Broker Check

Stupid History

June 13, 2017

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."- Joseph Wittreich

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."- George Santayana

"We spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let's face it, is mostly the history of stupidity."- Stephen Hawking

The citizens of this country are all up in arms about what they see as a repetition of what happened during Watergate decades ago. Many worry about alleged scandals by the President, allegations of biased reporting, and a determination that the Russians interfered in our election. But despite the coming rounds of Congressional, Justice Department, and Special Investigator reports, I find comfort in the fact that the institutions upon which we rely are doing their jobs.

Even today, with all of the skepticism and angst about the daily events, most of us put our faith in the Constitution. This document was the product of compromise, prejudice and self-interest. Yet, with its built-in flexibility of three branches of government, the Constitution accidentally but quite ingeniously enabled the nation to flourish. Often it took decades or more to resolve injustices, and along the way we've experienced protests, violence and even a civil war. We still have many problems today, but the mechanisms for change and improvement remain.

With all of this controversy about the election and our government, how are these institutions, which were created and enabled by this Constitution, faring?

Legislative Branch: The Senate and House of Representatives are controlled by the same party as the President. This circumstance often makes investigations problematic. However, both chambers of Congress have vowed to examine the charges and provide oversight. Committees have been tasked with investigations. Their interviews, evidence, and reports will be matters of public record. These representatives will need to stand for re-election and their reputations will be staked to these investigations.

Congress has wavered on several of the legislative proposals of the Administration, including funding a border wall, quick repeal on Obamacare, and a proposed budget full of cuts to discretionary spending. It has thus far shown it will not pass new legislation easily despite the President.

Judicial Branch: The courts have begun to weigh in on several fronts. The travel bans that were put in place by order of the President have been stalled in Federal Court; ultimately the Supreme Court will probably decide on their legitimacy. Voter ID laws that were passed by legislatures have been struck down by the Conservative-leaning Court as well. The Judicial Branch, the slowest to act in normal times, will ultimately weigh in on a lot of our current issues.

Executive Branch: These recent events have shown that just because the President decides to do something doesn't mean the entire Executive Branch will comply. He told us that the FBI director was fired because of an investigation into the Russia/Election issue. It's now certain that the FBI will continue this even more zealously. Robert Mueller was appointed to also lead a special investigation in the wake of Comey's ouster. There are a lot of people within the Executive Branch who feel so strongly about this issue that they risk prosecution by leaking information to the press.

The Press: Often referred to as the "Fourth Branch", journalism has risen from the ashes to re-take its place as part of the self-government that we value. Amid charges of "fake news", real journalism thriving. Jefferson himself stated "The only security in all is a free press," despite the fact he often excoriated the partisan press of his day. While often infuriating, one of the only things separating us from those countries ruled by despots is a free and unfettered press.

Is history repeating itself? Is it rhyming? Is it just more stupidity? Are the three branches of government checking and balancing? Ask me again in 100 years.