The Imperial Presidency, Reloaded

Let’s imagine the following situation:

In 2012, Mitt Romney wins the election. He tries to repeal Obamacare but the Democratic Senate won’t even take it up. He then tries to pass a bill reforming the law, but the Senate rejects him again. He then proceeds to, by executive order:

  • Delay the minimum requirements of the insurance policies until after the midterm election.
  • Change the date of compliance for the employer mandate and entertain the possibility of delaying it until after his first term.
  • Ignore a Congressional law requiring Congressional members and staff members to get insurance through the exchanges.
  • Then imagine he did other things like use waivers to cancel out parts of Race to the Top, tell the DOJ to not enforce laws he disagreed with, made wholesale changes to immigration, told the EPA to ignore greenhouse gas emissions.

    What do you think the Democratic response would be? I guarantee you it would be a lot more vocal than it has been as Barack Obama has done all this and more.

    Recently, a bizarre scene unfolded on the floor of the House of Representatives that would have shocked the framers of the Constitution. In his State of the Union address, President Obama announced that he had decided to go it alone in areas where Congress refused to act to his satisfaction. In a system of shared powers, one would expect an outcry or at least stony silence when a president promised to circumvent the legislative branch. Instead, many senators and representatives erupted in rapturous applause; they seemed delighted at the notion of a president assuming unprecedented and unchecked powers at their expense.

    Last week, Obama underlined what this means for our system: The administration unilaterally increased the transition time for individuals to obtain the level of insurance mandated by the Affordable Care Act. There is no statutory authority for the change — simply the raw assertion of executive power.

    The United States is at a constitutional tipping point: The rise of an uber presidency unchecked by the other two branches.

    This massive shift of authority threatens the stability and functionality of our tripartite system of checks and balances. To be sure, it did not begin with the Obama administration. The trend has existed for decades, and President George W. Bush showed equal contempt for the separation of powers. However, it has accelerated at an alarming rate under Obama. Of perhaps greater concern is the fact that the other two branches appear passive, if not inert, in the face of expanding executive power.

    James Madison fashioned a government of three bodies locked in a synchronous orbit by their countervailing powers. The system of separation of powers was not created to protect the authority of each branch for its own sake. Rather, it is the primary protection of individual rights because it prevents the concentration of power in any one branch. In this sense, Obama is not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system; he has become the very danger that separation of powers was designed to avoid.

    That’s Jonathan Turley, by the way, who is pretty liberal and agrees with a lot of the President’s policies. But he see what so many people don’t: the means matters. Even if you think everything Obama is doing is wise and noble, giving the President this kind of unfettered authority is dangerous to our liberty and to the Republic.

    (Defenders of the President like to point out that he has signed fewer executive orders than his predecessors and is on pace to pass the fewest per day since Grover Cleveland. This analysis is a bit problematic since Obama had a supermajority Congress for two years and didn’t need to rule by executive order. It’s also not clear to me that all executive orders are equal. One rewriting a healthcare law is obviously more extensive than one declaring National Turnip Day or putting in place a law that Congress will soon pass. Finally, much of what he is doing is not be executive order, but by other means. Congress left large parts of the Dodd-Frank and PPACA bills open to the executive’s decisions. So it’s a fair point, but one that needs to be unpacked a bit more since the numbers are not everything.)

    Look, I’m not naive. If Romney were President and acting this way, the Democrats would be screaming but I’m sure many Republicans and conservatives would be singing his praises, saying it doesn’t matter how Obamacare is stopped as long as it is stopped. But one side’s partisan bullshit does not justify the others’. Barack Obama is President and he has been given and is taking enormous amounts of power generally reserved for the legislature.

    This is something that we should all be worried about.

    Comments are closed.

    1. AlexInCT

      The only problem with your scenario is that republicans are forced to play by the rules. Those that don’t get destroyed. And even those that do get lies made up about them to destroy them. So they would never be able to do what Obama is doing. And the left knows this and is happy things are that way.

      The only way we stop these people now is by force, because they have been using it for a long time already. They are just good at hiding it.

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    2. richtaylor365

      I see Obama and Putin as kindred spirits; both can’t be bothered by the rule of law, both see a green light in perpetuating their own vision of how things should be (Putin’s is to re establish the old Soviet Empire, Obama’s is more fuzzy, tracking whatever American hating nonsense his college professors told him at the time) and both see whatever opposition or obstacles in front of him as weak and not worth fretting over.

      The world has seen the likes of Putin before, and their track record is not good in how they dealt with them. But here in America, we are definitely in uncharted waters. No president (including Nixon) has ever shit on the Constitution in this matter. And frankly, I don’t see either one of these guys getting reigned in, Putin relying on the timidity of NATO, and Obama relying on his adoring public to stay uninformed and trusting.

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    3. Dave D

      Hal: I LOVE the way you presume that republicans would behave the exact same way if the scenario was reversed. You just can’t help yourself! I know I’d be critical of Emperor Romney just as much, if not more, than I am of Fuhrer Obama. bHo can’t help himself……. I expect my elected officials to act like grown ups knowledgable of our laws, not power-mad dictators.

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    4. Hal_10000 *

      Dave, we had eight years of the Bush Presidency as evidence that Republicans will not object to a President who expands executive authority. To be fair, I actually think they would object a little bit more than the Democrats are doing. Someone like Rand Paul would almost certainly do so (as his father did). But most would circle the wagons, just like they did with the last President.

      The expansion of executive authority didn’t start with Obama. It’s been a long slide. He’s just the apotheosis.

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    5. Starving Writer

      You might have been critical of Emperor Romney, but a good number of Republicans would’ve not been. Remember when Bush was using executive orders right and left, and used a national tragedy to pound the PATRIOT act past Congress? Quite a number of Republicans (not saying you were among them) were absolutely thrilled that Bush was doing that. Only a select few, including RightThinking’s creator Lee, were going “umm, are we really sure we want a president to have this much power? What happens if a Democratic president gets this kind of power?”

      The years since then has proven Lee to be right. Everything Obama is doing now, was sown by the seeds that Bush planted.

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    6. Hal_10000 *

      The years since then has proven Lee to be right. Everything Obama is doing now, was sown by the seeds that Bush planted.

      Lee was absolutely consistent on things like this. It cost him a lot of readers but he never wavered that if it was wrong for a Democrat, it was wrong for a Republican too. One of the most prophetic things he said that it wasn’t about what Bush was doing, it was about the next President and the one after that and the one after that.

      You’re absolutely right. The last five years have shown us how right Lee was. Obama has taken everything Bush was doing and pushed it even further. If Bush had done half this stuff, the Democrats would have been screaming for impeachment.

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    7. richtaylor365

      and used a national tragedy to pound the PATRIOT act past Congress?

      That very sentence contradicts your premise, The Patriot Act was a congressional bill, passed by Congress and signed into law by Bush, this is how things are suppose to work. Obama, by his own admission, does not need Congress, and will do end runs around Congress all day long using a pen and a phone, this is NOT how it is suppose to work.

      But most would circle the wagons, just like they did with the last President.

      Not saying there aren’t scoundrels in both parties, but it is much easier to get away with duplicity when you have a willing and complicit media carrying your water. It is probably a blessing that the MSM keeps Republicans honest, too bad, they can’t do their job when the focus is on the Democrats.

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    8. hist_ed

      “That very sentence contradicts your premise, The Patriot Act was a congressional bill, passed by Congress and signed into law by Bush,”

      Triple fucking ditto. Anyone who can’t understand the difference . . . well.

      and the piece you cite has equal idiocy:
      “The trend has existed for decades, and President George W. Bush showed equal contempt for the separation of powers. However, it has accelerated at an alarming rate under Obama.”

      So either Bush showed equal contempt or the trend accelerated, not both.

      It is in a different sphere, but Harry Reid’s dismantling of the filibuster shows the same mindset: victory at all cost, short term gain, consequences be damned. There is a real chance of a GOP senate soon. Do you think the lame duck Reid will try to reverse his crap after the mid-terms? If not, how much do you think he will be screaming about minority rights next year.

      Where the hell are the courts? There are some cases, but the press doesn’t seem to thin kthat they are important.

      Bleh, bed time.

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    9. AlexInCT

      Come on Rich & hist_ed, you know Hal has a boner for Boosh and that he at a minimum wants to believe the bullshit from the left.

      Look dude, Boosh was not a good president, but he never, ever, did anything that resembles what is going on now. But compared to Obama, if you focus on the results of his policies and his adherence to the law, he is a great president, and if you can’t admit that the problem is yours, not ours. Oh, sure the left accused him of all this shit, but as I said then: that was nothing but projection by people that assume since they would do it, Boosh had to be doing it too. DO you think Boosh could have done something like this, to any law, his or from the other side, and gotten away with it? Remember Alberto Gonzales getting run out of office for some made up shit while Holder pisses all over the country and the legal system right now, and we hear nary a peep?

      What is going on right now is downright banana republic shit. I don’t think anyone short of Lincoln pissed on the constitution the way Obama and the left are doing, That people can’t see it or see equivalence with what happened under Boosh is frightening to me. Nothing good comes from this either way. If republicans win and then suddenly decide to do what the democrats have been doing, we are fucked. If they take over and reverse things back to what they were under Boosh, we are fucked the same way, because the democrats will sabotage shit until they can take power again and then, we are back where we started.

      We can keep joking about the imperial presidency and such, or we can admit that what is going on is downright unheard of before, a threat to our freedoms and nation, and that when Obama promised fundamental change, it was never for the better of anyone but the left’s power machine. Stop giving this guy a pass or out.

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