Exactly what Alexander Hamilton ‘darkly envisioned’: Constitutional law professor explains how Trump is sabotaging the presidency from within

Exactly what Alexander Hamilton ‘darkly envisioned’: Constitutional law professor explains how Trump is sabotaging the presidency from within
Laurence Tribe, image via Screengrab.

Critics of President Donald Trump have often used the word “unpresidential” when describing his over-the-top antics . But legal scholar/author Laurence H. Tribe, in a November 18 article for Newsweek, stresses that with impeachment hearings underway, it is becoming more and more obvious that Trump is way beyond “unpresidential” — he has become the “anti-president” that Founding Father Alexander Hamilton warned about in the 1780s and 1790s.


“More than unpresidential, Trump represents the perfect exemplar of what Alexander Hamilton darkly envisioned when he described the danger that a demagogue might one day assume the presidency and require removal through the awesome power of impeachment,” explains the 78-year-old Tribe, who teaches constitutional law at Harvard University. “Such a demagogue, Hamilton prophesied, would be ‘a man unprincipled in private life, desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper.... despotic in his ordinary demeanor.’”

Hamilton, Tribe adds, feared the emergence of a charlatan who would “take every opportunity” to bring the federal government “under suspicion” and “throw things into confusion” — and Trump, according to Tribe, fits that description perfectly.

Trump’s actions with the Ukraine scandal, Tribe observes, are exactly the types of things an “anti-president” would do.

“We have heard direct evidence of a president utterly indifferent to Ukraine’s survival and to the lives of its patriotic defenders,” Tribe writes. “We have seen a president wholly unconcerned with the danger to our national security of strengthening Russia’s hand in any negotiations with Ukraine, disinterested in the threat to global stability of positioning America as an unreliable ally and brazenly willing to usurp Congress’ authority for over five months to direct the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to Ukraine’s defense.”

Tribe warns, however, that combating Trump won’t be easy because many of his supporters view him as a bold “antihero.”

“Many challenges confront those who believe this anti-president must be impeached and removed from office before he has the opportunity to manipulate another election,” Tribe asserts. “Perhaps the most ironic and least well understood of those challenges is the strand in the American character and culture that falls in love with antiheroes, or at least embraces them in film, literature and the other virtual realities in which so many of us spend increasingly significant parts of our lives.”

Tribe concludes his Newsweek piece by stressing that Trump, in the months to come, won’t be downplaying his image as a “battering ram” — he will enthusiastically embrace it.

“Elected in no small part because of — not in spite of — his image as a non-political battering ram who won’t hesitate to badmouth his opponents and smash every institution in sight, Trump thrives on many of the very features that make him so dangerous to the rule of law,” Tribe emphasizes. “There is no guarantee that he will ever be held to account for his depredations, but labeling him as the anti-president that he most assuredly is represents a start toward that goal.”

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