And he now understood what it was that gave him a momentary lift each morning as he saw the grand island fortress rise at the crest of the Grand Concourse from the gloom of the Bronx.   For it was nothing less than the Power, the same Power to which Abe Weiss himself was totally given over.  It was the power of the government over the freedom of its subjects.  To think of it in the abstract made it seem so theoretical and academic, but to feel it  —  to see the looks on their faces  —  as they stare back at you, courier and conduit of the Power  —  Arthur Rivera, Jimmy Dollard, Herbert 92X and the guy called Pimp  —  even them  —  and now to see that little swallow of fright in a perfect neck worth millions  —  well, the poet has never sung of that ecstasy or even dreamed of it, and no prosecutor, no judge, no cop, no income tax auditor will ever enlighten him, for we dare not even mention it to one another, do we?  —  and yet we feel it and we know it every time they look at us with those eyes that beg for mercy or, if not mercy, Lord, dumb luck or capricious generosity.  (Just one break!)   What are all the limestone facades of Fifth Avenue and all the marble halls and stuffed leather libraries and all the riches of Wall Street in the face of my control of your destiny and your helplessness in the face of the Power?