Don’t Be This Wrong: Salon Spreads Serious Misinformation

In an article criticizing trump as a Sadist, Salon writer Chauncey DeVega writes a supposedly-factual introduction to what is later a very opinionated piece in such a way as to screw up a very, very important basic fact:

The United States Constitution grants President Donald Trump many powers. They include being the Chief Executive, Chief Legislator and Commander-in-Chief of the military. Not to be content with such powers, Donald Trump has also taken on other roles as well. Donald Trump is the Sadist-in-Chief of the United States of America. Cruelty and meanness are his modus operandi.

Did you catch it? DeVega would have you believe that Trump is constitutionally empowered to be the United States’ “Chief Legislator”.

No. That’s just wrong. It’s so very, very wrong it’s hard to communicate. If you’re from the US or went to grade school here (or even if you just know how to read between the lines of subtle slogans like “No More Kings”), you know that placing primary legislative powers in the hands of the chief executive is exactly what the constitutional framers did not want.

The President cannot set the congressional schedule or call a committee to order. The President cannot introduce a bill before congress or propose language revisions for an existing bill. The President cannot vote in either the House or the Senate. The President cannot amend or authoritatively interpret legislation. The president cannot employ a veto to reject parts of a bill while retaining the effectiveness of other parts: the president must accept all of a legislative act or none of it.

The President is not a legislator and Congress is not a parliament.

We are sufficiently Freuded already without giving Trump even more power. Don’t for a moment concede that the constitution gives Trump any kind of legislative power.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    It might not be written in the constitution, but it’s hardly a new idea. And where did the recent tariffs imposed on Canada and the EU come from? Or the other idiocies since the Chief Infant’s inauguration? Not Congress, surely. Is that not legislation?

  2. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    No, it’s not legislation. Vox has the details.

    In short, Congress passes a law providing a higher tariff if and only if the President finds it necessary for various reasons. Then the president comes along and finds some tariff necessary and states that it’s necessary for the reason the law requires, and *poof* there’s a tariff.

    Thanks for the article, though. Its first page is interesting. Making me think about using one of my free monthly JSTOR articles on reading it.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    If the tariffs are in effect, how does this differ, functionally, from legislation dictated by Trump? Aren’t you just arguing a fine distinction without a real difference?

  4. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    What? No.

    A legislator writes and passes laws. The executive executes the laws. If the law says “a tariff shall be imposed if and when the Secretary of Commerce does X”, and Trump orders his secretary of commerce to do X, then the law is being *followed*, not written.

    Maybe you don’t see a meaningful distinction between writing/passing laws and executing laws, but if you’re able to do *both* your powers are nearly dictatorial, certainly they approach that of the old British monarchs. If congress doesn’t choose to pass a tariff law, then the executive can’t bring about the tariffs in a system where the executive and legislative branches are separate. But in a merged executive/legislative branch, where the president doesn’t have a law to allow him to do what he wants, he makes one up.

    In this way, you’d be very close to Nixon’s “if the President does it, that means it’s not illegal” statement. There would only be a minuscule pro-forma requirement that if a law enabling burgling the other party’s headquarters didn’t exist, you would have to create one before you sent the burglars out. And even that could be side-stepped by writing a law after the fact amending burglary laws and prohibiting prosecutors from using the powers of their office to investigate or prosecute behavior that was previously illegal but which doesn’t meet the new definition.

    I think Congress is stupid to put so much power in the hands of the executive, but there are few constitutional limits on exactly how much of their responsibility they can slough off through legislation, so long as it is duly passed and not vetoed. Tariffs are one area in which Congress decided that they wanted the executive to be able to move quicker than a bill when a trade war occurs. So they passed several laws relating to tariffs, one of which empowered the Secretary of Commerce to impose tariffs up to a certain level if the Secretary first issues certain findings. The SoC is subordinate to the President, so this essentially allows the President to order the SoC to do just that.

    Yes, a tariff gets imposed either way – by act of SoC or act of Congress – but one makes law and the executes an existing law. I’m not sure why this would be insignificant. I mean, it doesn’t matter to our trading partners in this specific case, but investing the Presidency with legislative powers would be a very big difference from our current system.

  5. Bruce says

    Does Salon have no editors from the USA? Do they not know that the first functional item in Article 1 of the US Constitution is that the legislative powers are in Congress? Why do they think the Constitution even bothers to have Articles at all, separating Article 1 from Article 2 (the Presidency)?
    Salon needs to hire an editor from another country who has passed the US citizenship exam. They would be able to set Salon straight.

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