Vail Daily column: Fun and games in Washington |

Vail Daily column: Fun and games in Washington

For almost 240 years America has been a nation ruled by the children’s game of rock — paper — scissors.

A zero-sum game that can never have a final ending in a tie, three players continue their challenges each time until only one remains.


Evidently unbeknownst to a segment of the American population, we have three branches of government – Judicial (J), Executive (E), Legislative (L) — and they play this game in a never-ending format for one singular purpose: continual checks and balances on the American federal government.

And it works.

Up until now, perhaps.

The Judicial branch, aka the scissors, is led by the Supreme Court. They decide if laws are constitutional by interpreting the Constitution and other laws, and thus they have the power to declare laws (from the Legislative branch) and executive actions (from the Executive branch) unconstitutional, while the Executive branch appoints their members and the Legislative branch decides if they’re worthy or not of membership.

The Executive branch, aka the paper, is led by the president. He or she signs or vetoes a law and can propose new ones (but not create) while enforcing existing laws, and although they can appoint judges, they must be accepted or rejected by Congress.

The Legislative branch, aka the rock, is led by Congress, which is comprised of the House of Representatives and the Senate. They make the laws and can literally crush appointments from the president.

All three have distinctive levels of power over the other two, but to muddle it even more, E can grant reprieves and pardons and appoints J’s members but J can reverse E’s laws and presidential actions while E can call L to special session, veto their bills and heads the military but L approves his or her appointments, holds the purse strings, can declare war and override E’s veto’s.

Got it?

Don’t worry, most are confused as well, just understand that these checks and balances over one another exist for a purpose. The powers of each are always held in check by the other two, and usually referred to as the “separation of powers.”

What is happening in our country at the moment is the paper doing its very best to cover the scissors with it’s perceived power, but all they’re doing is getting severe cuts, and besides, the rock will not allow it.

Last Sunday, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller (who wrote many of Trump’s campaign speeches) told ABC News “the judiciary is not supreme” in response to a federal court’s ruling against Bannon’s Muslim ban.

However, the Judicial branch is considered the pinnacle of checks and balances, as Article 3 of the Constitution gives the Supreme Court the final word on constitutional disputes.

Without an amendment to the constitution this should not even be up to debate.

So if you wish to continue believing our current political climate, complete with protests, national insults and international embarrassment, is due solely to “sour grapes” over one side losing an election, fine, I suppose a certain level of blissful ignorance will remain regardless of evidence to the contrary.

The only thing people need to “get over” is a lack of ability to see what is happening to our wall of checks and balances right before their very eyes.

While I agree we are a nation of immigrants, not refugees, this is not a game “paper” can win, but Americans most certainly will.

Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at

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