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Monday, October 26, 2009


obama maintains expanded presidential powers

though the behavior of the administration has been clear for some time now, glenn greenwald in salon comments on the sharpest attack to date on the obama administration by the new york times.

my question: why did anyone think that a democratic president, any more than a republican president, would be inclined to diminish the power of his (or her) office? was that ever a serious consideration? who here wishfully cast obama as cincinnatus?

the sensible hope one might have had last year around this time for the obama administration and obama himself was that he might have at least slowed the relentless expansion of presidential authority which so thoroughly undermine the principle of divided powers as enshrined in the constitution -- but even this was but a hope, best founded in the notion that it would have been very hard to accelerate that expansion from the pace set by the preceding bush administration. the harder underlying truth, however, is that the era of divided powers is rapidly passing from the american political landscape, and that we are instead continuing a multidecadal transit into a post-constitutional model where the legislative branch, though it may retain the trappings of power, is increasingly a rubber stamp to be manipulated by the executive in order to give the appearance of democratic process to an imperial power structure. barring a successful revolt on the part of a divided, obsequious, self-interested, rent-seeking and typically incompetent legislative branch, this trend figures to propagate indefinitely -- and, should economic conditions deteriorate, perhaps even intensify with frightening speed.

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It was an error to combine the roles of Prime Minister and Constitutional Monarch in the same office. It's remarkable that it's taken a couple of centuries for the flaw to become so flagrant. Unless you think it started with Andrew jackson.

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never quite sure where you're going when you reference the un-constitutionality of various policies.

making the argument that a government policy is unconstitutional is typically a very difficult thing, even for the NYT editorial pagers.

That is not to say that it is "right" as a normal non-political wonk would interpret the word. It is simply that over the years the consitutution (appears at least) to have been interpreted governmental powers very broadly (i.e. the commerce clause, the delegation principle, general welfare clause, supremacy clause...) yet interpreted rather narrowly references to due process or equal protection (usually depending on the needs of the federal government).

Scrutiny over questions of the last two can vary widely depending on whether the policies which may conflict with strict interpretation serve a vested government interest. But at that point it begins to look circular rather than a formula for a system of governance based on any higher principles (i.e. does it serve legitimate government interests to implement policies which conflict with laws that limit government power?).

we appear to have our assumptions rather backward it seems. Rather than presume that any old garbage can be thrown into that elegant constitutional equation and the right results will be shat out the other side, perhaps it is exactly the opposite. It doesn't matter what is thrown in anymore, an autarky blooms.

Left or right... it makes no difference since both have little interest in remitting any acquired power back to the people.

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I'm reminded of the comment of one wag a few years ago, commenting on the delay in Iraq's formation of a new constitution. "Why don't we just give them ours, we don't use it anymore". It is so painfully obvious how we have lost our way as a nation. It is particularly painful when viewed from the perspective of the refreshing miracle of what it represented at the time of its creation.

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