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Bruni on Rule of Law in Regulation - Barokong

I found Frank Bruni's opinion piece in the Sunday New York Times noteworthy on the whole question of rule of law in regulation:

Hillary Clinton as New York City mayor?

Imagine the fun:  City building inspectors start to show up daily at Trump Tower, where they find a wobbly beam here, a missing smoke detector there, outdated wiring all over the place. City health inspectors fan out through Trump’s hotels, writing citations for clogged drains in the kitchens and expired milk in the minibars.

The potholes near his properties go unfilled. Those neighborhoods are the last to be plowed. There’s a problem with the flow of water to his Bronx golf course, whose greens are suddenly brown. And the Russian Consulate keeps experiencing power failures. It’s the darnedest thing. Clinton vows to look into it, just as soon as she returns from the Hamptons.

..His [Trump's] hometown is her fief. She’s the boss of him whenever he’s in the Big Apple, and he’s in the Big Apple a whole lot.

...I’m fantasizing, yes, but with a glimmer of encouragement....there are so many scores she could settle, so many ways she could meddle. ...above all there’d be the torturing of Trump...The city’s Mexican Day Parade would be rerouted, from Madison Avenue over to Fifth, right past Trump Tower. A new city zoning experiment would locate detention centers in the strangest places. And in the city’s libraries, “The Art of the Deal” would be impossible to find, while upfront, on vivid display, there’d be copies galore of “It Takes a Village” and “Hard Choices.” There is no indication that Bruni is kidding, that any of this would be both monstrously illegal, unethical, and a disaster for New York, and no disclaimer from his editors.

As far as I can tell, Bruni is a middle of the road Democrat, and a fan of large-government regulation.  (Like the rest of the Times, Bruni seems currently in full-tilt Trump Derangement Syndrome, with11 out of his 14 columns since the election criticizing Trump, rather than policy, so if he's really a free-market deregulator, let me know.)

So how fascinating that Bruni -- and his Times editors -- seem to think it so natural that regulation and public services they admire -- building inspectors, muncipal water and power, zoning, even the public library -- should naturally be bent, far beyond legal limits, to partisan political service. Building inspections are used to punish political enemies, but we're supposed to trust that the IRS, Obamacare, EPA, FDA, NLRB, and Dodd-Frank are not?  Or is it just that illegal abuse of power is just fine and normal in the hands of their friends?

And how deeply naive. Really?

Imagine Mrs. Clinton becomes mayor of New York, and fulfills' Brnui's fantasy. President Trump just sits back and takes it? If the regulatory state is a political free for all, is it not possible that Mr. Trump -- who, after all, during the campaign said he would send the department of justice after Mrs. Clinton, whose slogan was "lock her up," and who threatened to send the IRS after political enemies -- might play back in kind? And is it not possible that with the awesome power of the federal regulatory state behind him, he might not crush Mrs. Clinton -- and the city of New York -- in the process?

The Fox News fantasy is as easy to construct. Mrs. Clinton becomes mayor and tries any of the above. Suddenly, the IRS is all over the Clinton Foundation, the DoJ reopens its investigation -- 30,000 missing emails looks a lot like obstruction of Justice -- the Russians release the 30,000 missing emails to wiki leaks -- you surely don't think they let us know everything they were holding against her in case she won? -- DoJ and NLRB open wide ranging investigations of NYC hiring practices -- using statistical discrimination programs, just for fun -- the EPA wants careful review of everything under the sun -- say, how garbage is collected - Gov. Bridgegate Christie is put in charge of a department of transportation "study" of traffic in and out of New York, Federal funding for NY mass transit suddenly needs a comprehensive review, FBI starts a huge corruption probe of New York city officials -- remember, you don't have to find anything, there mere act of investigation consumes everyone's time. Oh, and I haven't started on the remaining rule of law constraints on just the sort of actions Mr. Bruni dreams of -- Congressional and FBI investigation at a minimum.

Should that happen, I wonder if Mr. Bruni and the Times will be running similarly lighthearted articles, well ha ha, that's all just how politics works isn't it?

The revealing fact is that this does not cross Mr. Bruni's mind. It's part and parcel of the bubble attitude that we are so right, and our enemies so evil, that of course they will wilt at the shining light of our rightness--A presumption proved wrong over and over again in both domestic and foreign policy.

There is a serious issue. After 8 years and more of egregiously politicized legal administration and regulation, will Republicans, now in charge, wring their hands and say "Thanks for the new tools and precedents. Now we do unto you like you did unto us? Pass that phone and pen." Or do they say "No, we put the genie back in the bottle, we reconstruct rule of law and limited government, for us as well as you?" We are all breathlessly waiting for the outcome.  Even commenters such as Larry Summers and Paul Krugman are coming around, shocked, inspector-Renault style, to find that regulation and law might be misused for political advantage and worried about rule of law. Well, late is better than never.

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