Yesterday I listened, with my jaw bouncing on the floor, to Allan Dershowitz expounding the most ridiculous defense of why presidents can do no wrong. It could even lead, as Rep. Adam Schiff noted, to impeachment only possible in a president’s second term. Yeah. In the first term, on this cockamamy theory, the president could shoot people, trash the rule of law with impunity. Here’s what Charlie Sykes had to say in this morning’s Bulwark email.
The Dershowitz Doctrine
For the last two centuries or so, there has been an interesting (if occasionally tedious) debate about whether we are a democracy or a republic. But until yesterday, there seemed to be a pretty strong consensus that whatever we were, it was not… a monarchy.
But then we got the president’s lawyers.
There was a lot of gobsmacking stuff. Patrick Philbin argued that if there was even a scintilla of legitimate public interest in the president’s actions “it can’t possibly be an offense.” But the key argument came from Alan Dershowtiz, who basically said that a president running for re-election could pretty much do anything he wanted if he thought that his victory was a good thing.
I’m really not making this up. Dershowtiz argued that if Trump thought that his re-election was in the public interest, and “does something that he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”
“Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest,” Dershowitz argued. “And mostly, you’re right. Your election is in the public interest.”
As Oliver Wendell Holmes might have said: “Wut?”
Neal Katyal tweeted: “The president could threaten people (including with our army) unless they voted for him? Could order a breakin of DNC headquarters? I’m not sure that even Kings had such powers.”
[Other reviews were also scathing.][0ther]
“He argued that if the president shot someone in the public square but believed it was in the public interest, it wouldn’t be an impeachable offense,” said J.W. Verret, a law professor at George Mason University. “But dictators always believe that what they are doing is in the best interest of the public — that’s the essence of an autocracy.”
But, apparently, this is good enough for the senate GOP.