With Trump, the buck stops there -- or anywhere else

Trump slams judges over travel ban
Trump slams judges over travel ban


    Trump slams judges over travel ban


Trump slams judges over travel ban 02:51

Story highlights

  • Gloria Borger: Harry Truman had "The Buck Stops Here" sign, meaning he made decisions and took responsibility for them
  • But that doesn't seem to be true in the Trump administration, she writes

(CNN)It was Harry Truman — as History 101 shows — who famously placed "The Buck Stops Here" sign on his desk. The meaning was crystal clear: The president makes the decisions, and bears full responsibility for them.

In this young presidency, there seems to be a new slogan: The buck stops ... there.
Or anywhere else, actually. If the White House loses its immigration case before the courts, blame the judges. And if there's some sort of attack, it's their fault, too. Trump tweets: "If something happens, blame him (the Washington state judge) and court system." Likewise, if there was confusion at airports worldwide, don't blame the President's hastily arranged travel ban rollout, blame a Delta computer outage, protesters and, of course, the tears of Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer.
    And what about the actual decision to sign the executive order? Instead of owning it, the President made it clear that, well, he wanted to take more time on implementation, but "the law enforcement people" told him otherwise. "So I wanted to give like a month, then I said, well what about a week? They said well then you're going to have a whole pile of people -- perhaps, perhaps -- with very evil intentions coming in before the restrictions. So there it is folks, it's as plain as you can have it."
    In other words, don't look at me; I'm just the President.
    And speaking of presidents, when was the last time one went out of his way to stoke fear about a possible terror attack? How about Wednesday, when Donald Trump made the case that he knows much more than the public does (as one would expect) and therefore knows we should be very afraid, especially without the travel ban.
    "Believe me," he said at a session with law enforcement officials. "I've learned a lot in the last two weeks, and terrorism is a far greater threat than the people of our country understand." Spreading fear may be a part of a deliberate strategy to encourage support for the ban, but that's a campaign strategy. It doesn't sit well in the oval office.
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    Perhaps there is much more to learn. After all, the President's connection to government, and public service, isn't a long thread. Previously, his link to politics has been buying the favor of public servants, as he told us many times during the campaign. What's more, he has not even been the CEO of a publicly held corporation. He's been the chairman of a private family business, surrounding himself with those indebted to him, and blood relatives. (Paging: Ivanka Trump and Nordstrom)
    Suddenly, the President finds himself in a world in which he faces co-equal branches of government and foreign leaders who are responsive to public opinion in their own countries, rather than to his opinion. (Exception: Friend Vladimir Putin)
    In business, Trump is king. So while he may understand the separation of powers, he simply rejects the notion. In his view, the 9th Circuit judges were "disgraceful" when they interrogated lawyers. In fact, the very idea that the branches of government don't simply salute when the President wants to do something is anathema to him, considering what he has known his whole life.
    It's not disgraceful; it's democracy. Just ask Judge Gorsuch.