Fears of Presidential Over-reach

I recently listened to what I believe is an important conversation on NPR's "To the Point" show - a radio show which purports to include informed voices from all sides of an issue (though it seems to me that both the framing of topics and selection of experts nevertheless tends to "skew left," politically speaking).

This show featured a discussion of Presidential over-reach in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling (one in a string of such rulings, actually) that the Obama White House had overstepped its authority in appointing "recess appointments" of government posts while the Congress was still technically (if only nominally) in session.  Presumably the appointed officials are too far to the 'political left' to be approved by the politically-balanced Senate, and so the President made this move simply to "go around" the Congress and get his picks in place.

What I found refreshing about this discussion was its candor - even some of the experts who were supposed to be representing the "liberal perspective" were frankly concerned about the behavior of the President (and as they all pointed out - rightly in my view - the previous President as well); it was even suggested that the actions of our chief executive were more befitting a King or Monarch, rather than a President.

When Bush was in office, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. revised and re-released his book The Imperial Presidency tracing the rise of presidential power over the decades.  It seems that neither of our two major political parties is much interested in diminishing presidential power, but only in having one of their own wear the crown; many of the so-called "third parties," on the other hand, from Libertarians to the Constitution Party (and perhaps Tea Party Republicans as well) seem agreed about the need return to the model that is actually laid out in The Constitution, though they envision this rather differently. 

Having been reading a nice volume of the Founding Fathers as one of my side projects (something every voter ought to do), I am increasingly convinced that our national Founders would be astonished and horrified at the extent of executive power as it now exists; and I believe that we the people are right to be concerned and that NPR's conversation is very timely.  (Note: they would also be appalled at the extent to which our democratic processes are corrupted by money at every level of government, but that is another discussion for another day).

Consider the following: As everyone now knows, our President orders robot drones to assassinate enemies of the state even within the borders of foreign lands; our President oversees a government whose spy-network has been collecting data and even phone and email conversations from both American and foreign citizens without warrant, transparency or accountability; our President has pushed a health care law that (as initially envisioned) forced Roman Catholic and other Christian Church institutions to buy birth control - even measures that many contend are abortifacient - despite their long-held religious convictions on these issues and despite the First Amendment's guarantee of Free Exercise of Religion (there is no such provision in the Constitution guaranteeing that one's employer must provide one with free birth control); many in the media have also expressed concerns about this Presidential administration's violating the First Amendment's guarantee of a Free Press as well.  On certain culture war issues - such as the decision by this White House that its Justice Department will no longer enforce federal laws enacted by Congress that ban the use of marijuana - the President has clearly over-stepped his role, which is to enforce the laws made by Congress, not decide whether or not he wants to do so (this is the stated reason why Republican Leader John Boehner announced that he wanted to sue the President back in June).

While the Republicans have talked of suing, President Obama has appealed directly to the American people to support him.  But under our Constitution it is the House of Representatives that is most directly an expression of the will of the people since the House can be Re-elected or Un-elected every 2 years.  This is the time-table on which accountability in our form of government works.  November will tell us what the will of the voters indeed is.

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Blogger danielhixon said...

See this post for an update on this topic:

1:19 PM, June 17, 2015  

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