Tuesday, March 2nd, Kim Wehle – professor at the University of Baltimore Law School, and CBS contributor – joined the Room for Discussion to give her opinions on the state of the American constitution, impeachment, and the state of American politics. These subjects are the reasons why she believes her newest book “How to Read the Constitution and Why” is relevant.
In her opinion, the U.S. democracy is in a risky place and might not last forever. This is accredited by professor Wehle to the rise of populism in America. She reasons that after the 2016 election, there has been an imbalance of power within the three branches of government – the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial branch. The Executive branch has grown bigger, while the Legislative has not resisted this power grab. Professor Wehle points out that this was only possible because American citizens are no longer invested in what the constitution says. When the constitution is not being enforced, it becomes vulnerable.
She next questions whether President Trump would give up power if he were to lose the 2020 election. The reason for this is because the president has already broken all unspoken rules and standards of conducts that come with the presidency. She gives the example of President Trump not handing over his tax returns. There is no law that demands a president to do so; however, every previous president has followed this standard of conduct.
The reason professor Wehle gives as to why Trump has been able to get away with all of his behaviour is because he has made people lose faith in the news media. She jokingly said that the news could be seen as the fourth branch of government. This decrease of trust in journalists has been rising for a long time starting with the creation of fox news and online outlets.
The hosts move the conversation to the question of how to interpret the constitution. Professor Wehle explains that the reason why there is room for interpretation of the constitution is because of ambiguity. There are two ways of reading the document. The first is that of the dead constitution, also known as the originalist interpretation, which means that the laws written in the constitution should be interpreted to be what it meant when it was enacted. This way of reading was followed by, for example, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The second is that of the living constitution. This is the idea that unlike other laws, the constitution changes to comport with the so-called “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” In this situation, it is up to the court to decide when and how it morphs into having a new meaning. Professor Wehle is a proponent of this latter way of thinking about the constitution. During this segment, she also goes into her belief that, in recent years, the court has become ideologically biased.
The final topic the moderators bring up is the recent impeachment of President Trump. In her opinion, the senate has done harm to the office of the presidency by not voting to convict. She believes that the unclean behaviour of the current president will become standard practice unless he is voted out of office. In her opinion, the trial in the senate made it clear that the sole purpose for the president’s quid-pro-quo was the announcement of an investigation into his political opponent Joe Biden. She does put pert of the blame for the execution of the impeachment process on House Democrats. In professor Wehle’s eyes, it is incomprehensible that Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues did not subpoena John Bolton. She also thinks Democrats should have gone to the courts to demand that those individuals in the administration whom they had subpoenaed be forced to testify.
Clearly, Professor Wehle has strong opinions about the current state of America. It would have been very interesting to hear her go deeper into these topics. If you the reader would like to hear more from professor Wehle or would be interested in getting a better picture of her ideas you should but her book “How to Read the Constitution and Why”.