Of Article II and Limited Government

William B. Turner
4 min readAug 6, 2019
The limited president

Donald Trump recently reconfirmed, yet again, that he has effectively zero understanding of our Constitution and the government it creates.

He said, “I have Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”

Just to be very clear, this is entirely false and very stupid. Article II of the Constitution does not give the president of the United States “the right to do whatever I want.”

It is actually a bit wrong to say that the president has any rights at all, as president. As a citizen, the president has all the rights of all other citizens, but upon becoming president, the incumbent accepts certain practical limits on those rights as a result of the position.

The president has the same right to freedom of speech as anyone else, but responsible presidents realize that their every public utterance is news and can have an impact throughout the nation and around the world, and speak with corresponding care, an idea that Trump does not understand.

The president has the same right as anyone else to sue for defamation, but the Supreme Court, in the interest of protecting the robust political debates that are the point of the right to free speech, has set the bar almost impossibly high for public figures to win defamation cases. To state the obvious, the president is very much a public figure.

In our system, the point of government is to protect the rights of citizens. Government and its actors do not have rights. They have powers. The point of the Constitution is to create a government that has enough power to do the job without too much threatening the rights of the people.

That is, our federal government under the Constitution is supposed to be powerful, but limited. This is the key point that Trump misses entirely with his claim that he can “do whatever [he] wants.” He seems to think that he has unlimited power.

Under our Constitution, no government official may ever “do whatever [he] wants.” The idea is antithetical to the plan of the Constitution at the most basic level.

It would not help, since Trump neither reads nor learns, but the Constitution nowhere states any of these points. Nor does it state one of the key features about it that is…

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