by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
As 2019 drew to a close, Chief Justice John Roberts issued his annual report on the federal judiciary, which opened with a paean to civics education, the pedagogical function of judicial opinions, and the importance of an independent judiciary in the face of mob rule. This is not ordinarily the stuff of manic headlines. But then, we live in the Age of Trump, when every event must be traced to the person of the president.
The report “seemed to be addressed, at least in part, to the president himself,” Adam Liptak of the New York Times explained. “The nominal focus of the report was the importance of civics education, but even a casual reader could detect a timely subtext, one concerned with the foundational importance of the rule of law.” …
… Is it possible the chief justice of the United States was bolstering his branch of government because that is what branches of government should do? Of course, Roberts might have been sending coded signals to the American public by means of journalistic interpreters. But the far likelier explanation is that the cigar was just a cigar. What is striking about the dustup around the report is the failure to contemplate the latter scenario. These days, it is always about Donald Trump — and that is exactly the problem.
The insistence on interpreting every event through a presidential lens illustrates why Trump has become so polarizing: For Democrats and Republicans alike, he symbolizes too much.