Johnson vs. Trump

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Until last fall, Boris Johnson, just like Trump, was also accused of helping destroy his country’s position and status in the world. He was chided for prioritising his narrow political ambition over sacred national interest and the welfare of his constituents . . . The coronavirus pandemic started a race to the bottom among the world’s populist leaders. A little over six months into that race, the partial results are out. And Britain’s Johnson has fared better than most of his fellow populists. After initial blunders, Johnson got his act together, and unlike Trump in the US, he has actually managed to bring the pandemic under control in the UK.

Military props

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President Trump has demonstrated, time and again, that he has no qualms about using the military to advance his personal political ends. He routinely stages uniformed personnel as props for partisan speeches. He treats deployments like political theater, as when he dispatched elements of the 82nd Airborne to the southern border to stoke fears of an immigrant invasion. And he undermines discipline and unit cohesion, pardoning war criminals convicted by military juries.

Norms

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It is well-nigh incomprehensible that the President would call the Federal Bureau of Investigation to inquire about any pending criminal investigation. The norm is the generally and well-understood one: that the President, while responsible for the leadership of the Department and certainly able to dictate legal policy, including criminal justice policy, should refrain from any attempt to influence criminal enforcement decisions. The operative distinction is between setting the substance and priorities for criminal law enforcement and deciding on particular prosecutions. A president is certainly free to determine the former, and indeed that’s what the chief executive is elected to do. But the president should never attempt to influence the latter, for the simple and obvious reason that we would not want the most senior political figure in government deciding upon whom to visit the cost and potential ruin of criminal prosecution.