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Thursday, January 29, 2009

President Obama and Executive Power

For about the last seven years, Democrats had bemoaned former President Bush's use of executive power.

From shielding energy policy deliberations to setting up military tribunals without court involvement, Bush, with Cheney's encouragement, has taken what scholars call a more expansive view of his role than any commander in chief in decades. With few exceptions, Congress and the courts have largely stayed out of the way, deferential to the argument that a president needs free rein, especially in wartime.

In fact, President Obama has been quick to criticize executive power, at least as it was used by President Bush.

"I think it’s going to take some time, and our legal teams are working in consultation with our national security apparatus as we speak to help design exactly what we need to do," Obama said on ABC’s ‘This Week’. "But I don’t want to be ambiguous about this. We are going to close Guantanamo, and we are going to make sure that the procedures we set up are ones that abide by our Constitution."

Of course, when it comes to his own administration, President Obama has certainly taken his own expansive use of executive power. Here is how President Obama views the cabinet system created by the Framers of the Constitution.

But Obama appears willing to take that chance. Aides say he believes the Cabinet structure is outdated because it doesn’t recognize that problems like global warming sprawl across several agencies, often requiring a sort of uber-Cabinet member – a czar – to confront them.

As such, instead of using the "outdated" structure of Cabinet appointees, President Obama has instead appointed all sorts of Czars, advisors, and envoys. The latest is the appointment of a WMD Czar. It is rather convenient that President Obama finds the Cabinet structure outdated. That's because czars, advisors, and envoys need not get Senate approval. They have no bureaucratic structure. Most of all, they are only answerable to the President himself. In fact, all these czars, envoys, and advisors have been created by President Obama out of whole cloth. They will do whatever he wants them to do.

Now, it's true that Cabinet Secretaries are also ultimately answerable to the President. Unlike Czars, Envoys and advisors, they have a bureaucratic structure that they use to implement policy. Envoys, Czars, and advisors have no such problem. They are also not answerable to the sort of Congressional oversight that a traditional Secretary would. They can do whatever they want. Furthermore, their only job is whatever the President asks of them.

By creating a structure for the White House that consolidates power outside of the Cabinet structure, President Obama also consolidates power in the hands of a few that are answerable only to him. By doing so, he also expands his own executive power. It seems that the expansion of Executive power is only a bad thing when you are out of power.


Anonymous said...

no, it's only a bad thing when you have proven that you are incompetent, evil, or both.

mike volpe said...

That is a very dumb and revealing statement. First, President Bush didn't prove to be either. SEcond, a concept such as executive power doesn't work like that. You can't say that one President has too much when they are of the opposite party and then as soon as you get in the White House then suddenly you consolidate all this power. Nonsense.

That your defense is so lame and irrelevant shows that you can't argue the merits. This is not only totally hypocritical of President Obama but it will soon enough cost him great political harm.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, it may be fun to watch the power struggle between the Czars and the Cabinet members. What authority will the Czars have? Any? How will different opinions be presented? Will the Czars sit in on cabinet meetings? Who will ultimately win Obama's support when there are differences?

We should also expect many leaks coming out of both sides shortly. Can you imagine Mrs. Clinton, the Secretary of Leaks, sharing any power?

Again, it should be fun.


Tony said...

"Nearly all man can stand adversity. If you want to test a man's character, give him power" - Abraham Lincoln