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Crisis response shows Trump isn’t a dictator

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Cambridge, Massachusetts – Last weekend, U.S. President Donald Trump did a rapid about-face, pulling back from his suggestion that he might try to quarantine New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It marked a significant moment in his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It symbolizes Trump’s fairly consistent choice in the crisis to reject the impulse to grab power.

There’s a script for populist autocrats in emergencies: maximize executive power, restrict civil liberties, delay or suspend elections. Trump has pretty consistently done the opposite during this crisis.

Trump has even held back from exercising the substantial presidential power afforded him by existing law. Rather than encouraging or promoting restrictions on movement — a key civil liberty — Trump has so far discouraged lockdowns. And notwithstanding lots of nervous speculation by Democrats, Trump so far has said not a word about delaying the 2020 election, which in any case he lacks the constitutional power to do.

Trump, in other words, is not acting like a dictator. Americans don’t have to be grateful for this, but we should at least be relieved.

I do not come to praise Trump. He has been flouting the rule of law since before he was elected, and has done incalculable damage to constitutional norms. I’m not a Trump........

© The Japan Times