Sunday, December 23, 2007

Executive Power Takeover

If I have any political philosophy it is balance of powers. The founding fathers recognized how power corrupts and that the only cure for that was to create a check and balance system of government.

Bush and Cheney have been tearing that principle, and the Constitution, to shreds. Part of this is a revival of the Nixon doctrine that the president is above the law. That is the anti-thesis of what the Constitution, and America, means.

The Boston Globe asked how all the presidential candidates view executive powers.
Those that did not answer the questions may keep or expand upon the Bush and Cheney power grab. Even some of the Republicans that did respond, like Romney, generally supported the Bush/Cheney new executive powers.

Worst candidates

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani - did not answer, greatly expanded New York mayor's powers.
The Giuliani campaign instead provided a general statement by its top legal adviser, former Bush administration solicitor general Ted Olson. He said that a president "must be free to defend the nation," but provided no specific details about what limits, if any, Giuliani believes he would have to obey as president - in national security or otherwise.
Mitt Romney -
Of the nine candidates who answered, Romney expressed the most positive view of Bush's approach to presidential power.

"The Bush administration has kept the American people safe since 9/11," Romney said. "The administration's strong view on executive power may well have contributed to that fact."
Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee, did not answer and based on their campaigns so far might be considered supportive of strong executive power. Huckabee probably less so.

Edwards, Clinton and Obama gave limited support for some controversial elements of executive power.

Ron Paul is a strict constitutionalist and opposes what he sees as an over reach. McCain opposes some or most of the Bush/Cheney doctrine.
McCain and Paul suggested that it would be unconstitutional for Congress to "micromanage" wars by capping the number of troops that the president may deploy to a particular nation, but most Democrats said Congress has the authority to do so.

Among the Democrats, only former North Carolina senator John Edwards refused to say that he would be bound to obey a law limiting troop deployments, instead saying, "I do not envision this scenario arising when I am president."

The troop deployment question was just one of several in which both Edwards and Romney declined to define the limits of presidential power. Edwards criticized Bush's "abuses," but did not categorically rule out invoking the same expansive theories of executive power in other circumstances.

But the other two leading Democrats - Clinton, a New York senator, and Obama - were both more definitive. Along with Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, and Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Clinton and Obama endorsed a more restrained approach to executive power than Bush.
I find Romney and Giuliani totally unacceptable, Thompson leaning that way, Huckabee unknown, McCain and the leading Democrats acceptable, and Ron Paul and the minor Democratic candidates ideal.

Charlie Savage
, the reporter for this article, is the one who brought Bush's use of executive signing statements to the attention of the rest of the main stream media. He has become an expert on the reinterpretations of executive power going on and has a new book. The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy.

Daily Kos has a book review.
These twin pressures of overreaching executive claims and the seeding of the federal government agencies with ideologues and right-wing loyalists are going to present a challenge to the next president. The purifying of the professional civil service establishment is going to be difficult to achieve without cries of "political retribution" ringing far and wide; even more improbable to imagine is a president willing to shuck the strengthened powers Bush has seized for the office.

Savage’s book is important in this regard: becoming familiar with the details of how aberrant this administration has become is surely the first step in rectifying the unconstitutional overreach. It also serves as a superb introduction for citizens only vaguely aware of what’s at stake in the executive privilege realm and what that means for the permanent loss of our liberties. As the author notes, it’s all about precedent, and that’s what we need to fight the most.

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