The Supreme Court has been busy, with both external interpretations and internal movement. With Justice Anthony Kennedy stepping down, he made his last major decision in declaring President Donald Trump’s travel ban to be legal and within the rights of the commander in chief. After a lower court reversed the travel ban in the case ofTrump v. Hawaii, the issue was brought to the highest court in the land. In a landmark 5-4 decision, Kennedy took his moderate voting record to the right, and helped clarify that if the president is to protect us, then we as a nation must give him the ability to do as he sees fit. Love the ruling or hate it, the final analysis is this: The president gets to “president” as he see fits.
At the heart of Trump’s legislation is the 90-day ban on the entry into the United States of citizens from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Where things got sticky is that the legislation was about national borders, not religion; yet Trump’s crude tweeting about Muslims was tied into the spirit of the travel ban. He repeatedly pointed out in tweet after tweet that Muslims or members of Islam were the enemy, and the people of Hawaii saw his actions as racist and discriminatory. The court saw his tweets as inconsequential and stated that the legislation is free of naming any specific religion, adding, “The issue before us is not whether to denounce the statements.”
While many liberals can scream that the bias is clear, the court looks at laws, not necessarily intent or outside statements. A prime example of that worked in liberals’ favor when the Affordable Care Act was passed. President Barack Obama claimed that Obamacare was not a tax, but the reason that Justice John Roberts felt comfortable passing it through was because he interpreted the legislation as a tax and then told the country that the president can tax as he sees fit. Had the court taken Obama’s statements outside of the actual wording of the legislation, then they would have lost the Obamacare war. Trump’s tweeting crudeness could not be held against him, just as Obama’s smoothness couldn’t be held against him.
Interestingly, the court wasn’t even agreeing with the travel ban legislation. The five supporters were simply stating that the president has the right to make these decisions. “We express no view on the soundness of the policy,” Roberts wrote.
“The Proclamation is squarely within the scope of Presidential authority,” Roberts wrote. He later added: “Because there is persuasive evidence that the [policy] has a legitimate grounding in national security concerns, quite apart from any religious hostility, we must accept that independent justification.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her dissent, disagreed with that view, claiming that the tweets proved that racist intent was alive, and that Trump’s actions and rhetoric went beyond national security.
“The dispositive and narrow question here is whether a reasonable observer, presented with all ‘openly available data,’ the text and ‘historical context’ of the Proclamation, and the ‘specific sequence of events’ leading to it, would conclude that the primary purpose of the Proclamation is to disfavor Islam and its adherents by excluding them from the country,” Sotomayor wrote. “The answer is unquestionably yes.”
“Plaintiffs argue that this President’s words strike at fundamental standards of respect and tolerance, in violation of our constitutional tradition, but the issue before us is not whether to denounce the statements. It is instead the significance of those statements in reviewing a Presidential directive, neutral on its face, addressing a matter within the core of executive responsibility. In doing so, we must consider not only the statements of a particular President, but also the authority of the Presidency itself,” Roberts wrote. “The text says nothing about religion.”
I was not a fan of the travel ban, but I will say this: As a country we vote and elect one person to represent us. We may not like every decision that person makes, but there will be another election in 2020, and the beauty of our country, as we celebrate the Fourth of July, is that checks and balances work, and the court reviewed the President’s power and made a decision. Just as the founders set it up to be.