Presidents don’t ‘demand’ things

I am not inclined usually to endorse thoughts expressed by William Kristol, publisher of the conservative publication The Weekly Standard.

I’ll make an exception by backing a tweet he put out regarding Donald J. Trump Sr.: In America, a president can order that a thing be done if he’s executing a law or acting within his discretion. And a president can urge or request something be done. But an American president doesn’t “demand” a thing be done. Demands are the way of autocrats, thugs and children.

Now I shall stipulate that Kristol is an ardent anti-Trump fellow. He opposed his election as president in 2016 and hasn’t let up since Trump took the oath of office.

The president has “demanded” that the Department of Justice launch a probe into whether the FBI spied on Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump is looking for some affirmation of the allegation he has leveled against the FBI — again with no evidence — that it launched surveillance on his campaign in an effort to do harm to it.

Kristol, I shall remind you, once served as chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle from 1989 to 1993. Thus, he has government experience. He served quite close to the center of federal executive power.

His view of Trump’s demand, that it is the “way of autocrats, thugs and children” points out one of the many fundamental flaws in the manner that Trump seeks to govern.

He continues to misconstrue a truth about the president and the presidency, which is that the office isn’t his to act as he pleases. It carries two-plus centuries of tradition and custom. President John F. Kennedy once lamented shortly after taking office in 1961 how difficult it was to get anything done simply by presidential edict.

Donald Trump hasn’t yet made that discovery. I doubt he will. He has no knowledge of how government works, only some internal notion of how he wants it to work.

William Kristol, to borrow a phrase, has told it like it is.

Leave a Reply