By Eric Segall
Law Professors all over social media have been trying to figure out if we are in a "constitutional crisis" or heading towards a "constitutional crisis." Of course there is no standard definition of what that means, and therefore, not surprisingly, there is also much disagreement among the experts on what constitutes a "constitutional crisis." Here is what I know: I am 59 years old, and never in my lifetime has there been such a prolonged national ache-not after Watergate, not after Lewinsky, not even after 9/11.
How do I know this? Well, of course I don't "know" it in the mathematical or physics sense. But here's what I do know. My friends, my colleagues, my personal community, and my broad social media community represent every day that they wake up with an anxiety and depression about our country's future that is physically painful. The editorial pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the LA Times almost weekly produce emotional and powerful statements concerning our obviously incompetent and corrupt President, and what he is doing to our country. My students are often in shock, my friends in pain, my 7,000+ Twitter followers in anguish. We do go to work and to school and to dinner, but with an ache in our hearts.
In Phoenix last week, in the wake of Charlottesville, Trump gave a campaign speech (think about that for a moment) where he lied, impugned, and then lied some more. He spent fifteen minutes defending his post-Charlottseville comments, without ever mentioning the part of his comments that made everyone so upset ("both sides"). He accused our media of being liars and being anti-American. He repeatedly said CNN was turning off his speech when CNN was in fact not turning off his speech. This was surreal. I do not remember a moment in history when a public official lied on national television about a verifiable present fact, and repeated the lie over and over. Maybe the lie wasn't that important, but it was a clear through the looking glass moment. And it made me ache.
Would anything have changed if Trump had repeatedly said in Phoenix, "Look at the beautiful snow outside the conference center." What's the difference between that lie and the lie that CNN is turning him off? After the speech, he said "15,000" people were in in a place that holds less than 5,000 people. And the tweeting and lying go on and on.
It just doesn't matter whether we are in a "constitutional crisis" when the President of the United States not only pardons, but supports, a man who by all accounts is a sadistic, racist, repeated violator of the law. It just doesn't matter whether we are in a "constitutional crisis" when the President sends his son-in-law, who has zero government or foreign policy experience, to broker peace in the Middle East. It just doesn't matter whether we are in a "constitutional crisis" when the President laments the removal of our "heritage" referring to blatant symbols of racism and slavery. It is one thing to point to the complexity of the question what to do with our historical monuments reflecting our apartheid past. It is quite another to glorify that past. And the ache goes on.
Trump uses Twitter like a spoiled 12 year old. Trump uses his hotels to line his pockets with foreign government money. Trump uses obviously racist people as top advisers. Trump appoints Ben Carson, a doctor with no housing experience, to head HUD. Trump bankrupts the Secret Service. The ache goes on.
Trump's mentor was Roy Cohn. Look him up if you don't know who he was. Trump was the Birther-in-Chief. Trump's economic survival in the 1990's depended on Russians bailing him out. Trump held his Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow in 2013. Trump's son, son-in-law and campaign manager met with a Russian envoy to get dirt on Hillary during the campaign, then Trump wrote a memo lying about it. Trump fired the Director of the FBI then gave three different reasons for it in 24 hours, but eventually admitted he did so because of Russia.
I don't recognize my President, my Congress, or my country. A recent poll showed that 1 in 10 Americans don't think there is much wrong with neo-Nazi views. I don't believe that poll. The polls also showed Hillary winning. I do believe my President is a terrible person, doing terrible things, and our Congress so far has been unwilling to intercede.
I honestly don't know whether we are in a "constitutional crisis." But I know we are in a crisis, and the ache goes on.