Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Presidential power in 2009?

Daniel Henninger asks some very good questions about what the leading Democratic contenders--Senators or former Senators all--think of executive power. We kinda know, as he notes, that HRC wouldn’t settle for a domestic presidency any less powerful than WJC’s. But what about foreign affairs? We don’t enjoy the luxury of spending a long time settling that question after January 20th. Folks interested in the presidency should spend some time defending the prerogatives of that office from their party colleagues and partisan supporters. If they are unwilling or unable to do so, they don’t deserve to hold the office.

Discussions - 7 Comments

Yes, good questions. But they are good questions for Republican candidates as well. It is not obvious to me whether President Bush has strengthened the office, or weakened it. In light of circumstances, the Republic needs both clarity and legitimacy on these matters.


You’re right. Everyone needs to answer these questions, though it seems to me that Giuliani and Romney at least have the advantage of having had executive experience and no complicity in the Democrat-led Congressional "assault" on executive power. McCain’s case is a little more complicated, but on foreign affairs, he’s been solid.

Yes, and I have been hearing for years from political scientists that modern Americans only elect governors to power, and have read convincing arguments why this is so. I supposed this was why Hillary claims to know what governance is, having stood by her husband’s side, which is an interesting version of "Stand By Your Man".

Who was it in the Clinton administration, was it Hillary, who said that now that the military was "their" military, whatever it was asked to do would be right? Obviously this is my partisan paraphrase, but it does seem to indicate how she, and other Democrats, see the "hard power" that Henninger writes about.

Is the election starting so early because GWB is seen as the lamest of lame ducks, or is the this long lead-up to the presidency going to be a permanent feature of our presidential politics?

Joe - Fair enough, but I’m saying a little more: A president is responsible for passing the institution along consistent with his view of foreign policy necessity. This requires a voice and a political touch to go with his resolve. The classic example is President Truman working with Arthur Vandenberg. Let us remember how unreconstructed the Republican Party was after the War.


Would it be fair to say that GWB’s principal Democratic interlocutor is/was Joe Lieberman? How has he been treated by his party?

Or if the issue is that GWB betrayed early Democratic support or acquiescence in his post-9/11 policy, how long did it take for most Democrats to regret their votes on Iraq? What could Bush have done to keep their support?

Joe - Good questions, all. I cannot defend Congressional Democrats, and do not want to try.

My point is that the president and, I fear, the rest of us are paying for the president’s loss of public support. (Democrats are trying to take advantage of that, and are over-reaching, as I bet they will find.) He lost it, in my opinion, by an overly partisan and overly secretive conduct of the GWOT. His treatment of Congress as an institution, even when Republicans were in control, was regrettable and is part of his problem now. Or, in seeking to strengthen the presidency, he has weakened his presidency.

Joe - I can see that two sentences of mine in #4 point in different directions: This requires a voice and a political touch to go with his resolve. The classic example is President Truman working with Arthur Vandenberg. In #6 above, I seemed to change the subject, or shift the ground of my criticism of the president.

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