Trump and his court

  • Susan Estrich

    Susan Estrich

By Susan Estrich
Posted6/23/2020 1:00 AM

Twice in a week. First, the court holds that you can't discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation. And if that isn't enough, the chief justice goes and holds that President Donald Trump's administration actually needs a reason to deport 700,000 young people who came to this country as children and have grown up here.

Trump angrily attacked the third branch of government. "These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives," he tweeted.


"Shotgun blasts." You have to cringe, whether you're a liberal or conservative, at the image that invokes, or the kind of reaction it might well provoke.

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, which is why its decisions are "supreme." Even over the president. It's not because we necessarily agree with them. I disagree often. But the rule of law demands that we respect and follow the law, however much we may take issue with the underlying reasoning and philosophy.

It works because we accept that. The court doesn't have an army at its disposal to enforce its rulings. Former President Franklin Roosevelt's efforts to "pack the court" to get the New Deal approved failed and are viewed very critically by most students of the court. President Richard Nixon's claims of executive privilege were rejected by the court, dooming his presidency.

In yet another tweet, Trump showed his hand: "Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn't like me?"

"Doesn't like me."

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As always with this president, it's all about him. Those who disagree with him don't "like" him. We are talking about the constitutional division of power, about checks and balances, and in Donald Trump's book, it all boils down to liking him or not.

When he ran for president in 1952, then-Gen. Dwight Eisenhower sought the endorsement of the powerful governor of California and promised that he would appoint Gov. Earl Warren to the first opening on the court.

No one expected that the first vacancy would be the chief justice. Warren, the politician, and Warren, the thinker, assembled a court that changed America. It was, of course, the Warren Court that finally overruled the segregationist relic and, in Brown v. Board of Education, held segregated schools to be unconstitutional. It was also the Warren Court that tightened the warrant requirement and held that evidence illegally seized by police cannot be used at trial.

Eisenhower did not get the court he expected. It surely wasn't his court. But when segregationists gathered to block the schoolhouse stairs and governors challenged the law of the land, Presidents Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy called in the military to protect the constitutional rights of the students. In other states, governors called in the National Guard. Looking back, some of the remedies imposed had unintended consequences that led to the decline of urban districts. Maybe there was a better way. But the Supreme Court upheld the federal district judges who were literally putting their lives on the line prohibiting segregation. And the last resort in the most racist states was the president and the military, under a little-known exception not applicable to photo opportunities.


No such drama will be required as a result of this week's decisions. If you were to ask Trump, I bet he couldn't tell you why we should deport young people who grew up as Americans, the Dreamers, or why Trump Hotels should be allowed to reject applicants solely because they are gay. Do they? I doubt it, actually.

It's about him. Him and his poll numbers. Us against them. Except this time, them is the Supreme Court, and the red meat he is throwing sounds an awful lot like defiance of the Constitution.

© 2020, Creators

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