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The Trump administration is not known for its consistency, but some contradictions are too revealing to ignore.

Michael Gerson mug

Michael Gerson

In nominating Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, President Trump has chosen a jurist who is deeply committed to the Bill of Rights and the rule of law. Kavanaugh — with whom I worked at the White House — is brilliant, meticulous, fair-minded and unfailingly decent. In a saner political climate, a nominee of this temperament, intellect and experience would be confirmed in the Senate with 70 or 80 votes.

Yet: In pardoning Dwight and Steven Hammond, the Oregon ranchers convicted of arson on federal lands, Trump gave his blessing to lawlessness. According to the Justice Department, “Witnesses at [the] trial, including a relative of the Hammonds, testified the arson occurred shortly after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered several deer on [Bureau of Land Management] property. Jurors were told that Steven Hammond handed out ‘Strike Anywhere’ matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to ‘light up the whole country on fire.’ ... The fire consumed 139 acres of public land and destroyed all evidence of the game violations.” The Hammonds’ cause had been taken up by right-wing militias. Trump’s pardon effectively sided with the militias in their dispute with the federal government.

This is not an isolated incident. By pardoning former Arizona Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, Trump excused disobedience to a federal court order and embraced a figure with a long history of profiling and abusing Hispanic migrants. Speaking to representatives of law enforcement last year, Trump urged the physical abuse of suspects. “Like when you guys put somebody in the car,” he said, “and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put your hand over ... I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?’” During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly egged on the physical abuse of protesters at his rallies. “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato,” he once said, “knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK. Just knock the hell — I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise.”

This is not to mention Trump’s initial neutrality between white supremacists and protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, which was taken by hate groups and militias as a presidential endorsement. Or coming to the defense of Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who was repeatedly accused of predatory behavior against young women. Or Trump’s systematic attempts to undermine the authority of federal law enforcement. Or his barely disguised admiration for the intimidation tactics of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

How to describe this strange mix of tough-guy posturing, conspiracy thinking, authoritarian envy, recreational cruelty and admiration for norm breakers? At some point, the dots connect and reveal deep attitudes. Trump has a bully’s view of strength and weakness, and he seems to instinctively identify with bullies.

This is not consistent with the most admirable forms of populism. Some conservative thinkers have excused their conversion to Trumpism on the theory that he is elevating the little guy and speaking for the “forgotten man.” This is accurate — unless you are a minority facing a resurgence of state-blessed prejudice, or the victim of police brutality, or a migrant child torn from your family, or a journalist rotting in a Turkish jail, or a house church leader imprisoned in China. Apparently, these little guys don’t count. In fact, only a relatively comfortable white conservative thinker could find Trump’s record consistent with a passion for the forgotten.

In reality, many conservatives don’t like Trump in spite of his bullying but because of it. They have grown tired of decency and tolerance, which they dismiss as effete.

That is sad in any country, but particularly discrediting in America, where a commitment to universal human rights and dignity is essential to our national creed. A leader with contempt for justice and the weak is not a distinctly American leader.

All this points to the importance of institutional vigilance in the Trump era. Resisting the abuse of power is hard enough for good people. In Trump, the internal moral checks are absent. In a time of national stress and crisis — when executive authority naturally expands — the restraints on lawlessness and bullying would need to be external. And they may even need to be imposed by the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh is smart enough to know this. And I believe he has the patriotism and character to act upon it.

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Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson can be reached at michaelgerson@washpost.com.

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(38) comments

Cassandra2

I'll say it again: Anyone who claims that the president is above the law and beyond prosecution is unfit for the bench.

new2Lax

That would be true if that was the case but it is not. What the argument is, is when in office the charges are withheld until the President is out of office. The thinking is that the time it takes to defend against charges it puts the entire country without the full attention of the Administration. Unless it is a capital offense, the folks are correct in their assessment as to what takes precedent, the country's interest or an investigation.
Look at was has been accomplished by this Administration and this could only have been done by Trump, a lesser President such as Obama could not have accomplished 1/3rd of what a Trump can do, as a matter of fact Obama didn't do in eight years what Trump has accomplished for the country in 500 days and Trump had the media and the left against him on each issue. Onlu a real strong leader could do such a thing and that's what we have in Trump.

oldhomey

You are right to a certain extent, new2. When Trump is legally removed from office in the 2020 election, it will take at least two decades to undo the damage he has done to our nation and world just in his first 18 months in office. A strongman leader is not a strong leader, he is a corrupt pretender who rules only for his own benefit, and that is what we have in Donald Trump. A would-be strongman leader. Watch him pay obeisance to the man who certainly seems to have something in hand that Trump does not want the world to see. That would be Vladimir Putin, the Russian whose butt Trump will be kissing early in the coming week. He has lips that seem made for sucking up to people like Putin, Xi and Kim.

new2Lax

This is what you see as damage, a GDP that will exceed 4.5%, Obama struggled with a 1% GDP and had eight years to do something about it. The unemployment for blacks, women and Latino's is at record low's, this is what Trump has done, where was the help for these folks in the Obama Administration, ridding the country of an unconstitutional healthcare mandate and lying about what would happen with your current plan and it was to save 2500 dollars per family per year, you seem to have supported what was unconstitutional to begin with. Lower taxes in which you seem to think along the lines of Nancy Pelosi that they were merely crumbs, the folks receiving the crumbs did not think so. Rid the public of 11 Obama executive orders that he would not go through Congress for approval, why, because they would not have passed and he knew it. Unparalleled support for the military and veterans, you see where the military and veterans was going under Obama. Nominated a terrific Supreme Court justice in Neil Gorsuch and has another in waiting. The economy is booming when you said it would not, the market is near 40% gains when you said it would fall as a matter of fact almost all Democrats said the same thing. Somehow they were wrong for eight Obama years and suddenly Trump comes along and what do you know, a booming market. Striving to get fair trade deals somehow is a bad thing according to you and the Democrats. The US is almost energy independent thanks to the Keystone Pipeline and fracking, energy independence is a good thing. Obama took eight years to study the situation and thought it was a bad idea, I guess he thought one more pipeline added to the country's 1700 was going to be a problem. Getting North Korea to denuclearize also seems to be a bad idea, no, that's another one of Trumps good ideas as it will be with Russia. The tariffs will also be a winner for Trump, you don't lose a trading war when you have a trillion dollars to work with, China and the others are through taking advantage of the US. Trump will handle Russia like anyone else, they will either fall in line or you can be assured they will pay a price. Trump is not Germany. Germany was supposed to be an friend, friends don't put their country at risk and expect the US to bail them out. They don't even pay what they should to support NATO. These are some of the things you are hoping to reverse, I couldn't imagine why but I suspect these are things you would have done as a stupid kid.

oldhomey

You just stick to those talking points provided to you, new2. The sound a great deal like the fulsome expressions of gratitude proffered by a large part of the German public circa 1937 to Der Fuhrer as the German economy took a sudden swing upwards, but before the public understood the actual, awful price they had to pay for that brief splurge. You had better hope that once the private meeting between Putin and Trump is over in Helsinki that Trump remembers to dust off the knees of his trousers before they emerge for the photo op. Or are you in with Snow Cougar on this, convinced that Putin and Trump are going to declare themselves as absolute rulers of the world, taking absolute control of all institutions "in order to save the republic"? I am sure the idea has a certain appeal for you.

Cassandra2

Newt, your answer and logic are complete bullsh*t. You argue that the president can basically commit any crime and not be stopped. That he can willfully subvert the law and the Constitution without question. "L'etat c'est moi." The Founding Fathers would slap you silly for uttering such anti-Constitutional claptrap. NO ONE is above the law. And NO ONE should get deferred from prosecution and be allowed to continue to break the law without consequence. You were probably leading the charge when it came to Bill Clinton, yet you think Trump should get a pass. SHAME!

Cassandra2

Treason IS a capital offense, Newt.

Climatehoax

Queeny, you are a fool, pull your head out of your arsevand do a little research
As you can see obama released MANY violent criminals
Hiding from the facts doesn’t change them
Obama the most lawless, dangerous president we’ve ever had.
Couldn’t care less about the innoccent victims

Richard Reid was already a two-time felon when authorities searched his Delaware apartment and found marijuana, crack cocaine divided into sales-size plastic bags, powder cocaine, a scale — and a loaded .32 caliber handgun, an unloaded .25 caliber pistol and ammunition for two other types of weapons.

Last week, President Obama commuted Reid’s 25-year sentence and made him one of the hundreds of drug users and dealers who the White House says have done enough time.


Home | Newsfront
Tags: Barack Obama | Gun Control | Obama | Forgives | Gun Felons | Calls | Stricter
Obama Forgives 107 Gun Felons Amid Calls for Stricter Gun Control


Read Newsmax: Obama Forgives 107 Gun Felons Amid Calls for Stricter Gun Control |

Gun control doesn't matter when Obama wants to release prisoners guilty of gun crimes

For a guy who says his biggest regret is not passing more gun control laws, President Barack Obama sure is pardoning a lot of criminals who’ve violated the gun laws already on the books. As the president took in the sun, sand and amazing golf available to him on his Hawaiian holiday vacation, he also took a moment to pardon or reduce the sentences of more than 200 federal inmates, many of them in federal prison for violating federal weapons

oldhomey

Climate seems to have lost control of his senses. He is now cutting and pasting anti-Obama broadsides he wrote when Obama was still president, apparently thinking they will bolster his argument that Obama's pardons and commutations of convicted criminals set loose a crime wave on America. Of course it did not, as these were not dangerous people that were costing the U.S. many millions of dollars a year to keep incarcerated. He says it in his senseless defense of Trump, who apparently is inviting further violent confrontations with officials on federal lands in the west by tacitly agreeing with the jailed right-wing terrorists who fight for the "principle" that, as private ranchers, they have the right to claim and use public lands, denying use of the land to the 300 million American taxpayers who actually own it. Good one, Climate. Your screen name explains all we need to know about where you're coming from.

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oldhomey

Glad to see you on here, Snow. I intend to be on here tomorrow to remind you of your dire prediction of a big government coup by Trump forces by July 14. We have seen Trump at his usual worst in his blundering trip to Europe, but no signs of the sort of coup you said we would have seen by now. Do get ready to explain yourself.

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Cassandra2

"Federal government has no right to any state land unless it is used for forts, ports and 10 miles around DC." Dear Russian bot, Cougar, show me that in the Constitution.

Cassandra2

Newsmax. Now THERE's an unbiased source. LOL!

Climatehoax

Could someone explain why Obama pardoned over a thousand convicted criminals? Is it because he’s a racist and doesn’t think black people should get punished for their crimes? Some of these people committed crimes using guns, VERY DANGEROUS PEOPLE. Something smells really rotten , BUT no one ever wrote a column about it becsuse the Messiah was backed by the corrupt main stream media

kingman10

oh Hoaxer, you've been decieved again. But fear not I have come to the rescue. Obama granted executive clemency to non violent offenders from such things as transporting illegal alligator skins to tapping into cable tv. Don't know where you get your info (info wars), but the truth is these are not dangerous people, even though you automatically think so because their skin may have a darker pigment. And as always i am providing a link for you to look and read yourself so you may become enlightened, although I doubt that will happen. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_granted_executive_clemency_by_Barack_Obama Have fun Hoaxer!

oldhomey

Gosh, Climate, an awful lot of those people Obama pardoned -- and there were only 217, I believe in his eight years -- were white people. By far the majority of them. And more of them than not were not imprisoned, but had received sentences of probation.

The same can be said for the far more numerous people whose sentences he commuted, about 1,700 of them. Commutations mean that their criminal records remain intact, but their sentences are reduced. Perhaps you could provide us with a few names of people he either pardoned or commuted who went on to prey on the public with further criminal behavior. I know of none, but perhaps you do. Could you do that for us, Climate? I thought not. Your screen name says all we need to know about your knowledge and your integrity.

kingman10

nope facts don't matter to hoaxer the hater. He wants to continue to hate and bad mouth for no reason and there aint nobody going to stop him, no matter how silly he looks. Its like the song says, its my party and I'll cry if I want to, In his case its "I'll hate if I want to."

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oldhomey

Well, the best explanation that I can come up with, Snow, is that Obama did not pardon over a thousand people. I believe the number was 217. Most of them were not people who were ever imprisoned. He DID commute the sentences of more than a thousand people, which did not erase their criminal records. Most of them had already been freed, too, but those that were allowed to leave prison were deemed not to be a threat to society. As far as I can determine, they turned out not to be a threat to society and did not commit more crimes once out. Perhaps you have information that differs with mine. If so, please provide it.

By the way, Obama's actions has saved American tax payers tens of millions of dollars at least, as it costs something like $100,000 annually to keep somebody in a federal lockup. Is that a good enough explanation for you?

oldhomey

Snow? Apparently you accepted my explanation, as you didn't challenge it. The least you could have done as thanked me for it.

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kingman10

Benghazi committee investigation --2 1/2 years, Zero (0) indictments!
Special counsel's Russian probe investigation-- 1 year, twenty(20) indictments.
I guess that speaks volumes.

oldhomey

You could add in two or three guilty pleas already, too, king. I lost count. Too much winning to keep track of it all, I guess, but that's what Trump promised would happen. The biggest win will to be to see him hoisted on his own petard.

johnnybragatti

Trump"s the first really criminal president the U.S. has ever had.
He could get away with anything ,as a crooked CEO, of a crooked corporation.
Not as easy as president, no matter what Kavanaugh does.
To say Trump checked out the "most ever" Supreme Court applicants,
show he"s lying right off the "bat" !!!

Cassandra2

Anyone who claims that the president is above the law and beyond prosecution is unfit for the bench.

tower

kingman, especially after Cheetoman criticized the OR takeover as an attack on America.

kingman10

could someone explain why Trump pardoned those arsonists in Oregon? Is it because right wing white nationalists were protesting their treatment? These people wanted to do harm to government property and they did. As I remember they were armed and dangerous too. Something smells rotten here. Might it have something to do with politics and firing up his white supremacists base, rather than protecting government property that belongs to you and me. As far as the supreme court nominee, I am neutral on whether he should be voted in. He seems very qualified, I hope his politics isn't as far right radical as some people say.

new2Lax

More than likely for the same reason Democrats want to pardon 50% of the incarcerated now. Strictly compassion. Many of the 50% incarcerated destroyed lives and property. Your concern should maybe start there. The Supreme Court pick is right of Kennedy and the next pick will be as well, with luck there should even be another pick making it a 7-2 Conservative court, so you will be able to sleep nights.

kingman10

I don't care for your whataboutism newt, just answer the questions I posed. Why pardon armed white supremacists arsons? I am talking about what actually happened, not what some politicians (not all democrats) propose to do. Try to stay on topic.

new2Lax

Democrats want to release the prison population by 50%, I don't see that as a good thing. Trump as President can pardon who he wants as Bill Clinton did in pardoning Marc Rich.

Climatehoax

For the same reason obama pardoned many gun slinging convicts.

kingman10

more whataboutism, I guess that's all you can do when you try to defend the indefensible orange menace. Pretty pathetic!

Rick Czeczok

Save your breath trying to explain anything on here. These are all DNC counter people set in place to do just this. Once everyone stops fighting them they go away. They have to feed there being important to the cause. Winona daily is a great example of this. They totally destroyed there comment page. Congrats idiots you just ran yourself out of people who read your garbage. Now attach, attach, attach, HAHAHA fools......I don't read any of your comments, and no one else is here to read them, you ran them off. Can't wait for the November vote to shut you up.....

kingman10

whaaaaat! Rick is back from the dead! OMG let's give three cheers for Rick. Nice to know you are a man of your word Rick. Those seven years you mentioned sure went by fast! I'll have you know I have a huge fan club on these pages. they wait patiently for me to rise up each day and face the world's problems with sobering whit and wisdom you can only get from the kingman. Yes you are one of the lucky ones Rick who get to read and enjoy my writings. You may not understand them much, but you do show up and that shows perseverance on your part. It is much easier to fool people, like Trump does, than to convince them they have been fooled (my job). Keep up the good work Rick and keep reading!

oldhomey

OMG! Thank the Lord! Rick was only joking that he would retire from commenting on these boards! The "gang" has been SO worried and feeling guilty that we had intimidated so many people that we ran them off, that they abandoned the reader comments. Not Rick, though. We will still be able to thrill to his dizzy commentaries. Perhaps he will even grace us with the meaning of "attach, attach, attach", though no explanation is needed for "HAHAHA fools". Rick just has a magic way with words.

Cassandra2

Czercock, the Russian agent, is back again after stomping off these pages in a huff, saying he was done with all of it. But there's too much at stake for the Russians, and his KGB handlers ordered him to keep spreading misinformation and sowing dissent.

Cassandra2

Czercock, you promised on July 10 that you'd be leaving these pages. You lied again.

Climatehoax

I’m getting tired of the free education I keep giving you, I’m acting like a liberal socialist read my Queeny post above and be enlightened. Best to stop listening to msnbc

kingman10

gosh if anyone can make sense of Hoaxers post please explain. Something about him being a queen and listening to msnbc, not sure.

new2Lax

You seem to have trouble understanding many posts, I'm wondering if attention deficit syndrome may be the culprit here. I can understand Homey was stupid as a kid and still trying to maneuver through life but not being able to understand any of these posts, seems like a real problem exists here.

kingman10

yes newt, I do have a problem understanding people's post like yours that don't contain proper English or complete coherent sentences, much like the ramblings of #45. And to top that off you claim sources don't matter. Its no wonder your scribbling on these posts don't amount to much. I would of thought a crack head HR man would of mastered the English language after 30 years on the job at a top 3000 company. But maybe I expect too much from the right wing nuts, whose arguments always starts with "whataboutisms."

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