Whatever that was, let’s not do that again.
While Donald Trump did some things a lot of us liked, his presidency shattered a lot of the norms that his predecessors had simply observed. The fact that he didn’t care is part of why so many people loved Trump. Like him or not, violating those norms did not equate to breaking the law, but things might have gone a lot more smoothly for him in Washington D.C. if some of these unwritten traditions and expectations had been more enshrined into the actual laws of the country. It might be a good time to install some guardrails on our democracy.
For example, why do we not require people who want to run for president to disclose their last 10 years of tax returns so we can see their business and financial entanglements? Not being transparent gives ammunition to critics to insinuate there are conflicts of interest. In the absence of hard numbers and facts, people will fill that vacuum with conspiracy theories.
American citizens have a right to expect that a president won’t steer taxpayer dollars to businesses he or she owns, call for investigations of his or her political rivals or fire people in oversight positions and replace them with loyalists. Presidents shouldn’t hand out pardons to felons who have done nothing to redeem themselves except possibly not spilling their guts to investigators. We’ve learned such actions aren’t technically illegal to do but merely “unpresidential” in nature. Impeachment as a remedy is useless as long as political parties enjoy legislative majorities.
Before anyone accuses me of criticizing Trump, just remember it could be a Democrat doing the steamrolling of norms the next time. Our now ex-president set many precedents, and anyone who now rails against the opposition party for behavior they brushed off these past four years risks looking like a hypocrite whose ethical code is purely situational. Regardless of who sits in the White House, the same rules and expectations should apply, right?
We need some clarity on this unitary executive theory that two presidents have now used as a legal justification for greatly expanding the power of the executive branch and take steps to strengthen the separation of powers established in the U.S. Constitution. What good are subpoenas if they can simply be ignored? What guarantees do we have that a president will act in our best interest instead of his/her own if they enjoy absolute immunity from prosecution while in office? At the same time, how do we prevent our leaders from being distracted by frivolous attacks?
While we are reforming things, Congress needs a reboot as well.
Term limits would solve a lot of systemic problems, but that isn’t likely considering how many of them have put down roots in the Capitol building. We also need to get all of this money out of politics. There’s no telling how much doesn’t get done because D.C. lawmakers have to dedicate so much time schmoozing with wealthy donors who get influence into passing laws and loopholes that benefit them.
We should also reform the media. Oh, you didn’t think I was going to leave my profession out of this, did you?
I see so much negative chatter about “the media” and realize that isn’t good because our currency is your trust. Like the rogue cop who makes society question all the good, decent officers protecting and serving, the entire news media gets a bad reputation when organizations produce content that favors all of the policies of the far-left or far-right while unfairly demonizing anything the other guys say or do. We should strive to be more balanced, provide perspectives from both sides and let readers/viewers reach their own conclusions. It may be a good time for Congress to reintroduce the “Fairness Doctrine” of the Federal Communications Commission requiring holders of broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance in a manner that is honest, equitable and balanced. In my opinion, civil discourse in our country has suffered since this rule was eliminated in 1987.
Does any of that seem unreasonable? If you have an opinion, sound off and write a Letter to the Editor.
— Steven Stiefel is the publisher of the Times-Journal. His column appears in Saturday editions. Email: email@example.com.