It was nearly a year ago when Donald Trump decided to give the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to the wife of Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson. A Washington Post analysis noted at the time that Miriam Adelson’s medal reflected “a growing pattern: one of Trump awarding a large majority of such medals and even pardons to supporters, to Republicans, and to recipients who fit his political agenda.”
The argument was bolstered in June when the president bestowed the same honor upon Republican economist Art Laffer, despite his discredited ideas and record.
Yesterday, the White House announced the newest recipient of the Medal of Freedom: Ed Meese. From the official statement:
Edwin Meese III has long been a thought leader and strong conservative voice on matters of law and policy. As Counselor to President Ronald Reagan, Mr. Meese helped to craft a foreign policy strong enough to end the Cold War and played a pivotal role in securing historic tax cuts.
As Attorney General, he promoted Federalism and the original public understanding of our Constitution. Since leaving public service, Edwin Meese has continued to champion our Nation’s founding principles through his extensive work at The Heritage Foundation.
Reading this, one might get the impression that the president is giving the medal to Meese because he’s a notable conservative – which isn’t generally the sort of thing that warrants the nation’s highest civilian honor.
But for those familiar with Meese’s background, there’s a bit more to his c.v. that’s worth appreciating.
During his Senate confirmation process, Meese was investigated by a court appointed independent counsel, which examined a variety of corruption allegations. The investigation culminated in a report that did not include criminal charges, but which nevertheless rebuked Meese for ethical lapses.
He was confirmed anyway.
During his tenure as Reagan’s attorney general, Meese was caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal, during which he told Reagan that presidential powers are inherently broad enough to circumvent legal limits: so long as the president was acting with national security interests in mind, Meese argued, laws passed by Congress could be overlooked.
In fact, as far as Meese was concerned, the White House didn’t even have to tell Congress when the president was ignoring federal laws. (What’s more, this was not only the scandal of his tenure as A.G.)
For Trump to give this guy the Presidential Medal of Freedom is a little on the nose, isn’t it?