I know what you are thinking. Everybody knows he is a swashbuckling, loud-mouthed, crass-talking Yankee. You know … Don. Don from Queens. The real estate mogul who slaps his name in gold on everything he owns. The guy who picks fights with reporters in wildly entertaining beatdowns worthy of the pro-wrestling circuit.
“When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” Mr. Trump recently bellowed at reporters questioning his authority during this time of crisis. “And that’s the way it’s got to be.”
Let’s put aside the stupidity of reporters for one second. They are forever vacillating between accusing Mr. Trump of not doing enough and doing too much. They will claim whatever it takes at any given moment to tarnish, ridicule or undermine this president.
Mr. Trump’s claim on “total” authority sent the jackals scurrying back to the Constitution to declare that Mr. Trump was behaving more like a king. Suddenly, the press corps had broken out in hives of federalism.
Well, good for them. They will be back to crotch-nuzzling a king and getting scratched behind the ears with his scepter just as soon as the next Barack Obama gets into the White House.
As usual, the problem here is that even after years of listening to Mr. Trump, these morons have no idea how Mr. Trump speaks or what he means. Clearly, the president does not believe he has “total” authority. (Think of all he could have accomplished if he did!)
Instead of freaking out over his words, they should consider his actions.
Just last week, he advised that it was governors — not the president — who actually have the frontline authority to ease restrictions to reopen the economy.
That is because the president understands that his highest authority during these times is merely that he has the biggest bullhorn. It is his press conferences that Americans are tuning into. He is the man with the biggest pulpit.
And, as a wise leader, he knows that is where his authority to force people into quarantine begins. And he knows that is where it ends as well.
Obviously, the president does have specific authorities in times of national crisis to take other bold actions, such as closing borders or prohibiting foreigners from flying into the country. And he did that.
But when it comes to forcing American citizens to stay home, he can only advise.
The real stupidity starts when state and local authorities start arresting preachers or citing people for showing up at church or chasing after people running down an empty beach. The First Amendment of the Constitution could not be clearer on the right of Americans to assemble peacefully. And the right of Americans to attend church unmolested by government actors.
Only a complete fool politician would test that authority by arresting someone or detaining them or physically barring them from going to church.
Any such case would quickly shoot to the top of the courts, where the Supreme Court would flatly rule any such actions as totally unconstitutional.
This would erode any future governor’s ability to use the bully pulpit to advance public safety, as may be necessary in the next pandemic.
• Charles Hurt is opinion editor of The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com or @charleshurt on Twitter.