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Taking advantage of the Trump presidency

    In the words of many political leaders, “You never want a good crisis to go to waste.” This usually refers to using a political crisis to achieve a political goal of a government leader or political party. It is time for We, the People, of the United States to take advantage of a crisis, and change how much power our elected officials have. President Donald J. Trump is bound to present us with an opportunity to investigate fully the powers of the Presidency, and we should take advantage of that to rein in the power of the chief executive. There have been many well-documented opportunities of politicians breaking the law, going against the wishes of their constituents, or involving the country in unjust conflicts. Any of those opportunities could have been the crisis that the People could have used to change the power structure of our executive branch, but nothing has changed.

    There is no doubt that President Nixon violated domestic, international, and human rights laws and norms. It is undisputed that many large corporations knowingly made illegal donations to the Nixon campaign and supporters who were breaking the law. Nixon faced no legal action, and the companies that made illegal contributions were given only light fines. Importantly, the system that allowed for the President to wage secret wars, and obtain secret money hardly changed. Few in the U.S. said what Claude Julien did when he stated “[t]he elimination of Mr. Richard Nixon leaves intact all the mechanisms and all the false values which permitted the Watergate scandal.”

    Ronald Reagan also violated domestic and international law, and the desires of the People of the United States. Though the U.S. Congress outlawed selling weapons to Iran, the Reagan administration did so. U.S. public opinion was against supporting the Contras in Nicaragua, and Congress expressly made it illegal, but the Reagan administration waged a secret war in Nicaragua funded by the arms sales to Iran. Additionally, the CIA violated international law when it mined Nicaraguan harbors, and there is no doubt that the U.S.-backed contras committed war crimes in Nicaragua. No one in the Reagan administration that had been complicit in the affair went to jail. The only jail time even remotely related to the Iran-contra affair went to a pacifist who removed the “John Poindexter Street” sign (named after Reagan’s National Security Advisor) in protest. The political establishment did not change, the Presidency still has significant powers to commit the U.S. to action abroad.

    Though President Clinton was impeached –only the second President to ever face impeachment– the real crime is that it was for lying about a consensual sexual relationship (though it exposed some nonconsensual acts), and not for ignoring the will of the People of the United States or violating international law. President Clinton bowed to the military industrial complex and continued to increase military spending. He was not impeached for ordering a military-esque strike in Waco that used much more force than was necessary before attempting to negotiate. Nor was he impeached for the getting the U.S. involved in bombing Yugoslavia, ostensibly in the name of protecting Albanian Kosovars, but killing many civilians in the process, and violating international law.

    Though Obama is remembered as a calm, cool, and collected President who meant well, even he expanded the scope of Presidential powers at the expense of individual liberties. President Obama expanded the use of drone strikes and even killed U.S. citizens without proving their guilt. President Obama presided over the NSA as it expanded its scope of intelligence gathering to potentially include every person in the United States without judicial oversight of any kind. Though the average United States citizen got less and less privacy during his administration (admittedly with significant leftover programs from Bush Jr.), the People of the United States did nothing to check his power.

    Presidents of all kinds have violated individual constitutional protections as well as domestic, international, and humanitarian laws. Yet, even after significant disclosures of horrific acts, and widespread abuse of power, the People of the United States continue to vote for Presidents that will have the same ability to commit the same acts, hoping for a better person to fill the office.

    President Trump continues the jingoistic foreign policy that has trapped the United States in too many overseas conflicts and has ravaged or ended the lives of too many people here and abroad. The President is elected by a few, but presides over the lives of many. The many should take some power back.

    The People of the United States should band together to pass legislation, or even Constitutional amendments, that will rein in the President. We should limit a president’s ability to use force, to violate individual rights, and to commit the People of the United States to unjust actions that may have long-lasting ramifications. The United States should become a party to the Rome Statute and allow our leaders to be tried for any war crimes they commit. We should make all candidates for higher office disclose all relationships, and all their monetary affairs. Constituents should hold greater sway with politicians than large companies do. Let’s be prepared for the next political crisis, and when it occurs, use it to the advantage of the People, not a politician’s agenda.


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