"I WANT TO be elected. I think I am a great president. I think I am the greatest president there ever was, and if I am not elected, the national interest will suffer greatly." These are the words of a hypothetical president, as imagined by Alan Dershowitz in his role as one of Donald Trump's lawyers during the final days of the Senate impeachment trial.
That hypothetical president, said Dershowitz, would not have committed an impeachable offense if he offered an otherwise-legal quid pro quo partially motivated by a desire to improve his own electoral chances. After all, "every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest."
Despite Dershowitz's Harvard credentials and long standing as a liberal stalwart, this thought experiment was greeted with a storm of disdain on the Hill and within the legal community.
"His argument was beyond absurd. I thought he made absolutely no sense--because he essentially said that if President Trump believes his election is for the good of the American people that he could do whatever he wants," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D--N.Y.) told The Washington Post. "He is wrong, and I think he's made a laughable argument that undermines the president's case."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D--N.Y.) echoed the sentiment: "The Dershowitz argument frankly would unleash a monster, more aptly it would unleash a monarch."
"Our country was founded on this idea that we were an independent democracy, that we didn't want to be ruled by a king," Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D--Minn.) chorused. "And if you say things like that--like you can do anything you want and it doesn't matter--just to further your election, you basically have a dictator. You have a king. You have no democracy."
Yet the same Democrats who descended into dread at Dershowitz's thought experiment about the relationship between executive power and national interest seem disconcertingly lacking in self-awareness about how such a critique would apply to their own plans for the day their party once again holds the reins.
Klobuchar herself has promised to use executive action in her first 100 days to enact new policies on gun control, financial regulation, immigration, union protections, cybersecurity, and much more. She has made these promises, one assumes, out of mixed motivations: She believes such actions would be in the national interest, but she also thinks that promising to do these things will increase her chances of being...