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Practical Politics

The politics of consequences for bad behavior

David L. Horne, PH.D. | 3/30/2017, midnight

With them just coming back to take up a new private residency in Washington, D.C., from vacationing in the Caribbean, it is interesting to imagine a morning conversation this week between Michelle Obama and her husband.

Michelle: Now Barack, I’ve lived every minute of the joys and heartaches of your being president. But that’s over now…We’re gone. No more political chicanery, no more of that constant B.S., no more of those insults. Now, honey, he has to be shut down!! The man’s a lifelong jerk!! Sue the bejesus out of him!! This affront cannot be tolerated, president or not !

Barack: Now, now, Michelle. That man is mental, and you know it. Trying to stop a fool from being a fool is like trying to stop rain with a napkin. Besides, we don’t need to pile on. He’s already got an FBI investigation on his neck to deal with, he’s going to have his head handed to him by Congress on this misshaped attempt to repeal ObamaCare, and he is already the most debunked president in modern history by the rest of the world, except for Russia. I feel for the country, but I’ve already dropped the mike.

Michelle: I’ve got that…but, he’s messing with your legacy. He’s a turd throwing shade on your good name. He needs a lesson in humility and good manners. You know how to stand up to bullies! You had to do that to even come and see me in the Al Green days. If you want my vote, I say take him on and take him to the woodshed. Donate the resulting money to the HBCUs!

Barack: You know that won’t be a quick and easy strike.

Michelle: But it’s a good fight…It may be a long one, and it may not even be triumphant, but it’s the right fight and it’ll be a good one. Your daughters need to see you let loose a few haymakers. You can’t be nice to unnice people who just won’t leave you be.

Barack: Okay, baby…..Just give me a little time to think it through. It’s a very high bar to get a president on slander or libel. You know we both have some big writing projects to get done. That could be a major distraction.

Michelle: Yes, it can. But it’s still the right thing to do. You have to back people off of you when you’re not bothering them but they still keep messing with you. Otherwise, they start to think you’re a punk, and will just keep it up. Besides, between the two of us, we’ve got pretty good legal minds. We’ll find a way.

Barack: You’re set on this, huh.

Michelle: Yeah…yeah, I am.

Even though there is a Government Ethics Office that is supposed to ride herd on federal officials, currently based on the Uniform Standards of Ethical Conduct for Federal Employees, and several federal statues, President Trump, his family and his cabinet do not seem to adhere to those standards, nor believe they have to do so. The Ethics Office also has limited enforcement powers, depending more heavily on reprimands, suspensions, or in extreme cases, removal from office (although not from the presidency), so the fear of consequences does not seem to trouble this particular White House. The independent federal courts must be brought into this picture. Only they promise some capacity to control what is seemingly an out-of-control White House.

President Obama would have to sue Mr. Trump for his unproven and insulting accusation of wiretapping (which would have been a felony). It was clear from the Comey FBI testimony to the House Intelligence Committee recently that Mr. Trump’s accusation is a flight of fancy and there is zero evidence to support his assertion. But Mr. Trump refuses to either apologize or back off the allegation in spite of that FBI testimony. That sounds like court, since no other branch of government can force the necessary retraction and apology.

Mr. Trump is in for several very, very bad weeks because of his exceptionally bad habits in office. We’ll see whether Mr. Obama decides to “pile on.” Most of us are fervently hoping he will.