We point to a foundational principle, the rule of law, as to what makes the United States exemplary and also at the core of our origin and history. The rule of law is the architect and arbiter of our system.
This foundational principle has been increasingly made a sham by our politics. We have let our leaders decide when the rule of law applies and to whom it applies.
Our politics have waged a war on the rule of law since the Nixon presidency. Nixon left the presidency with a resignation, not being held accountable for his acts and conduct. Some will say resigning the presidency was enough. I don’t think so. Allowing Nixon to resign without impeachment allowed our system to avoid holding a leader accountable. Nixon walked away from being held accountable and the rule of law was the loser.
Go forward about 25 years and revisit the Irancontra problem within the Reagan administration. Again, we stopped short of holding leaders accountable. Laws were broken and broken by the top members of the Reagan administration. At the time, those at the very top were claiming they were “out of the loop,” including President Reagan and Vice President Bush. We stopped short of ever finding out how big the “loop” was and holding those involved responsible. I have always thought some decision was made in a back room somewhere in Washington not to put the country through another Watergate. We made the lower players in this crime the scapegoats and let the big players get away without scrutiny. The Ollie Norths became the darlings of the Far Right as a result of all of this discretionary rule of law. Someday, I think proof of my supposition will surface.
Next we get to Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Did Clinton commit crimes that mocked the rule of law? I think his dishonesty and word play when questioned again made the rule of law a victim in his presidency. Yes, he was impeached and the vote to convict him of impeachable crimes was purely on party lines, again a strong indicator of rule of law being the loser in this process.
Follow Clinton with the 2nd Bush and the Iraq War. The justifications and lead up to the Iraq War were largely fabricated. Fabricated is a polite way of saying the foundations of the Iraq War were lies. These are not insignificant lies. These lies meant the loss of life of thousands of people, mostly to satisfy the ego of a president. The Iraq War was not connected to the tragedy of 9/11, but this is the justification the American people were given. Those flying the planes on 9/11 were all Saudis, not Iraqis. Until recenlty, Americans could not bring suit against the Saudi government for the losses that came with the attacks on 9/11. In all of this, oil was more important than the rule of law, accountability, and justice – some more nails in the coffin of the American principle of rule of law.
Our errosion of the foundational rule of law principle set the table for someone like Trump. A modern history of not holding our leaders accountable was established. Our politics and political parties had learned they only needed to pay lip service to the rule of law principle. Our system was not going to hold them accountable. We blinded ourselves through the Mueller investigation, the first Trump impeachment, and then January 6th. The evidence from each of these was serious and warranted charges as well as accountablity. We did none of this. We even justified some of our abandonment of the rule of law to a Justice Dept. memo that says sitting presidents cannot be held accountable to the law during their time in office. This is a memo, not a law, not a court decision – to support this memo is beyond ludicrous, but in all of this, we threw the rule of law under the bus because of politics and political parties.
We have not held our leaders accountable. The rule of law in application applies only to some of us. I believe we are at a tipping point with all of this. It is one thing to mouth lofty principles, it is something all together different to live by them, all of us included.
Unless we go back to our foundational principle of the rule of law, we are a country that lets different crime families/political parties take turns running the country.