case for reining him in
Opinion writer Washington Post
Jan. 10, 2020
At a rally in Ohio on Thursday night, President Trump drew deafening cheers by boasting about his order to assassinate Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, deriding Democrats with petty schoolyard taunts and mocking the very idea that Congress should act to constrain his warmaking powers.
In so doing, Trump demonstrated powerfully why Congress absolutely must act to rein in Trump’s unilateral authority to wage war. Not just in a superficial sense — as in, no one this unhinged should be declaring war unilaterally — but in a much deeper sense as well.
At his rally, Trump belittled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “not operating with a full deck.” He derided House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff as “you little pencil neck.” The crowd roared, demonstrating how heavily Trump’s petty abusiveness figures as a factor in his appeal.
But what Trump really displayed here is that his deranged attacks on the opposition aren’t mere insults. Taken along with Trump’s mockery of congressional demands for input into decisions of war, they demonstrate a profound contempt for the very notion that his most consequential decisions should be subject to oversight and accountability at all.
Delegitimizing the opposition
Respect for the legitimacy of the political opposition is a basic hallmark of accountability in government. You see, the voters who cheered Trump in Ohio aren’t the only voters who matter. Opposition lawmakers — in this case, House Democrats — also represent millions and millions of Americans.
An acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the opposition’s representatives would send the message not just that Trump recognizes some sort of obligation to defer to the role of other branches in acting as a check on his power, but also that in some sense he is accountable to those voters, too, and not only to his own.
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