The presidency has been lurching toward elected dictator-ism ever since Harry Truman took us down the path of our first undeclared war in the guise of a “police action.”
Lyndon Johnson put the cherry on top with the not only undeclared war of Vietnam, but by lying to both Congress and the American people about the cause of that war. Since then, presidents very rarely consult Congress before they take this nation to war. They just more or less get up one fine morning and decide that, hey, we’ve been at peace for, say, 30 or 40 minutes, and it’s time to gin up another war.
Sad to say, the war-making dictatorship which American presidents have taken onto themselves is truly nothing compared to the way they have gradually set aside the lawmaking powers of Congress.
That’s how we got President Obama’s very excellent HHS Mandate and its attack on (read that destruction of) religious freedom.
Each president, every single one of them without regard to political party or theory of government, has advanced the presidency into new elected dictator territory.
Now, President Obama has called a press conference to announce that he no longer needs Congress to enact laws at all. He has, he tells us, “a pen and a phone” and that’s all he needs to de facto enact gun control, immigration reform and God only knows what else.
Congress could, if it got its collective head out of endless and useless sniping and fighting with itself, assert its rightful authority and take back these powers from the Prez. After all, presidents didn’t just reach out and snatch power away from Congress against Congress’ will. Congress gave it to them.
Presidential fiat is a direct consequence of the utter and complete will-less-ness of Congress. I think that members of Congress are secretly glad when the President acts in their stead. They’re glad, because a president running amuck and making law with his mighty pen removes the necessity of taking the hard votes off their shoulders. While the president does their job of lawmaking they are free to go to receptions, raise money for their outlandishly expensive campaigns and take pot shots at members of the opposite party in an attempt to achieve the only thing that matters to them: Control of one House of Congress or the other for their political party.
I keep paraphrasing Lily Tomlin when I write about this stuff. I can’t help doing it. It just fits. So let me say it again.
I try to be cynical about American politics, but I can’t keep up.
The President of the United States made the bold announcement that he’s all through waiting for Congress to pass legislation and he is anointing himself both Congress and President in one mighty, pen-wielding man.
Do you remember the 1950s movie The Ten Commandments? It’s was good movie stuff when Yul Brynner, who played Ramses, gazed off with that incredible screen presence of his and intoned in that resonating Yul Brynner voice, “So let it be written. So let it be done.”
That was walloping great theater.
However, when a president of the United States starts channeling his inner Ramses and doing essentially the same thing, it’s not theater. It is an overstepping and trammeling of the Constitutional separation of powers that has helped keep Americans free these past 200 plus years.
President Obama didn’t start this process of elected dictators sitting in the White House, and sadly, I don’t think he’s going to be the end of it. So long as Congress only cares about getting re-elected and making sure that their political party either takes or holds power, the presidency will continue to become more imperial.
“I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone,” the man said.
Who knew that’s all it took.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he would not wait for Congress to pass legislation to advance his policy priorities this year and said he was “getting close” to finishing a review of U.S. surveillance practices – to be unveiled on Friday.
Obama, speaking to reporters during a cabinet meeting at the White House, foreshadowed his upcoming State of the Union address and what appeared to be a new messaging strategy by emphasizing his ability to take executive actions without approval from lawmakers.
“We are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help that they need,” he said.
“I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone. And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions … and I’ve got a phone that allows me to convene Americans from every walk of life,” he said.