Monday, November 17, 2008


Glen Greenwald has a very good column in Salon regarding some early indications from the Obama presidency. Basically, he's criticizing Obama, the Democrats, and the Congress for continuing down the path to a stronger presidency. I expressed concerns about this during the campaign before we knew who the Democratic nominee would be. It's a bad model to follow. When Congress did this under Clinton they were voted out during the following election en masse. One of the frustrations of voters during the past election was that the Democratic Congress didn't take control properly and force more issues of change upon the administration. They had best not play toady with Obama and Obama should encourage them to take back their authority. Snippet:
Here's what Obama's transition chief, John Podesta, said about that:

There's a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we'll see the president do that. I think that he feels like he has a real mandate for change. We need to get off the course that the Bush administration has set.

Podesta's infatuation with the power of executive orders recalls the infamous comment made by Clinton aide Paul Begala regarding the robust use of executive orders by the Clinton administration to make policy: "Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool."

That isn't actually how things are supposed to work. The Constitution doesn't vest the President with the power to make laws with the "stroke of the pen," and it's not "kinda cool" that we've allowed it to happen. It's actually quite dangerous and anti-democratic, as James Madison warned in Federalist No. 47:

The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

As Madison explained in that paper, it was only because the Constitution separated those powers among the branches -- with the legislative power (the power to make laws) assigned exclusively to Congress and the executive power (the power to execute those laws) assigned to the President -- was Madison convinced that the presidency created by the Constitution, deprived of lawmaking power, would pose no threat to republican liberty.

Go read the whole post. It's worth the time and it's nice to see someone on the left attempting to frame this.

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