A nation of laws

There were many legal arguments raised against the Affordable Careanationoflaws Act (Obamacare). But there was one interesting approach that no-one tried. No-one argued that the Act was unlawful because enacting  a single-payer system was beyond the powers of Congress. That makes sense. The legislation did not enact a single-payer system. Candidate Obama had claimed that a single-payer system was what he wanted to adopt, but it formed no part of the legislation. Any legal case that such a measure was outwith the powers delegated to the United States would have been moot. It seems likely – even probable – that when he was president this was still the policy he preferred, but the courts would, rightly, have rejected a case based such presumed motivations. The Affordable Care Act was not a single-payer system in disguise just because such a policy was the president’s preference.

Candidate Trump also proposed a very controversial policy. He wanted to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. President Trump signed an Executive Order that was far less sweeping. It suspended for 90 days the issuing of new visas to people from seven – out of around fifty – majority-Muslim countries. The largest Muslim-majority countries – Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh – were not on the list, nor was India, a country with a Muslim minority of well over 100 million

The order was carefully targeted. All the countries on the list had previously been identified by the Obama administration as having high risks. Though critics of the administration point out that none of the countries has any significant investments by the Trump Organization, that’s hardly surprising. Most of them are in states of civil unrest. Donald Trump is far from the business genius he pretends, but even he knows not to build a luxury hotel in war-torn Damascus.

None of this is to say that President Trump’s policies are sensible or well-thought through. It seems unlikely that this policy will make much difference to American security. But it is not a Muslim ban. The vast majority of the world’s Muslims are unaffected.

It makes no sense for journalists or for the courts to pretend that the policy is one thing when it is plainly another.

This policy has brought out the worst in partisan and sloppy journalism. It may have brought out the worst in some judges, too. A court in Boston ruled in the administration’s favor and the California-based Ninth Circuit ruled against. Let’s see what the Supreme Court decides.

But it has most certainly brought out the worst in the administration too. Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway referred to the “Bowling Green massacre” – in reality, the arrest of some radicalized immigrants suspected of planning an attack. If there are no conflicts of interest here, it still highlights that this is a real risk with a president who maintains such vast interests.

Worst, the president himself dismissed the trial judge who found against him as a “so-called judge”. Criticize the judge’s ruling, by all means. That’s what appeals are for. But do not attack his right to adjudicate as that is not what happens in a nation of laws.


Quentin Langley lives in New York and London and teaches at the University of Bedfordshire Business School. He is the author of Brandjack: How your reputation is at risk from brand pirates and what to do about it


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