The nation has paused this week from its toxic political battles to remember the kindness and gentleness of President George H.W. Bush. He was kind to Bill Clinton, who defeated him in 1992, and to Ross Perot, whose unusual entry into the presidential race that year siphoned conservative voters away from Bush and enabled Clinton to amass a majority of electoral votes with only 43 percent of the popular vote. The Bush I knew was the post-presidential one, who, by all appearances, harbored no bitterness or sense of defeat.

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When Donald Trump became president, he swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and enforce federal laws "faithfully." James Madison, who was the scrivener at the Constitutional Convention, insisted on using the word "faithfully" in the presidential oath and including the oath in the body of the Constitution because he knew that presidents would face the temptation to disregard laws they dislike.

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What if the government's true goal is to perpetuate itself? What if the real levers of governmental power are pulled by agents and diplomats and by bureaucrats and central bankers behind the scenes? What if they stay in power no matter who is elected president or which political party controls either house of Congress?

What if the frequent public displays of adversity between the Republicans and the Democrats are just a facade and a charade? What if both major political parties agree on the transcendental issues of our day?

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Last week's surprise forced resignation of Jeff Sessions as attorney general of the United States set in motion a series of events that will soon resonate in all corners of the Department of Justice.

President Donald Trump has been steamed at Sessions ever since Sessions removed himself from supervision over the DOJ's investigation into whether a conspiracy existed between Russian agents and the Trump campaign in 2016 for the Russians to provide assistance to the campaign -- a felony.

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The Democratic Party has won control of the House of Representatives. Its members effectively will be able to block all legislation that the Senate passes and the president wants. They also will be able to unleash their subpoena power mercilessly on the executive branch. Will the members of the new majority view their victory primarily as an opportunity to legislate or as a chance to investigate?

Here is the back story.

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I was sitting at Mass last Sunday in a cavernous Catholic church on Manhattan's Upper West Side near Lincoln Center, praying and thinking about the horrible events in America last week.

A white supremacist who lived in a truck covered with images of Donald Trump and his political adversaries terrorized the neighborhood in which I live and much of the country by sending pipe bombs to former presidents and other prominent Democrats and to CNN through the Postal Service. A virulent hater of foreign-born people and Jewish people killed 11 innocent Jewish worshippers using a lawfully owned semiautomatic rifle in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

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In Jean Raspail's 1973 dystopian novel, "The Camp of the Saints," about 1 million poor folks from India make their way on hundreds of ships around the southern tip of Africa and up to the French Riviera. The international media use helicopters to follow the flotilla, and the news of the flotilla's movements dominates the headlines for weeks.

As the flotilla gets closer to France, panic sets in, and fear becomes a political weapon. The government doesn't know what to do. The president of France finally orders the French military to secure the borders and use deadly force to prevent the flotilla from landing.

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The litigation brought by Stormy Daniels against Donald Trump has had its day of reckoning. The adult-film star who sued the president for defamation not only lost a portion of her lawsuit but was ordered to pay the president's legal bills. All this was a resounding victory for the freedom of speech.

After the right to life, protected by the Fifth and 14th amendments, and the right to be left alone, protected by the Fourth, the freedom of speech, protected by the First, is our most cherished. James Madison, who drafted the Bill of Rights, was careful to refer to speech as "the" freedom of speech so as to underscore the Framers' unambiguous belief that free speech is pre-political. Stated differently, it existed before the government did and thus did not come from the government. As it does not originate in the government, Madison and company believed it originates in our humanity.

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What if the whole purpose of an independent judiciary is to be anti-democratic? What if its job is to disregard politics? What if its duty is to preserve the liberties of the minority -- even a minority of one -- from the tyranny of the majority? What if that tyranny can come from unjust laws or a just law's unjust enforcement?

What if we have a right to insist that judges be neutral and open-minded rather than partisan and predisposed to a particular ideology? What if presidential candidates promise to nominate judges and justices who they believe will embrace certain ideologies?

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Harsh winds are blowing on Capitol Hill. The hoped-for and feared clash between Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh and his principal accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, has come and gone, with all of its calculated and spontaneous outbursts, as well as gut-wrenching emotion.

Dr. Ford subjected herself to the public humiliation of revealing an intimate and horrific event, and she did so with grace and credibility. Judge Kavanaugh subjected himself to absurd questions about his youth, and he offered compelling denials with ferocity and indignation.

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Until two weeks ago, President Donald Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court seemed a sure thing. He ably handled more than 1,200 questions put to him by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He demonstrated even to his adversaries a masterful command of constitutional jurisprudence. The FBI had completed six background investigations of Kavanaugh throughout his career in government, and it found no blemishes.

Trump promised that he would appoint federal judges and justices who generally share his views on life, guns and administrative regulations and who have a minimalistic view of federal power. When he announced the Kavanaugh nomination, it appeared he had found his man.

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If you have been following the serious destruction brought about by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina and the political turmoil caused by the allegations of teenage sexual misconduct made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, along with his firm and unbending denials, you might have missed a profound event in a federal courtroom in the nation's capital late last week.

The Florence damage may take years to repair, and the Kavanaugh nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, which once seemed assured, at this writing is in a sort of limbo, pending an Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas-like confrontation before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week. But when Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's one-time campaign chair, entered a guilty plea in federal court last week, it created the potential for a political earthquake.

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Last week, The New York Times published a scathing critique of Donald Trump -- the man and the president. The Times said the critique was written by a senior Trump administration official who insisted on remaining unnamed. This bitter and harsh editorial, which portrays the president as dangerous to the health of the republic and his White House as slouching toward dysfunctionality, has understandably infuriated him.

Trump first accused the Times and its unnamed writer of treason, and then he publicly asked for a Department of Justice investigation to find the writer. Then, to change the subject, he threatened to declassify documents submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2016 -- before he was president -- that he believes were used to commence the Robert Mueller-led investigation of his presidential campaign.

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Last week, I was intrigued by all the fanfare attendant upon the national farewell to the late Sen. John McCain. I have written in this space that McCain and I were friends who spoke many times, but generally only about the issues upon which we agreed -- abortion, immigration and torture.

On those issues, he often stood at odds with most of his Republican colleagues in the Senate. They are opposed to abortion in name only (they will not lift a finger to stop or slow it), prefer judging the moral worth of individuals on the basis of where they were born, and think that torture is wrong unless the victim is a bad guy or a foreigner or has information the government wants.

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About four years ago, I was browsing through one of Manhattan's last remaining independent bookstores, when my cellphone rang. I didn't recognize the incoming telephone number, with its 202 area code, but I assumed it was a Fox News colleague from our Washington bureau.

When I answered the phone, a somewhat familiar but somber voice said: "Judge Napolitano, your reward for what you did today will not come from your colleagues or viewers or even on earth but in heaven."

What had I done to deserve this?

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When federal prosecutors are nearing the end of criminal investigations, they often invite the subjects of those investigations to speak with them. The soon-to-be defendants are tempted to give their version of events to prosecutors, and prosecutors are looking to take the legal pulse of the subjects of their work. These invitations should always be declined, but they are not.
Special counsel Robert Mueller -- who is investigating President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice, pre-presidential banking irregularities and conspiracy to solicit or receive campaign aid from foreign nationals (the latter is what the media erroneously call collusion) -- has made it known to former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the head of Trump's legal team, that he wants to speak to the president.

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Mike Scruggs