Memo to Brits: Get a Constitution — and Fast

The Brits have always been so proud that we (I have dual citizenship) have no constitution.  While there are writings that attempt to capture the custom of centuries, in the end there are no formal rules.

Well, today, Politico has a US focused article that highlights the dangers.  With the heading “Trump writing his own White House rules,” and the subhead “He is shining a light on how much of the American political system is encoded in custom and how little is based in the law,” the article reports:

President-elect Donald Trump has said he might do away with regular press briefings and daily intelligence reports. He wants to retain private security while receiving secret service protection, even after the inauguration. He is encouraging members of his family to take on formal roles in his administration, testing the limits of anti-nepotism statutes. And he is pushing the limits of ethics laws in trying to keep a stake in his business.

In a series of decisions and comments since his election last month — from small and stylistic preferences to large and looming conflicts — Trump has signaled that he intends to run his White House much like he ran his campaign: with little regard for tradition. And in the process of writing his own rules, he is shining a light on how much of the American political system is encoded in custom, and how little is based in the law. .  .  .

“If it’s not written down, you can get away with it. That’s the new premise. And that’s pretty staggering,” said Trump biographer Gwenda Blair, author of “The Trumps: Three Generations that Built an Empire.”

It is a measure of how seriously this is all taken that discussions of overall permanant changes and how to minimize them are already on the table.

“It will expose how well other institutions function when one of them is operating outside the normal framework,” said attorney Robert Bauer, who served as White House counsel to President Obama. “If you have a president who is going to push hard against standing limits and expectations, are other institutions, like the Congress, going to step into the breach? Are they going to take on a more muscular role than they otherwise would?”   .  .  .  .

As the Trump transition figures out the biggest hurdle of all — how to separate Trump from his business interests at home and abroad — experts said the next best thing to following any legal requirements will be catastrophizing the consequences Trump risks opening himself up to if he does not divest and place his assets in a blind trust.

Wow, “catastrophizing.”  In other words, maximizing the overall consequences.

For the US, this highlights we are already in a very high stakes time, at least at large as during Nixon’s reign, but surely much larger, since operating on so many fronts.

For the UK, or indeed its fragmented parts if that is what is happening, the message is “write it down now, in enforceable form, with an enforcement mechanism.”  If not, regret will be in order.

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