Editorial: Why we can't cynically undermine our courts

  • The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a focal point of controversy.

    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a focal point of controversy. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted2/11/2017 2:00 PM

It strikes us as somewhat appropriate that we would write on the topic of uncivil debate on this, the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln, viewed almost universally as one of our greatest presidents, was born 208 years ago, but the era of his presidency was, like today, angry, divided and turbulent, a time of a politics marked by partisanship, insults and innuendo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The nation survived that ugly period, but only at the blood cost of civil war. Prayerfully, we bid that we of this day appreciate the woeful lesson of that heartbreaking tumult.

Notably, Lincoln for his part did not participate in the incivility.

The issues were transcending, and Lincoln's positions were forceful, but he conducted himself with dignity and restraint, treating his adversaries with grace and respect.

"There are few things wholly evil or wholly good," Lincoln recognized. "Almost everything, especially of governmental policy, is an inseparable compound of the two."

There is room to debate the merits of the travel ban being pushed by the Trump Administration. Reasonable people can agree or disagree, in part or in whole. Regrettably, such thoughtful debate seems beyond us all these days.

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Most pointedly, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that the institutions that define our republic are imperfect.

But the assault on our judiciary, like assaults on our other institutions, is misguided and ultimately dangerous to the country's welfare.

It is contradictory on the one hand to champion the rule of law while on the other to cynically undermine the court system that is central to upholding that rule of law.

Some have said that President Donald Trump's executive order on the travel ban prompts a constitutional crisis. No, it doesn't. Quite the contrary, the dispute is being litigated, and no matter the outcome, that's the process our Constitution envisions.

But what prompts a constitutional crisis is the president's political interference, his relentless insults and impulsive carping on the court itself. And the timid acquiescence by most leaders in his party, who fail to challenge his disrespect for the process.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Already, our newsroom has received a statement from a self-appointed pundit calling on Trump to ignore the ruling of the courts if the verdict doesn't go his way.

Now, that would be a constitutional crisis. And a disaster for the country.

There is more at stake than the outcome of one case, as Al Gore recognized in accepting a court ruling in 2000 that cost him the presidency.

What makes America great is our faith in it, our belief in the concept of checks and balances, our belief in our institutions, our belief that the system works.

Yes, there are imperfections. Yes, there are needs for reform. But our system does work.

And without faith, our greatness slips away.

Without faith, we unravel.

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