Mr. Executive Power

The greatest crisis of American democracy is not getting your way.

The greatest crisis of American democracy is not getting your way.

And when a sluggish republic hinders progress, it's time to act. Just ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who advanced an astonishing argument the other day on the Senate floor: The president, explained Reid, is free to unilaterally craft immigration policy because we've tried to do that for years, and we can't because they won't let us.

Ah, they.

For those of you who have forgotten, in "The Federalist," Paper 51, Publius writes: "In a republic, all the power surrendered by the people is submitted to the administration of a single government; and the usurpations are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct and separate departments. ... Then again, if 'they don't let you,' well, feel free to disregard the previous 900,000 words."

Today's Democratic logic goes like this: If Congress is unable to pass progressive agenda items with a simple majority of legislators (and thankfully, that's the case), the vote of a single person will do just fine. President Obama is, after all, on his "We Can't Wait" tour. "We can't wait for Congress to do its job," Obama told supporters on a recent campaign stop. "So where they won't act, I will. We're going to look every single day to figure out what we can do without Congress."

That's the spirit!

One might forgive a little autocratic hyperbole in the heat of a campaign season, but Obama isn't joking. He can't wait. Only recently, he circumvented Congress on college loans and mortgages; he directed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act; through rulemaking, he empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to effectively institute legislation that Democrats could not pass; he involved the United States in military action in Libya (the right kind of warring, apparently) without congressional consent; he installed four recess appointments without a recess; and that's just for starters.

This week he couldn't wait again. Even if you agree substantively with Obama's decision to grant 800,000 young illegal immigrants a reprieve from deportation -- as I do -- having a president undo a perfectly legitimate legislative deadlock by simply ignoring the law is a precedent that should alarm everyone. So should Obama's invocation of executive privilege in the Fast and Furious gunrunning investigation regarding a document that he supposedly knew nothing about.

No, Obama isn't the first president to issue oodles of executive orders or expand and abuse the power of the presidency. Far from it. Yet, onlookers supposedly horrified by executive overreach a few years ago are doing a terrible job rationalizing it now.

A few months back, The New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal rationalized Obama's abuse of executive power by deploying an age-old excuse for abuse: "Context and intent make all the difference." No, they make no difference. That's why we have embedded constitutional safeguards, safeguards that should be in place even if abuses are sanctioned by New York Times editorial board members.

The left claims there is an unprecedented level of obstructionism in Washington (failing to note that perhaps there is an unprecedented level of terrible legislation in need of obstruction) that necessitates alternative methods. Hey, maybe some of us believe that "do nothing" Congresses are the most productive. At the very least, Americans should be more comfortable with obstructionism than with executive unilateralism no matter what the outcome.

David Harsanyi is a columnist and senior reporter at Human Events. Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.

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  • Tulpa the White||

    Harry Reid is little more than an unfunny clown at this point. Bobcat Goldthwaite has more gravitas.

  • Suki||

    At least Maobama has that autobiography to fall back on if this unitary executive gig doesn't work out.

  • fish||

    "We can't wait for Congress to do its job," Obama told supporters on a recent campaign stop. "So where they won't act, I will. We're going to look every single day to figure out what we can do without Congress."

    More red meat for the Free Shit Army!

  • The Rantin Arkansan||

    "Constitution? Bitch, please."

  • Ben the Duck||

    "What? That old thing -- ?!?"

    /Ezra Klein

  • Suki||

    Lowest spending president ever!

    /Ezra Klein

  • Mr. FIFY||

    I'm brain-damaged!

    /Ezra Klein

  • ||

    So when Obama loses he'll just issue an executive order granting him a second term? Why not? His shit-for-brains supporters will support it, like they have every other illegal, unethical, and corrupt thing he has done.

    There is nothing more eye-opening than debating an Obama synchphant, that's for sure. The crazy shit they geuninely believe is frightening.

  • ||

    How can you "debate" a cultist?

    I am admittedly slightly concerned about what might happen if he loses.

  • Tman||

    I'm just excited to watch what happens to the chosen one if he's shown the door.

    Navin Johnson: "Huh? I am *not* a bum. I'm a jerk. I once had wealth, power, and the love of a beautiful woman. Now I only have two things: my friends, and... uh... my thermos. Huh? My story? Okay. It was never easy for me. I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin' on the porch with my family, singin' and dancin' down in Mississippi... "

  • ||

    We should get him a thermos. Maybe a Cup 'o Pizza too.

    "Oh, this is the best pizza in a cup ever. This guy is unbelievable. He ran the old Cup 'o Pizza guy out of business. People come from all over to eat this."

  • ||

    Well most of them are probably pussies, so I think at worst we'll see them throw a temper tantrum and flame the internet with accusations that the evul korporatsuns and the Kocktopus stole the election with voter fraud and other such nonsense.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Not the SEIU/UAW types.

  • Rubber Nipple Salesman||

    I hope you're right. They'd love to see the country burn to the ground on the Republican's watch.

  • ||

    Violence is not the only concern. The tiny shred of self control and adherence to any kind of semblance of two-party rule goes out the window when TEAM BLUE loses. That's when you get crazy proposals from them, like when they wanted to do away with the electoral college after Gore lost. Most of the time they just can't pull it off, but they're pretty culted up at this point.

  • Rubber Nipple Salesman||

    I agree.I just see things like Soros setting the stage with his "Martial Law" and "Coming Crackdown" comments.I belive he means 2013,not 2012 as some have opined.

  • Rubber Nipple Salesman||

    "believe" and "2013 under a Republican president"...

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Glenn Beck, is that you with your nutcase Soros bullshit?

    You're as pathetic as the emo progressives whining about the Koch Bros.

  • Rubber Nipple Salesman||

    Hey, I'm fucking with your meal-ticket. Your comment is completely understandable from that standpoint. Just a guy doing his job.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Did Soros mention those phrases, shrike, or did he not?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Nice how you tried to distance yourself from the "emo progressives whining about the Koch Bros", though.

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    And never forget how Attorney General John Ashcroft was inflicted upon us:

    Recall that he was running for re-election to his US Senate seat, representing Missouri, against the popular Team BLUE governor of the State, who DIED during the campaign, too late for his name to be taken off the ballot and another candidate substituted under law. Rather than obey the law, Team BLUE encouraged their voters to vote for the dead guy anyway, and of course they did. Incumbent Ashcroft failed in his re-election bid by two percentage points.

    (concluded in reply post below)

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    (continued from post above)

    Now the Constitution ("that old thing?") clearly, unmistakably states that "No person shall be a Senator who ... shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen." Note the phrase "when elected." There is NO WAY the dead Governor could have been considered an "inhabitant" of Missouri on the night of his election, or for some time before. But the situation was treated as a case of the new (but still unsworn) Senator dying AFTER the election, which allegedly "allowed" the new Team BLUE Governor to appoint the widow to "fill out" his term. Ashcroft was royally screwed by one of the most brazen dirty tricks ever.

    John Ashcroft went home with his tail between his legs. But that left him free to become GW Bush's Attorney General, and then royally screw the rest of US for the next several years! Had Team BLUE played by the rules, Ashcroft would have remained 1 of 100. Instead, he became the President's key lieutenant in one of the most breathtaking assaults on the people's liberty that most of us alive today have ever witnessed. Now maybe W would have found someone else even better to pursue his program, had Ashcroft stayed in the Senate. But we'll never know, because Team BLUE couldn't let a little thing like the law get in their way.

  • Spaceno93||

    If you remember when Kerry lost, alot of them had to get to therapy for depression. It would be amusing if it wasn't so sad.

  • Suki||

    Watch out for his rabid right wing supporters in the New Black Panther party.

  • Sevo||

    Amazing that the SPLC manages to get upset about the guy.
    I sorta figured they'd pitch him as maybe a bit too....

  • DarrenM||

    So when Obama loses he'll just issue an executive order granting him a second term?

    I bet you think you're just being sarcastic.

  • Brutus||

    The New Math:

    0 = 1933 - EA

    or...

    Obama = 1933 A.D. - Enabling Act.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Enabling Act? No, he pretty much just enabled himself. Once you realize that Congress is so toothless and dysfunctional that you can do what you want, you don't need an enabling act, you just need to act.

  • Brutus||

    Exactly my point: At least the fucking nazis passed the EA. Obama simply seizes power.

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    Not just that Congress is so toothless and dysfunctional, but the public is also either committed to your program or too apathetic or distracted to oppose it.

  • Yuno Hoo||

    where they won't act, I will.

    "I'm Gumby, dammit!"

  • bigwheel66||

    Im wondering if obama has ever read the constitution. No need for congress with obama around. his job is to actually enforce the laws that congress makes

  • jason||

    I do not think there is crisis right now but we can take it to the future.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    No, Obama isn't the first president to issue oodles of executive orders or expand and abuse the power of the presidency.

    It's true that "Bush did it too" but the argument falls flat. As any first-grader used to be able to tell you, that doesn't justify Obama doing it. Obama was supposed to be different, remember?

    Are you Obama-bots actually proud to say that your Dear Leader is the same as Bush? That the new boss really is the same as the old boss?

  • Barack||

    What a dumb shit of a president.
    To think, at one point I was starting to like this piece of crap.

  • Major Johnson||

    This seems to be the "we're letting illegal aliens apply for the few jobs available to legal residents during a recession" act. Don't get me wrong, illegals are actually often preferable to citizens because they charge a decent rate and work their butts off where citizens will charge outrageous rates and spend their time picking boogers and complaining that they need higher wages and more benefits, or more likely just staying home to collect unemployment, but still...

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