Commentary: A servant, not a ruler

By John Krull
TheStatehouseFile.com 

INDIANAPOLIS – In the United States, we elect presidents.

Not kings.

John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com

This is what Donald Trump does not understand – or at least that he pretends not to understand.

In this country, the people and the laws of the nation are not subordinate to the chief executive. He is subordinate to them.

That is why, upon assuming office, he – or she – must take the following oath:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The taking of the oath is designed to emphasize that the incoming president is a servant, not a ruler.

And that he must work within the fundamental law of the land.

This is what makes President Trump’s fulminations about loyalty, about pardons and about Republicans in Congress not protecting “their” president so disturbing. The same goes for his complaint that Attorney General Jeff Sessions didn’t serve him well by recusing himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Ditto for Trump’s warnings that Special Counsel Robert Mueller would be crossing a “red line” if the investigation into that meddling involved looking at Trump’s finances.

This president doesn’t seem to grasp that none of these people took oaths to support and defend him. Their duty is the same one that, in theory, Trump has. It is to the nation and its laws, and not to any one person.

The attorney general is the nation’s lawyer, not the president’s. That is why Donald Trump must hire outside counsel to represent him in the Russian investigation.

And it is the reason that the special counsel will follow all trails flowing from and leading to Russia – including any personal or business ties the president may have in that country.

It is the special counsel’s duty to do so.

Because he serves the nation’s interests, not those of any individual president.

Doubtless, this is frustrating for Donald Trump, as it has been for many other presidents.

Barack Obama probably didn’t enjoy answering questions about his birth, his citizenship and his birth certificate, but he did so.

Because he was the president, and he had a duty to this country and its people.

George W. Bush most likely didn’t like having his drinking escapades as a young man (including an arrest for driving while intoxicated) or his family’s ties to Saudi Arabia publicly discussed and explored, but he put up with it.

Because he was the president, and he had a duty to this country and its people.

The list of things Bill Clinton wishes others hadn’t investigated must be long and varied, but even he didn’t whine as much about people picking on him and invading his privacy as Trump does and he focused more on achieving the things on his agenda.

Because he was the president, and he had a duty to this country and its people.

Those other presidents submitted to what must have felt like personal indignities because they understood something that Donald Trump just doesn’t seem to grasp. Even though the presidency can be a burden, an intrusion, an annoyance and even a pain, it also is an opportunity offered only to a handful of people in a lifetime.

The president of the United States has the power to shape more people’s lives, for good or ill, than anyone else on the planet.

All the president has to do to exercise that power is understand that the election that put him in the White House didn’t make the nation his property.

No, that election made him the nation’s property.

For four or eight years, the people in this country get to decide what they want to know about the person to whom they’ve just handed the nuclear launch codes.

And he must live with that.

Because he is the president, and he has a duty to this country and its people.

In the United States, you see, we elect presidents.

Not kings.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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