Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law School, former Bush administration official and author of The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment inside the Bush Administration and Power and Constraint: The Accountable Presidency after 9/11, is among the nation’s most insightful commentators on the Executive Branch.
During the Obama administration, Goldsmith wrote at length about how President Obama embraced the Bush administration’s approach to executive power, particularly in foreign affairs. Now Goldsmith has trained his sights on the Trump administration.
The October 2017 issue of The Atlantic features Goldsmith’s searing critique of the Trump presidency to date. His article, “Will Donald Trump Destroy the Presidency?” is a must-read.
Here is how the article begins:
Donald Trump is testing the institution of the presidency unlike any of his 43 predecessors. We have never had a president so ill-informed about the nature of his office, so openly mendacious, so self-destructive, or so brazen in his abusive attacks on the courts, the press, Congress (including members of his own party), and even senior officials within his own administration. Trump is a Frankenstein’s monster of past presidents’ worst attributes: Andrew Jackson’s rage; Millard Fillmore’s bigotry; James Buchanan’s incompetence and spite; Theodore Roosevelt’s self-aggrandizement; Richard Nixon’s paranoia, insecurity, and indifference to law; and Bill Clinton’s lack of self-control and reflexive dishonesty.
“Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm,” James Madison wrote in one of the Federalist Papers during the debates over the ratification of the Constitution. He was right, but he never could have imagined Donald Trump.
At this point in the singular Trump presidency, we can begin to assess its impact on American democracy. The news thus far is not all bad. The Constitution’s checks and balances have largely stopped Trump from breaking the law. And while he has hurt his own administration, his successors likely won’t repeat his self-destructive antics. The prognosis for the rest of our democratic culture is grimmer, however. Trump’s bizarre behavior has coarsened politics and induced harmful norm-breaking by the institutions he has attacked. These changes will be harder to undo.
Trump, in short, is wielding a Soprano touch on American institutions. “I’m [f–king] King Midas in reverse here,” Tony Soprano once told his therapist. “Everything I touch turns to [s–t].”
Read the whole thing.