What is noteworthy about the American system of government is not what it can do but what it cannot do. The president is not a tyrant. The separation of powers puts important legal constraints on the executive branch. Federalism puts important legal constraints on what the federal government can impose on the states. The Bill of Rights puts important legal constraints on what any level of government can do to the American people.Layered on top of those legal constraints is a whole set of bureaucratic norms and procedures that can make it difficult for a president to manage even the executive branch. There are civil service protections for bureaucrats. There are standard operating procedures that officials are loath to contravene. …When Trump is sworn into office, he will face all of these legal and bureaucratic constraints and more.
Trump also looks to be looking for balance in leadership. His secretaries of defense and state have both made high-profile visits around the world reassuring allies that the U.S. will maintain its commitments to friends and allies. Both have the president’s respect and confidence. Further, the appointment of H.R. McMaster as national security adviser has drawn bipartisan — almost universal — praise.
It’s true that the process of accountability is halting and frustratingly slow. But this is as it should be. The stakes could not be higher for our democracy. Ascertaining the truth is vital, and respect for the innocent is as important as identification of wrongdoing. It is thus crucial that the complex and elusive facts be sorted out in a fair and procedurally rigorous manner, and that the law be applied with deliberation and good judgment.Justice seems elusive here because it is so plodding. But plodding justice is our best chance for a legitimate resolution to this mess.