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Editorial: Crisis demands Congress check Trump's leadership failure

The Seattle Times editorial board, The Seattle Times on

Published in Op Eds

At a time America urgently needs a great president to unite the people, its president is intent on driving them apart.

Congress must fill the leadership void and prevent President Donald Trump from worsening the current unrest, trampling the Constitution and irreparably harming the nation.

During this grave crisis, when cities, states and the social contract are in turmoil, America needs leaders to uphold its core principles and rely on them for guidance.

Clearly, that leadership isn't coming from the Trump administration, so we must rely on other branches of government through 2020.

Trump's disregard of pandemic warnings, and failure to effectively respond, cost lives and set the nation on edge. Before that, he stoked racial animosity and division, setting back what progress there's been on civil rights and undermining police reforms that had shown promise in places like Seattle.

Instead of working to unify, heal and strengthen, this president sowed division, laid kindling and sprinkled gasoline. It was only a matter of time before a blaze ensued.

George Floyd was one spark, igniting a righteous national protest against his wrongful death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers and also against America's ongoing failure to end systemic racism.

Another spark came Monday, when Trump threatened to override the will of states he feels are not dealing with the protests decisively and deploy military troops for law enforcement. As if to preview that likely illegal and fraught move, he then used troops and police to fire rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse a peaceful protest at Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. The purpose was to make way for a cynical photo op of the president standing in front of a historic church.

Was there ever a more vivid illustration of why America must continue fighting to defend its Constitution? The people's right to peaceably assemble, and checks on the executive branch, are core values that make America great. No president gets to brush them aside.

Protests and rioting will pass. Windows will be replaced and order restored.

But what's to be done about the country's foundation, which is being sledgehammered by Trump? That's a far worse exploitation of the crisis than any looting. That causes lasting harm, weakens the country and makes all Americans more vulnerable.

Republicans and Democrats alike must condemn Trump's attacks on the Constitution and its First Amendment. They must affirm laws that restrict presidents from unilaterally deploying the military for law enforcement in states, as Trump is threatening to do.

 

Unbelievable as it sounds, the next line of defense may be generals, sworn to support and defend the Constitution. We must have faith they will uphold their oath.

In addition to condemnation, Congress should introduce legislation limiting the presidents' authority to use federal troops in the District of Columbia, a suggestion made by John McKay, a former U.S. Attorney teaching Constitutional law at Seattle University.

Such legislation would rebuke Monday's appalling display. It would also affirm the nation will not tolerate rogue presidents who disregard the Constitution and laws preventing misuse of the military.

Trump's threats of military force in states reveal a deep lack of understanding and appreciation of the military, how it's trained and what it's supposed to do, said another former U.S. Attorney, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

"The people of America are not the enemies of America, they are America," Durkan said, while meeting with this editorial board Tuesday.

Indeed. We the people want to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

Trump's failed leadership through successive crises, and his disregard for America's core values and its Constitution, demand Congress step up and provide leadership the United States desperately needs.

(c)2020 The Seattle Times

Visit The Seattle Times at www.seattletimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

 

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