Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Presidency

Now they tell us . . .

Now that we again have a Democrat in the White House, Lefty intellectuals are finally admitting that President Bush did not do anything out of the ordinary. Many have noted that President Obama is doing many of the same things as his predecessor.  Today's NY Times, for example, notes that President Obama feels free to disregard laws that he thinks are unconstitutional limitations on the President's power.  In particular:

The Justice Department has declared that President Obama can disregard a law forbidding State Department officials from attending United Nations meetings led by representatives of nations considered to be sponsors of terrorism.

There are powers that clearly are subject to legislation, and there are powers that clearly belong to the executive on his own.  And then there are powers about which there is argument between the two branches.  In this last case, both branches often push their claim until one of them blinks. Old story.

Meanwhile, Garry Wills reminds us that the modern chief executive wields extraordinary powers, which Bush did not invent.

But the momentum of accumulating powers in the executive is not easily reversed, checked, or even slowed. It was not created by the Bush administration. The whole history of America since World War II caused an inertial transfer of power toward the executive branch. . . . Sixty-eight straight years of war emergency powers (1941-2009) have made the abnormal normal, and constitutional diminishment the settled order.

Some of the unhappiness we have seen in our politics grows from a frustration with the modern state.  During the Bush Presidency, many found it convenient to blame all that on Bush.  Now that Obama is President perhaps we'll start to see a more reasonable discussion about the nature and purpose of executive power and of the modern American state. (H/t Commentary's Contentions).

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