Trump's Choice, and the Conflicting Voices from the Right

The cataract of disasters roiling the land in 2020 now has placed President Trump’s reelection in doubt. Present polling, at any rate, suggests that it is in doubt, although optimists remind us that similarly dire figures were broadcast and ultimately debunked in 2016.  This is not 2016—Donald Trump is the incumbent and should have the advantage based upon his record, if he is to win in November.

The issue then arises of whether the president was wise, despite the spectacle of riot, arson, assault, vandalism, and theft apparently unobstructed by local police forces, not to invoke the 1877 Insurrection Act and send federal troops to the affected areas.  Should he consider doing it now, if such outrages continue and spread?

Tucker Carlson has voiced his concern about the president’s failure to protect innocent citizens from the rampaging hoodlums of Antifa and Black Lives Matter by the exertion of force.  The innocent look to Mr. Trump for protection, and will be unimpressed if it is not forthcoming.  Even the indictment of criminals after the fact, followed by the prolonged processes of the law, will not dispel the impression of the abyss now extant.

Opposing Carlson are very eminent contributors to this site The Left Craps Out - Tucker Carlson misreads Trump’s pre-election strategy as well as the justly venerated Rush Limbaugh.  One argument seems to be that federal military intervention would show Trump in a bad light and engender further rioting.  Another is that federalism itself demands that the president leave enforcement of state law to the governors and mayors.  Certain conservatives “need to remind themselves that the United States is not Imperial Rome.”

Furthermore, the locations in which lawlessness has erupted are the domains of leftists, and their afflicted populations, having voted Democrat all these years, little merit our sympathy.  The local governments detest Trump and side with the rioters.  There was no reason for the president to intervene.

To the foregoing, Mr. Limbaugh adds the possibility that our present crop of general officers might not obey a presidential order to send troops.  That would make Mr. Trump look quite the fool. Limbaugh also notes the attitude of the state authorities.  These are not the Los Angeles Rodney King riots of 1992, in which Governor Pete Wilson asked President Bush to act.

The argument that Trump should not restore order by military force tends to be accompanied by confidence that the Left will implode or be seen for what it is prior to the election, vindicating Trump’s circumspection.  One can only hope that such optimism is warranted.

But what of the president’s constitutional duty?  What does his oath require?  Under Article II of the Constitution, the President of the United States swears to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  The same Article II states that the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

Now it is indeed the responsibility of governors and mayors to enforce the laws against vandalism, arson, riot, theft and assault, but they are in general not doing it.  It was primarily the responsibility of state officials to enforce the Supreme Court’s desegregation rulings, but when they refused, two administrations sent troops and federal marshals to assist them. George Wallace and Orval Faubus also were not amenable to the presence of federal troops or law enforcement officers in their states.  It was not their decision, they discovered.

Federalism, for a little while now, has accommodated the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.  They did not render us Imperial Rome, however many bad judicial opinions the Fourteenth Amendment, in particular, has generated.

A state certainly should remain autonomous and free of federal interference in all matters not reserved to the national government by the Constitution, but it may not violate the constitutional rights of citizens “nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” That latter provision from the Fourteenth Amendment, has been violated hideously by a number of states and cities, preserving the “right” of certain citizens to trample freely upon those of others, to terrorize and hurt them, to destroy or steal their property.  They have withheld police protection from the innocent to gratify the guilty.

The ppresident then is left with a reason to intervene: his oath of office.  That need not imply his appearing on the White House lawn in a combat helmet, with saber and gold epaulets, announcing his intention to besiege Seattle with tanks.  He could rather do what President George H.W. Bush did in 1992—address the nation and explain why the duties of his office and the preservation of  our institutions require action. 

As for the possible failure of military commanders to obey a direct order from the president, what exactly are we saying here?  That we are to abandon not only the equal protection of the laws and the Supremacy Clause, by which state officials swear fealty to the Constitution, but also civilian control of the military and the president’s title as Commander in Chief?

A general who refuses to obey the president should be relieved, at a minimum.  All such officers must be relieved and replaced with loyal counterparts, though it be likened to Stalin’s purge of the Soviet generals on CNN.  Military defiance of the president’s authority is by itself a deathwatch beetle in our system of government.  What presidential order will the “woke” generals next defy?  

We return to the challenge of Nov. 3. Is the president’s performance of his constitutional duty a bad electoral strategy?  Does he look better to those voters he needs (wherever they live) if he leaves the city streets and our national memorials to the mob?  Or will we accept the political analysis that the locations worst affected by rioting are left-leaning big cities, with leftist voters who chose their deplorable local leaders and  will never vote Republican in any case, and who now can lie in the bed they have made, for all we care?

Those who would defend the Republic should perhaps view it from a loftier height, one from which Americans do not appear divided into those who are worthy of the law’s protection and those who are not. From such a height, no part of this land looks suited to the tyranny of mob rule, to barbarism and chaos.  All of it must be defended.

If anyone argues that the time for federal military intervention is past, then let him state what the president should do about the disbanding and attrition of police forces, the still roaming mobs, the burgeoning rates of violent crime, the continued toppling of statues. And their remains the prospect of the next police shooting of an African-American suspect, and the mayhem that will follow.    

The president must act, and must be seen to act in defense of our way of life against what now menaces it.  If he can do so through the Justice department and executive orders then let us see it happen and with result. Whatever he does must impress the nation as effectual, as halting the calamity.  For that nation, already drained by the lockdown, cannot be in thrall to criminal fanatics and to their agents in government and the prosecutors’ offices. . Nor is this any time to worry about how the Left will characterize presidential action.  It will not have to characterize passivity to gain the victory. 

Image credit: Public Domain Pictures / public domain

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