On Friday Donald Trump will pledge to meet the high demands the presidential office. The sacred US constitution is in for a blistering time
In Washington on Friday, the incoming president will place his left hand on the bible and, with his right hand raised, repeat the following, led by the chief justice:
I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.
Thats assuming chief justice John Roberts doesnt muck up the lines, as he did in 2009 requiring Barack Obama to be sworn in again at the White House a day later.
The oath is required by the US constitution itself. President Trump is likely to add the optional extra, so help me God or maybe surprise everyone with an Inshallah.
Reciting the oath of office is unlikely to cause too much difficulty for the incoming president, even though he gives the distinct impression he has little idea what the constitution is about.
He does have the let-out proviso to the best of my ability which leaves plenty of room to accommodate his skew-shift views about what he thinks needs preserving, protecting and defending.
A group of US law professors recently wrote to Trump imploring him to get a grip on the constitution, to uphold and adhere to the rule of law, to take responsible positions on constitutional issues, to make executive and judicial appointments that will unify rather than divide and to denounce hate crimes.
Theres fat chance that Donald will pay the slightest bit of attention to what pointy-head professors think, which reinforces their concerns that the US constitution is in for a blistering time.
After all, this is a man who in the face of the first amendments protection of freedom of the press wants to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money … were going to have people sue you like youve never got sued before.
Actually, people can already sue for articles that are deliberately false, nonetheless its the new horizon where the media can be punished for being negative about him or the oligarchs, plutocrats and, in all likelihood, kleptocrats, who make up his administration.
He has said that he wants to punish and revoke the citizenship of Americans who burn the flag, contrary to at least two supreme court decisions that protect political expression. The court also has found that the government is constitutionally prohibited from removing citizenship on the basis of hostility to the state.
We know that Trump has called reporters who question his motivation dishonest … disgusting … scum and some were banned from his campaign. Now there are fresh reports of proposals to remove the entire press corps from the White House and relocate the press room to the old executive building or an annex.
Meanwhile, Trumps own freedom of expression continues unhinged. He Tweets personal abuse and lies about those who criticise his policies and pronouncements with the result that his supporters unleash their invective on these insubordinate citizens.
Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration wrote: No president or president-elect in history has ever before publicly condemned individual citizens for criticising him. That occurs in two-bit dictatorships intent on stamping out dissent.
If its not reporters, the media and free speech whose constitutional protection is under threat, its Mexicans and Muslims. Trump has variously pledged to prohibit all Muslims from entering the United States, to strongly consider closing mosques along with vague ideas about creating a register of Muslims. These edicts change in the breeze, so its not entirely clear what Trump means at any given moment.
As the law professors point out in their joint letter, identification of a entire group of people for different treatment based on religious or ethnic background, raises extraordinary troubling questions about how your administration will understand the rights of religious minorities.
Those rights are protected by the free exercise clause of the first amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Further, the fifth amendment provides for equal protection under the law about which Trump has barely given a cursory thought as he trundles out his threats and bombast.
Mexicans also had better watch out and not just because of the wall. Those with Mexican heritage are likely to be abused for doing their job, as was the experience of federal judge Gonzalo Curiel who presided in civil litigation where Trump was a party. The then presumptive Republican nominee for president accused the judge of having a conflict, because of his ethnicity. For good measure he embroidered his abuse by claiming that Curiel was a hater of Donald Trump … a disgrace.
Trumps inflammatory rhetoric has let the mad dogs off the leash with hate speech against minorities increasing significantly since the election, as white supremacists like the Ku Klux Klan and the alt-right get a new veneer of legitimacy.
Abortion is another confused area in Trumps closet of constitutional variables. In 1999 he announced he was pro-choice, then he swapped to being pro-life. Later, in 2015, he said he was pro-choice, but got muddled and said he really meant to say he was pro-life.
During his run for the nomination he announced that women who have abortions should be punished. This was later modified to say the doctors who performed abortions should be punished because the women were victims.
He also said he would appoint judges to the supreme court who would overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that struck down state and federal laws restricting access to abortions, with the majority of the judges deeming abortion a fundamental right under the constitution.
Its unlikely he will find anyone more regressive than supreme court judge Antonin Scalia, the who died last year following an afternoon of quail shooting. The Republicans refused to hold confirmation hearings for president Obamas nominee, Merrick Garland, leaving the seat vacant for Trump to fill.
To swear on Friday that as president he will preserve, protect and defend the constitution while simultaneously threatening its very tenets will be one of many exciting challenges ahead.
Here on Australian soil, political leaders dont have to swear to uphold any high-blown constitutional protections, probably because we have precious few of them. They simply swear, or affirm, that they will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. Unlike Donald, they are not even required to do that to the best of their ability.
Read more: www.theguardian.com