Editorial: Court right to clarify presidential powers

The Detroit News

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld an important principle in its travel ban ruling: The powers granted a president by the Constitution are not situational; they apply regardless of the popularity of a president or the wisdom of his policies. 

Donald Trump's ban on immigrants from several mostly Muslim countries was wrong-headed. The danger presented was exaggerated, and the remedy was extreme.

But as the court's 5-4 decision affirmed, as president Trump was within his authority to issue the order, which had been struck down by several lower courts.

The Supreme Court has upheld President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from several mostly Muslim countries, rejecting a challenge that it discriminated against Muslims or exceeded his authority.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, noted presidents have substantial powers to regulate immigration, particularly to safeguard the country.

The court did not take a position on whether the ban was smart policy, nor should it have.

Its job in this case was to clarify presidential powers. The court noted that the travel ban was carefully deliberated by the Trump administration, which determined it was necessary to protect Americans.

Previous presidents had exercised this same constitutional authority, and in a similar way. To deny it to Trump required compelling evidence that he had wielded it in an unconstitutional manner.

Opponents argued that Trump's ban was rooted in anti-Muslim bias as evidenced by statements the president made during his election campaign, and thus was invalid.

The court's majority dismissed that claim, ruling that it was crafted in a "neutral manner."

Calling this a Muslim ban was always a stretch, since Muslims from other nations continued to be allowed entry to the United States.

The ban in its final form applied to seven countries. Five of them, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen are majority Muslim. Two, North Korea and Venezuela, are not. Chad, a Muslim nation, was removed from the original list after the administration determined it had improved measures to keep dangerous individuals from migrating to the United States.

The court ruled the policy has "a legitimate grounding in national security concerns," and indeed it does. A president must have the ability to act quickly to protect the nation from outside threats.

Roberts rightly described the ability to shut the nation's doors under specific circumstances as "within the core of executive responsibility."

The anti-Trump resistance movement has deployed a number of tactics to limit the impact of his presidency, including the courts.

In this ruling, the justices sent a clear message that a president can't be denied his clear constitutional powers simply because some find his exercise of that authority abhorrent.

The only legal way do that is through the ballot box.

Elections, as former President Barack Obama famously declared, have consequences, one of which is that the person who is elected president gets access to all of the powers and privileges that come with the office, for better or worse.