We've all been there. We read something or listen to someone and your jaw hits the floor with the simultaneous thought, perhaps voiced out loud, "Where has this guy been?", or "What planet is this dude living on?"
David Brooks (pictured), employing what is now a cottage industry in political punditry: decrying gridlock and/or a "dysfunctional" Washington D.C., gave us that moment in his latest column titled "Strengthen the Presidency."
To be fair, Brooks does bring up some valid points. Yes, there are too many K Street lobbyists. Yes, moneyed interests skew legislation to the benefit of just a few. We know all this but Brooks' solution to the problem, as strongly suggested by the title of the column is both dangerous and foolish.
First, though, some false assumptions by Brooks:
"... it is possible to mobilize the executive branch to come to policy conclusion on something like immigration reform. It’s nearly impossible for Congress to lead us to a conclusion about anything.
It's "reform" and "reform" is inherently good, right? No. Not really. You can dress up that pig and call it anything you want and it's still just a pig and the current amnesty plan not to mention Dodd-Frank Fin-Reg and, of course, the mother of all reform pigs, the Affordable Care Act are all proof of that. And please note how easy Brooks can assert singular executive action as a preferable course all in the name of "doing something" whatever that "something" is.
"Fourth, Congressional deliberations, to the extent they exist at all, are rooted in rigid political frameworks. Some agencies, especially places like the Office of Management and Budget, are reasonably removed from excessive partisanship."
Good. We'll keep saying for as long as we have to, but in our constitutional republic, passing laws is supposed to be and is necessarily designed to be difficult... at least it used to be. The Senate's sobriquet as the most deliberative body on the planet was, we thought, a point of pride. Again, this notion that Congress must do “something” is simply wrong-headed. Mere activity of Congress does not equate to beneficial nor productive legislation. There are far worse things than “legislative inactivity” and “legislative activity” would be one of those.
Fifth, executive branch officials, if they were liberated from rigid Congressional strictures, would have more discretion to respond to their screw-ups, like the Obamacare implementation. Finally, the nation can take it out on a president’s party when a president’s laws don’t work. That doesn’t happen in Congressional elections, where most have safe seats.
Now, Brooks is just talking wacky. When he says "respond" does he mean the blizzard of waivers, delays and exemptions the administration has rained down from on high since ObamaCare became law and which has served only to add confusion to an already overly-complex and byzantine law and served only to reinforce the perception of utter incompetence of this administration? Is that what he means by "respond"? God help us. We're bordering on banana republic territory as it is and Brooks appears blissfully unaware that his "respond" mechanism of the executive branch is the main reason why.
And about those safe seats… Tell that to the scores of now-former congressional Democrats that got swept out of office in that 2010 midterm shellacking which was a direct result of the electorate's "response" to ObamaCare.
But, believe it or not, Brooks isn’t done… not by a long shot. Here’s the paragraph justifying more concentrated and constitutional republic-shunning power-grabbing and which is tied directly to his fifth point above:
This is a good moment to advocate greater executive branch power because we’ve just seen a monumental example of executive branch incompetence: the botched Obamacare rollout. It’s important to advocate greater executive branch power in a chastened mood. It’s not that the executive branch is trustworthy; it’s just that we’re better off when the presidency is strong than we are when the rentier groups are strong, or when Congress, which is now completely captured by the rentier groups, is strong.
Insane. Simply insane. Brooks lays out exactly why it’s such a bad idea to give the executive branch more power and then doubles down by advocating exactly for that.
And let’s take a quick moment to disabuse ourselves this notion that somehow the executive branch is more insulated from special interests than Congress. For one, the Department of Energy green loan program has been nothing but a pay-off to administration cronies, bundlers and campaign donors.
And the absolute lack of accountability in the scandals involving the IRS, NSA snooping, Fast and Furious and Benghazi are all indicative of responding to political pressure from like-minded political interests. Whether its K Street or within the vast federal leviathan, what does it matter?
If you think that the most powerful office in the world is somehow more insulated from the pressure of interests groups than a congressman, we believe you’d be sadly mistaken.
Poor David Brooks, the center-right columnist of America’s paper of record. Pride is a tough thing to swallow and since he’s been an Obama apologist for years now, it’s probably the easiest path now to double down on proposing the executive branch power grabs for his boy that has already been happening for years. Power grabs that are completely at odds with the ideals of a constitutional republic but it’s apparent that brushing aside political inconveniences trump any fidelity to separation of powers and checks and balances.
Brooks’ assumptions that this can all be justified because of the fundamental decency of one man is that of foolishness and shortsightedness.
Exit question(s) for our liberal friends out there. Sure, it’s all good because of the unsurpassed righteousness, benevolence and wisdom of Barack Obama. But he’s only going to be in office for a little over 3 more years. What then? The executive orders and unilateral actions that had you all so exorcised during the Bush years and that you either turned a blind eye towards or actively cheered during the Obama regime… What now? All those assumed and accrued powers will be turned over to someone infinitely less-saintly than the current occupier of the Oval Office. What will you say then?
We're not holding our breath waiting for an answer.