Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Constitutional republics are, like, hard


Out: Amassing of executive power is bad.

In: Amassing of executive power... not a problem.

After about two years of wondering how it was that the liberal-left of this country was going to justify what they allegedly hated Bush for now that the current President has taken executive orders and signing statements to a competitive sporting level, we now have our answer: America's dead tree outlet of record, the New York Times chimes in with this OpEd feature:

President George W. Bush used his executive power to bypass Congress, almost as a matter of routine. Now President Barack Obama is pulling a similar stunt.

I was appalled, and so was the Times editorial board (and so, in fact was Senator Barack Obama) when a Boston Globe reporter, Charlie Savage, documented Mr. Bush’s use of presidential signing statements and executive orders. But I am not appalled by the way Mr. Obama is relying on those instruments – as detailed in today’s Times by that same enterprising reporter, who now works for us. Context and intent make all the difference.

The author Andrew Rosenthal attempts to bolster his argument later in the article but right out of the gate, his rationale is summed up as: it's OK, because he's our guy.

Rosenthal then starts up the waaaahmbulance and complains that Obama was forced into this position because of an uncooperative Congress.

For nearly three years, President Obama devoted a great deal of effort to finding compromises with Congressional Republicans. That was futile, in my view, since those Republicans had made it clear from the day he was inaugurated in 2009 that their plan was to oppose everything he wanted, and then paint him as a failed president. (Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, said his party’s “number one goal” was to keep the president from winning a second term.)

Mr. Obama got fed up, finally, last fall, according to Mr. Savage’s article, and the result was the “We Can’t Wait” project, which has led to dozens of executive actions on a range of issues, including jobs for veterans and fuel economy standards.

Unlike the Bush/Cheney team, Mr. Obama did not take office with the explicit goal of creating new powers for the presidency. That was not part of his agenda. Moreover, his executive actions often are more modest in their effect than the White House’s public relations team might admit.

Government by executive order is not sustainable in the long-term. Nor is it desirable, whether you agree or disagree with those orders. But in this particular case, there may be no alternative.

Rosenthal is either ignorant of the constitutional concepts of separation of power and checks and balances or he is so desperately grasping at straws, he's forced to produce drivel such as this. Being a water-carrying hack is one thing but to pen this column is embarrassing.

Memo to Mr. Rosenthal: quit whining and quit defending the indefensible. Constitutional republics aren't supposed to be easy. Dictatorships are easy. Passing legislation should be a painful affair and when that piece of legislation doesn't get past the, uh, legislative bodies, it should be considered dead.

That's the way things work in constitutional republics of which we are apparently in the "post-" phase as the sitting President is impatient with things and Rosenthal automatically assumes that all the President's executive orders are inherently productive and benign and therefore acceptable regardless of their mighty constitutional dubiousness. (We would love to hear Rosenthal's justifications for our unauthorized kineticism in Libya as goal-unspecific as it was and especially that for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without cause and wacking U.S. citizens overseas without traditionally-recognized due process) .

It doesn't matter if this consolidation of executive power would cure cancer or, you know, stop the rising of the seas. That's not the point. When the President starts issuing executive orders with the alacrity that Obama has, it's a sign that things are too hard and that "easy" is the preferred governing M.O. and as we inferred two paragraphs ago "easy" is no good... "easy" sucks and "easy" leads to very bad outcomes.

As incredibly lame as it was, at least, now we have our answer.



SarahB said...

You almost have to think it's a satire piece. Almost.

Anonymous said...

His party had complete control of the executive and legislative branches for two years. Was this convenient forgotten?

Dean said...

Sarah, one wonders.

drozz, good point. I suppose it was thought it was their birthright to have control of both the executive and legislative branches for 4... 8 years.

Shane Atwell said...

Is it worse when they recognize the phenomenon, but rationalize it, or when they pretend it doesn't exist at all? Somehow I think the former is better, it at least makes it a topic of debate.