One of the great advantages of youth is that it’s a time to make mistakes, say silly stuff you might regret later, and generally experiment and try on different roles.
Which brings us to the case of Trump administration policy adviser Stephen Miller, who said something so jaw-droppingly arrogant and poorly thought out during an interview with CBS anchor John Dickerson last Sunday that it would be tempting to merely write it off as the brazenness of youth -- were it not for the fact that it was so very, very dangerous.
Miller, responding to a question about what the White House has learned from the experience of Trump’s controversial executive over, told Dickerson that “the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned,” according to the Washington Post.
Will not be questioned?
Where does young Miller, who’s all of 31, think he’s living, exactly? This is the United States and you work for the taxpayers, sir. We’ll question you anytime we feel like it.
But given President Trump’s affection for authoritarian leaders, Miller might have momentarily blacked out, woken up disoriented, and wrongly thought he was giving an interview to Russian State television.
Surely no administration sworn to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States could be so ignorant of the fundamental truth it serves at the consent of the governed - and not the other way around?
Unless, of course, it really is that ignorant, or it simply doesn’t care.
And, just a month into Trump’s administration, there are growing signs that is entirely the case.
In other interviews last Sunday, including one with Fox News, Miller doubled down on the administration’s crusade against the legitimacy of the federal judiciary.
“This is a judicial usurpation of power,” he said, according to the Post, of the 9th Circuit decision enjoining Trump’s poorly conceived travel ban. “It is a violation of judges’ proper roles in litigating disputes. We will fight it. And we will make sure that we take action to keep from happening in the future what’s happening in the past.”
Short of shredding the Constitution or imposing martial law, it’s tough to see how the administration could carry through on such a threat.
But it’s no surprise that such niceties are a mere formality to the young White House aide.
Miller, who’s slight and wears his thinning black hair closely cropped, was a familiar sight on the campaign trail last year.
At rally after rally, it fell to him to crank up crowds to a fever pitch with a steady diet of red meat rhetoric. He also wrote the darkly apocalyptic speech that Trump delivered at last summer’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Now, along with Trump’s senior counselor, Stephen K. Bannon, Miller is one of the principal architects of Trump’s backward-looking “America First” agenda.
The optimist in me wants to think that Miller, given the benefit of hindsight and a few years under his belt, might come to regret his ill-chosen words ---- just as we later regret or look back, mystified, at some of the more rash decisions of our youth.
But right now, that doesn’t seem the case.
In politics, it’s often said that a gaffe is someone inadvertently telling the truth. With a few poorly chosen words, Miller spoke volumes.
And we ignore them at our peril.
An award-winning political journalist, Micek is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at email@example.com.