Conservatives Finally Speak: "He's Acts Like He's a King"

Finally, at long last, Republicans could take no more.

Senator Ted Cruz said, "Undeterred, President Trump appears to be going forward. It is lawless. It is unconstitutional. He is defiant and angry at the American people. If he acts by executive diktat, President Trump will not be acting as a president, he will be acting as a monarch.”

Lou Dobbs pronounced that President Trump's actions are "evidence of his unilateral, even occasionally authoritarian inclination."

Senator Rand Paul claimed, "The president acts like he's a king. He ignores the Constitution...These are not the words of a great leader. These are the words that sound more like the exclamations of an autocrat." Indeed, Paul went so far as to tweet out a photo of a crown, scepter, cape, and throne with the words, "The 'president who thinks he's a king' starter pack."

The Speaker of the House said, "The president has said before that 'he's not king' and he's 'not an emperor,' but he sure is acting like one."

Chris Christie exhorted, "This president wants to act as if he is a king, as if he is a dictator." And Jeb Bush added, "To use executive powers he doesn't have is a pattern that is quite dangerous." Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that Trump "is acting as a king, acting as a dictator" by doing what is "absolutely contrary to what the Constitution allows."

Conservative editorial writers finally got into the game, with one at USA Today saying, plainly, "The idea that President Trump acts as if he is the king of the United States or a tyrant, instead of president, has become a cliché." Asking for a restoration of the balance between Congress and the President, Charles Cooke, in the National Review, opined, "The United States is a constitutional republic, replete with a set of rules that govern how power may be wielded and by whom. There exists no provision within its codified order that ties the power enjoyed by each branch to that branch’s transient popularity. If there is a constitutional problem with the scope of the administrative state, it obtains regardless of the opinion polls."

But, in honor of that valedictorian from a high school in rural Kentucky who, in his speech at graduation, said he was quoting Trump, to great applause, only to reveal that the line was really from Obama, obviously every single one of those conservatives was talking about President Obama and not Donald Trump.

They were upset about some executive orders by Obama, mostly the one that expanded immigration enforcement protection to the parents of kids born in the U.S., but also ones on guns and transgender rights, and they cried out that Obama was a king, which is something that the Tea Party had been saying from the second Obama was elected.

The difference back during Obama's presidency is that many on the left and center-left were uneasy with the executive orders, too. There is a consistency here that conservatives, who didn't give a damn when George W. Bush used signing statements and executive orders with alarming frequency, certainly lack when it comes to Trump's assertions of a tyrannical authority to proclaim himself innocent of crimes by self-pardoning.

Ted Cruz refused to answer a question about it. Rand Paul said such an action would be "condemned," but that Trump has the right to do it.

Some on the right were more consistent, having qualms about Trump's self-pardon. Cooke in the National Review again explained that Congress needs to act (which it won't). Christie at least admits it would be a political problem, even if he doesn't declare that Trump thinks himself a king.

At the end of the day, each president has pushed the limits of presidential power. Congress and the courts are supposed to keep them in check. But Congress hasn't done that. Now, we can argue about whether Bush blocking funding for stem cell research or Obama deciding how immigration law enforcement are valid exercises of executive power. Still, each was asserting their power in pursuit of a policy goal, which doesn't take away the troubling part of it, but, at the very least, the justification was for their view of the greater good.

But Trump is asserting something quite different than either of them, and it's of a piece with his entire presidency. By saying that he can pardon himself and that it is impossible for him to obstruct a Justice Department investigation because he's the ostensible boss of it, Trump wants to contort executive power merely to protect himself (and, presumably, his family). He is above the law and has absolute and uncheckable power when it comes to federal laws, especially when he's in trouble.

In other words, everything that conservatives falsely feared about Obama is true with Trump. And their refusal to broadly condemn it means that they're just fine with a dictator, as long as he's a rich white guy who hates immigrants and cuts taxes.