“America, You’re Fired … Introducing President Pence.”
Updated: Aug 31, 2020
Dear America 2020:
Our next president is going to be Mike Pence.
And This Is How It’s Going Down:
Following Mr. Trump’s electoral loss on November 3, 2020, our nation’s 45th President will focus on what’s best for Trump: his brand, his wealth, and his legacy. Rather than face dismissal and submit to public transition, Mr. Trump will seize the initiative and leave the White House under his own terms.
Mr. Pence will then reign supreme for a period of time ranging from one hour to 11 weeks and one day.
On the day of Mr. Trump’s departure from office, social media will bristle and crackle. Many will cheer, and many will wail about injustice in response to Mr. Trump’s pithy proclamation, “America, you’re fired.”
After his brief announcement, Mr. Trump will smirk, turn from the podium and cock his chin toward his right-hand man. “Introducing President Pence.”
Mask-free Mike Pence will nod respectfully before assuming the responsibilities of President.
During his short reign, President Pence will take time from the nation’s defense against Russian and Chinese advances to launch a salvo of executive orders. And as a god-fearing man of his word, Mr. Pence will keep his end of the presidential bargain.
He will put pen to paper and apply accepted law and legal precedent and, under the rights granted to the President of the United States within the US Constitution, Article II, Section 2, he will pardon Donald Trump, his wife and his children.
The paperwork will have been completed prior to Mr. Pence’s assumption of office. If nothing else, Mr. Trump understands how to manage risk and employs competent counsel.
As a result of the pardon, Mr. Trump will escape the long arms of justice.
Once departed from office, Mr. Trump’s shadow will fall across the landscape of social media, providing entertainers posing as journalists a treasure trove of future content.
Let’s Ignore the Siren Song of Social Media and News Drama. i.e. Hold Your Stones.
The trumpeting of opinions and provocations across social media, the web, and television will be troubling to many. But, rather than stew in the juices of our own aggravation, I suggest we follow Mr. Trump’s lead and seize the initiative. Let us take the time to make an active choice regarding the information we choose to digest and how we choose to respond.
Might we remind ourselves the siren song of social media and the words ejaculated from television anchors often represent self-selected stories offering succor to our own existing prejudices and preferences?
Individually, each of us might consider ourselves above reproach and capable of selecting news based on its ability to contribute fact. The truth is, we listen to and read the stuff we already like. As a nation, over a third of us exhibit article selection bias – choosing to read articles aligned with our existing views. For those self-described as “very liberal” or “very conservative,” bias is even more pronounced, measured at 43 percent!
As is the case with food, we select the information we find most palatable.
As is the case with movies and videos, we select news most pleasing.
What we select is not really news; it’s entertainment.
We choose articles feeding the flames of political fury. We choose articles supporting our positions. We choose articles supporting our existing beliefs.
Don’t be fooled. The providers of the entertainment have well-defined objectives. They’re smart. They work hard to understand our desires so they might draw us into their web of engagement, keen to accumulate the ACDs – attention, clicks, and data – of advertising.
Oh, don’t get me wrong; I love me some good entertainment! In response to Mr. Trump’s receipt of lifelong immunity, I’m guessing social media and news will be most entertaining.
“Look! A fight! Let’s watch!”
Before we wade into the fray, let us choose wisely from a variety of sources in order to better understand differing opinions and beliefs. Let us be among the two-thirds of Americans not subject to social and news bias.
With this reminder in hand, I ask for your indulgence. I ask all of us to be respectful and to sketch out a simple ground rule for debate once we select our social and news entertainment. Let us engage and debate from a foundation of common ground and common etiquette.
As common ground, let us seek and apply a behavioral guide recognizable and shared by many: the wise words of the Bible. I draw from the Bible not because of my own religious beliefs or lack thereof, but because the narrative within is recognized as common ground and tapped by America’s citizenry on a regular basis. Forty-eight percent of Americans employ words and/or lessons from the Bible at least three times per annum. The Bible appears to fill the role as a defendable behavioral guide recognizable as common ground.
From this common ground (and recognizing my own guilt of selection bias), let us draw from an oft-cited quote, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
To both sides of the political aisle might I suggest, hold your stones.
With the Book of John’s wise words serving as grounds for common courtesy, let us turn attention to the likelihood of a Trump loss.
For if he wins, I am simply blowing smoke.
This is a Tempest in a Teapot! Mr. Trump Can Still Win, Right? No, He Can’t.
Of course, Mr. Trump may well win the upcoming election.
He has proven pundits wrong in the past.
Historically however, the probability of a Trump victory this November is close to nil. Looking back to the turn of last century, on only one occasion has a sitting president, William McKinley, been reelected during or immediately following a recession in his first term (unfortunately, it didn’t turn out well for Mr. McKinley as he was assassinated the following year).
And as noted by Allan Lichtman in his book “The 13 keys to the Presidency,” since the Civil War, every time the US economy was in recession during the autumn of a presidential election year, the incumbent lost.
With recession unfolding and unemployment in double digits, it appears Mr. Trump is most likely to lose the November 3, 2020 election.
Given the likelihood of a Trump loss due to the economy I will continue, blown smoke aside.
Mr. Trump Has Lots of Options. He Doesn’t Need a Pence Pardon! Oh Yes, He Does!”
Of course, upon losing the election there are scenarios other than a Pence presidential pardon Trump may well consider.
Of course, should Mr. Trump lose, he may leave as required under the US Constitution, offering support and transition guidance to the incoming administration. Chalk another peaceful transition up to democracy!
Among less than democratic options is squatting; simply opting not to leave and staying in office.
Though a squatter’s strategy is potentially pleasing to Trump advocates, I am afraid the US Constitution, and the defenders of the Constitution, will not allow such an option. Mr. Trump legally cannot stay, for upon a specific day and time promulgated by the US Constitution, a presidency and the associated powers thereof come to an end.
As noted in Section 1 of the US Constitution, Amendment XX, “…the terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January …and the terms of their successors shall then begin.” Quite simply, the kryptonite of the Constitution neuters a sitting president at the witching hour of noon on January 20th.
In the event of a Trump electoral loss, at the witching hour he will become but a visitor within the White House. I for one, have great confidence that our civilian, civic and military personnel shall side with the US Constitution should Mr. Trump seek to exert squatter’s rights.
If the application of squatter’s rights sounds a bit lowbrow, there is the option of self-pardon. Mr. Trump has taken time to share his beliefs regarding such rights. When speaking to Turning Point USA’s Teen Action Summit in July 2019, Mr. Trump proclaimed, "Then I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president."
With the “right to do whatever I want” in hand, Mr. Trump might pursue a self-pardon.
This option is risky, however. The concept of self-pardon leaves Mr. Trump vulnerable to legal attack and potential defeat.
It’s true the framers of the US Constitution did not directly address the concept of self-pardon. Therefore, such an option might merit exploration. The ground under this thesis is shaken however, by an opinion shared in 1974, when considering the applicability of the right to pardon during the Nixon administration. Mary Lawton, then acting assistant attorney general opined, “…. Pursuant to Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment, is vested in the President. This raises the question whether the President can pardon himself. Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, it would seem that the question should be answered in the negative.”
Ms. Lawton further notes, “The necessity doctrine would not appear applicable here. That doctrine deals with the situation in which the sole or all judges or officials who have jurisdiction to decide a case are disqualified because they belong to a class of persons who have some interest in the outcome of the litigation, thus depriving the citizen of a forum to have his case decided. In that situation the disqualification rule is frequently relaxed to avoid a denial of justice.”
So yes, self-pardon is an option, but not an option with the benefit of precedent. As an option, it comes packaged with a fight. Let us recall, Mr. Trump understands how to manage risk. And he employs counsel competent enough to apply the most defendable option.
The third option, the option of a Pence pardon, provides Mr. Trump with a legal advantage. In the context of precedent, we find the act of presidential pardon stands as a legally sound and well-worn presidential practice. Heck, the practice of pardon is traced to George Washington in 1795, when he granted pardons to two men participating in the Whisky Rebellion.
“What? That’s ancient history!” you protest. “Heck, it’s even before the Internet!”
So, with this caveat in mind, let us look at more recent applications of presidential pardon.
From the GOP side of the aisle, in the not-too-distant past, President Ford’s pardon of President Nixon provides the marker for the pardon of an outgoing president. After robust Constitutional review and drawing from an 1866 Supreme Court precedent, President Nixon was granted a preemptive pardon by newly appointed President Gerald Ford for any crimes he might have committed.
And Democrats, before we start hurling stones, let us remember the wise words of John.
From the Democratic side of the aisle, pardons for friends and family are grounded in recent precedent. On January 20, 2001 – the day George W. Bush was inaugurated as President – President Clinton put pen to paper to pardon his brother, Roger, for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and distribution of cocaine, for which Roger was sentenced in 1985.
To confirm such events are norms, let’s look at recent history. During the four presidencies preceding that of Mr. Trump, a total of 871 presidential pardons have been granted. Mr. George H.W. Bush (my favorite president should you care to know), Mr. Clinton, Mr. George W. Bush, and Mr. Obama each contributed 74, 396, 189, and 212, respectively. (Students of the presidency will note these figures do not include certain clemency pardons or pardons granted under proclamation as was provided to Vietnam evaders. However I suggest your potential protest does not alter the timbre of our discussion.  To you, student, I tip my hat – I just did when I wrote this, really!).
The precedent of presidential pardon is a well-established practice and, given its consistent application by both parties, provides a well-accepted norm bridging the political divide.
“All Together Now. All You Need Is…” Change, Change. Change Is All You Need.”
But there’s more than oft-cited words of the Bible and a bridge of presidential pardons to connect us. It appears members of each side of the political divide have something else in common.
Digging deeper into our common ground, we find like-minded desires drove the successful elections of both Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump.
The desire for change.
A desire to break from the status quo when the status quo is no longer attractive.
In 2016, Mr. Trump was positioned and perceived as a candidate representing change. His opponent, Ms. Clinton, came to represent the status quo. Election polls that year indicated the key attribute sought by voters (cited by 39 percent of the sample) was a candidate who “can bring needed change.” Among this 39 percent seeking change, Mr. Trump earned over 80 percent of the vote. He represented change, and he swept to victory trumpeting a break with business as usual.
Similar desires drove Mr. Obama’s election in 2008. As noted in Pew’s presidential exit polls, about 60 percent of voters disapproved of the war in Iraq. And with the financial crisis of 2007 still unfolding, a tiny 20 percent of respondents felt America was on the right track (a plunge of nearly 30 percent from 2004). The desire to abandon the wrong track – a track of war and financial crisis – carried the day. Mr. Obama’s opponent, Mr. McCain, did not represent change. Like Ms. Clinton, he represented the status quo. Mr. Obama however, offered the promise of something different and swept to victory trumpeting change.
Now, I understand people are elected for many reasons, and much space may be allocated to the subtleties of electoral results, but over the last two presidential transitions, the desire for change reared its head as a driving factor. This quest for something new contributes to our common ground.
I wonder…Could it be we are not so different?
Obama and Trump supporters might find common ground in their desire for change.
Regardless of whether you voted for change through the elections of Mr. Obama or Mr. Trump, a break from today’s status quo might not be so bad. I for one, might enjoy a break from:
· 150,000+ pandemic deaths (a toll akin to a 9/11-level event each week for a year),
· economic stagnation
· rising unemployment
· racial and gender bias
Should history prove an accurate guide and deliver presidential change this November, it will be time for us to build upon our common ground. Let us apply the behavioral basics suggested by wise words shared from the previously noted and well-recognized lesson: “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
So with change afoot, let’s drop our stones and – from common ground – focus on:
· helping our neighbors, regardless of race, gender, or party;
· thinking of each other as fellow Americans, rather than liberals or conservatives;
· practicing patience and tolerance in both our actions and our words;
· engaging in dialogue so we may speak with – and not at – each other;
· extending an open hand as opposed to a clenched fist; and
· returning our nation to its station as a mighty melting pot and beacon of equality.
It is true that upon Mr. Trump’s departure, the gnashing and baring of teeth will come natural to many. But let us avoid the short-term pleasures of fury and righteous indignation. From our common ground, let’s skip the part where we:
· seek exhaustive legal remedy in the form of a Hillary email or Trump=Russia inquiry;
· crow from behind the safety of a keyboard to fill social media with anger;
· believe all we read on the web (per President Lincoln; “If it’s on the Web it’s true!”);
· dismiss differing opinions as evidence of stupidity or ignorance;
· separate and debase ourselves with labeling and name calling;
· think of ourselves in isolation, as opposed to members of the mighty melting pot.
Once he leaves office, Mr. Trump will take his millions of dollars and millions of followers, and he will opine, seek attention, ratchet ratings, and generate buzz (ACD: click, click, click!).
Please, let him do so.
Many will seethe and be tempted to slam the heavy hammer of justice upon the unyielding anvil of righteousness.
But let’s not.
Please Learn from My Mistakes. Let Go of Anger and Focus on the Future.
Knowing that each of us may be subject to news and social media selection bias, that history suggests a likely Trump loss due to recession, and that a Pence pardon is the most beneficial path forward for Mr. Trump, what shall we do?
How shall we respond and conduct ourselves if events unfold as suggested?
In the short run, the show of sparks will prove fascinating. In the long run, it does not help.
I know, for I speak from experience.
Following a visit from misfortune, in the form of the death of my father and scores of his colleagues and friends during the response to the 9/11 attacks on The World Trade Center in New York, I seethed and raged, eager to lash out, to strike hammer to anvil.
For three years I worked to gain an age waiver so I might join the military to enact revenge on an institutional scale. Try as I might, in the end, my efforts failed.
And failing to contribute to military retribution, I picked fights — in traffic, on subways, at ballgames.
I argued with the love of my life, my wife.
I argued at work.
Hammer struck anvil. Sparks flew.
In the long run, it didn’t help.
What helped was letting go.
Certainly not forgiving.
But letting go of anger.
What helped was realizing anger was akin to the cancer that winnowed away my widowed mother, patiently destroying from within.
What helped was realizing anger is a demanding master.
What helped was focusing on those whom I love, and those whom I might help.
Oh, don’t be fooled.
I still bear the scar of misfortune. It is a scar long and deep.
Today, though, I bear it as evidence not of my wound but as evidence of my ability to heal.
Just as we might bear our national scar as proof of our ability to move on.
In my case, it took years. But, in the end, I let go of cancerous anger and resentment.
Those were difficult years.
And during those years, I came to understand we are defined not by the misfortune crashing down upon us but by our chosen response to misfortune.
Today, from our common ground, we have the freedom to choose.
The question is do we have the strength to choose wisely?
When Mr. Trump leaves office with parchment of pardon in hand, let us not focus on our differences and our anger. Let us focus on our common ground and our collective future.
We are America, Earth’s once and – if we choose wisely – future beacon of freedom.
An immigrant nation.
A melting pot.
Let go, America.
Now, let’s go, America.
With Admiration and Respect,
Notes:  US Constitution, Article II, section 2, ratified, November 21, 1788, https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/article/article-ii  New York Times, “Biased News or Biased Readers?”, September 26, 2018, citing the Knight Foundation/Gallup’s 2017 study  “State of the Bible” by Barna Research, July 10, 2018  Book of John, 8:7, King James version  Newsweek, “All the U.S. Presidents Who Won Re-Elections During a Recession, March 20, 2020, by Alexandra Hutzler  New York Times, “Recession and Re-election Don’t Mix”, October 9. 1991, by David Rosenbaum  US Constitution, Amendment XX, section 1, ratified January 23, 1933, https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendment/amendment-xx  The Week, “Trump: I Have an Article 2…” July 23, 2019, https://theweek.com/speedreads/854487/trump-have-article-2-where-have-right-whatever-want-president  Constitution Daily, “Explaining the Presidential Self-Pardon Debate” by Scott Bomboy, June 4, 2018  Memorandum Opinion for the Deputy Attorney General, “Presidential or Legislative Pardon of the President” by Mary Lawton, August 5, 1974  Find Law, “Presidential Pardon Power and its Limits”, https://litigation.findlaw.com/legal-system/presidential-pardon-power-and-its-limits.html  Constitution Center, “Explaining the Presidential Self-Pardon Debate”, by Scott Bomboy, June 4, 2018, https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/explaining-the-presidential-self-pardon-debate  United States Department of Justice, Pardons Granted by William J. Clinton, https://www.justice.gov/pardon/clinton-pardons#january202001  U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Pardon Attorney, “Clemency Statistics” https://www.justice.gov/pardon/clemency-statistics  U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Pardon Attorney, “Clemency Statistics” https://www.justice.gov/pardon/clemency-statistics  Beatles, “All You Need Is Love”, written by John Lennon (Lennon-McCarthy), July 7, 1967  Washington Post, “13 Most Amazing Findings…” by Chris Cillizza, November 11, 2016  NPR, “Exit Polls Link Obama Victory…”, by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, November 4, 2008  Please check those sources and don’t believe everything you read or hear! Sites like Reddit are entertaining and often informative, but are not primary and dependable sources. One might argue Mr. Lincoln focused time in areas other than the Internet. The summary is, I’m sassing you. There’s no such quote.
Thank you, Ms. Winnie Yu for your thoughtful and nuanced edits. You're the bestest ("What? That's not a word, Ms. Yu?")