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End of Iran Deal Underscores a Weakness of Obama's 'Pen and Phone' Presidency

If your "signature achievements" are done by executive power alone, they might as well be written in pencil.

CHINE NOUVELLE/SIPA/NewscomCHINE NOUVELLE/SIPA/NewscomSay what you will about Donald Trump pulling the United States out of the Iran deal. Personally, I wish the United States had stayed in. But this sort of zig-zag is exactly what happens when you end up governing with your pen and your phone, as Barack Obama did.

Faced with a recalcitrant, obstructionist Republican Congress that he helped bring to power two years into his presidency, Obama increasingly gave up on getting congressional approval for anything: military actions, immigration policy, trade policy, net neutrality, environmental regulations. Instead, as Damon Root wrote a few years back, Obama did exactly what he once had criticized his predecessor for and went full Andrew Jackson:

In December 2007 presidential candidate Barack Obama told The Boston Globe that if he won the 2008 election, he would enter the White House committed to rolling back the sort of overreaching executive power that had characterized the presidency of George W. Bush. "The President is not above the law," Obama insisted.

Once elected, however, President Obama began to sing a different sort of tune. "We're not just going to be waiting for legislation," Obama announced. "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 administrative actions."

Well, you live by the pen and you die by the pen, and so DACA, the Paris Accords, and the Iran deal (routinely described as "one of President Barack Obama's signature foreign policy achievements") are down the tubes.

If Obama had tried to negotiate the Iran deal as a treaty, rather than an agreement, he would have needed the Senate to sign off on it. Same thing with U.S. involvement in the Paris Accords and a bunch of other "signature achievements." He would almost have certainly gotten nowhere with a Republican opposition whose "top priority" was, according to "Cocaine Mitch" McConnell, making Obama "a one-term president." It would have taken extraordinary leadership, especially in the teeth of a recession and the wake of the one-party passage of Obamacare, to get much of anything done.

But what was it that Obama used to say? "Elections have consequences," and you've got to play with the cards you're dealt. It's not complicated: You can either do the hard work to build a consensus and pass lasting legislation or you can toss off victories that won't last very long. Now Trump, like Bush and Obama, is mostly opting for the latter. What is it with these baby-boomer presidents anyway? Not a single one could pass the marshmallow test.

Indeed, gridlock didn't stop the president and Congress from pulling together when they wanted to. As Veronique de Rugy and I wrote in 2012:

the ostensibly gridlocked Congress reauthorized the Export-Import Bank program that gives money to foreign companies to buy U.S. goods; extended sharply reduced rates for government-subsidized student loans; re-upped the Essential Air Service program that subsidizes airline service to rural communities; and voted against ending the 1705 loan-guarantee program that gave rise to green-tech boondoggles such as Solyndra and Abound. None of these were party-line votes—all enjoyed hearty support from both Democrats and Republicans.

Another instance of budding bipartisanship is the pork-laden farm bill that extends sugar subsidies, maintains crop subsidies and creates a "shallow-loss program" that effectively guarantees incomes for farmers at a time when that sector is doing historically well. The bill passed the Senate with 16 GOP votes. Though the House version of the bill is still being worked out, no one doubts it will not only pass, but largely resemble the Senate version.

My point in bringing up the relative ease with which Trump pulled America out of the Iran deal isn't (simply) to bash Obama. He's out of office, and Trump and the GOP own the state of the nation. It's to underscore the low-grade, slow-moving constitutional infection that has plagued the 21st century like Hep C. If Congress refuses to do its job, which is to write laws and give clear limits to the executive branch, all we have to look forward to is a series of four- or eight-year lurches in this direction and that as the presidency slides from Republican to Democrat and back again. This is no way to run a corner market, much less a country. But it won't stop until the group Mark Twain identified as America's only native criminal class starts to actually do its job.

Final point to the NeverTrumpers: Realize that everything The Donald does simply by pen and phone will be just as easily countermanded as Obama's own "signature achievements." If a president's signature ain't on a piece of actual legislation, it might as well be written in pencil.

UPDATED 12:30 P.M. ET: Reader Ankush Narula (follow him on Twitter) points me to "If the Iran deal had been a Senate-confirmed treaty, would Trump have been forced to stay in? Nope," a Washington Post article by Andrew Rudalevige. The Bowdoin College professor of government cites recent instances where presidents abrogated treaties without consulting the Senate, notes that it's not fully settled exactly how treaties might be broken, and writes:

It's surely possible that a treaty, in place of an executive agreement, would have wider support. Republicans would have had to vote to ratify it, and thus its abrogation might carry higher political costs. As I noted in 2015, "the difference between seeking a treaty and negotiating an executive agreement is, at base, a political question. So is the outcome of either." And as political scientists Glen Krutz and Jeffrey Peake argue in their book "Treaty Politics and the Rise of Executive Agreements,"executive agreements conducted in "truly unilateral fashion" without even tacit congressional cooperation will be "codified but essentially hollow."

Read the whole thing, which supports the idea that building consensus, which the Iran deal definitely lacked (even some Democrats voiced opposition back in 2015), would help keep agreements in force even if they have not been explicitly voted on as treaties.

Photo Credit: Credit: CHINE NOUVELLE/SIPA/Newscom

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  • Tony||

    Nobody was unaware of the impermanent nature of executive actions relative to Congressional law. Some people had hope that we wouldn't elect the lumpy embodiment of the primary Republican party concept of "Obama bad!" Turns out we didn't elect a president who cares about the well-being of the United States. That wasn't going to go well, whatever happened before.

  • MAGA my NAGGA||

    Tony, others might hate on you, but I totally understand why you're salty about being rejected. Hang in there.

  • mpercy||

    Didn't trump campaign on ending Obama's pen and phone policies like the paris accord, the ptp, the Iran desalination, and he flow of illegals, sanctuary cities, etc.?

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    As I recall he objected to the policies, not the way they were implemented. After all, as a CEO who worked in exactly that way he could see nothing wrong with it.

  • Tony||

    Yes he campaigned on a lot of extremely stupid policies. His moron voters can be forgiven for assuming he wasn't going to undermine the United States so swiftly, as the terms of the coercion he's subjected to weren't completely known at the time.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Tony does not want to put America first, which is why he finds Trump policies "extremely stupid".

    Trump is one of the best presidents in 70+ years.

  • Just Say'n||

    What the hell have you been smoking?

    The qualm with Gillespie's cocktail party column is that he blames Congress for not doing what the executive wants them to do. There was bipartisan opposition to approving the Iran deal (which is the only sound argument against staying in the deal) in the Senate. Congress doesn't exist to serve the executive's demands.

    Meanwhile you and Tony argue over whose king is better. Utter nonsense

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Trump ain't no king.

    Trump is just doing what most Americans want him to do. De-swamp the swamp as best he can. Congress has to do most of the draining of the swamp and refuse to.

  • BYODB||

    I wouldn't put much faith in Trump actually wanting to drain the swamp vs. he wants to replace the creatures in the swamp with other swamp creatures.

    His stance on things like trade pretty conclusively show that he's not necessarily a deregulator so much as a flavor of crony capitalist that recognizes that at least some regulations are actively hostile to his interests. That this makes him 'good' at all is...concerning to someone that actually supports across the board deregulation. That's sort of the Republican party in a nutshell though, even while they have more outliers than the Democrats do. (Notably I can't think of a single Democrat that's a deregulator, but I can think of at least a few Republicans.)

    I do think that the perfect can be the enemy of the good, though, and this very well could be such a case.

  • Frank White||

    I don't think he's really a crony capitalist. He uses (threats of) tariffs and regulations as a bludgeon to persuade other countries and make a better deal for the US. Yeah, I know; this is Reason. Any deal that doesn't blindly accept the price of the market no matter how it's manipulated by the other side is heresy.

  • The Iconoclast||

    ^ This. He spelled out his negotiating strategies in Art of the Deal, and he is following them. What's surprising is how many people are surprised.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    "His moron voters can be forgiven for assuming he wasn't going to undermine the United States so swiftly, as the terms of the coercion he's subjected to weren't completely known at the time."

    Excuse me, but I think you mean the moron Jill Stein voters, along with the Bernie Bros, who gave us the Trump, because they couldn't back Hillary Clinton.

    Let's assign blame where it belongs.

  • Ariki||

    "the Bernie Bros"
    Hey, if it's ain't full communist it ain't right!

  • I'm Here, for MOAR Hihn||

    Poor Gary Johnson, highest vote total of a major third party in history and not even good enough for you to blame for Trump winning.

    So Hillary huh?....fuck off statist

  • SimonP||

    You mean, all of the things he could do easily and unilaterally, without any kind of political savvy whatsoever?

    The answer would be - yes, yes it would seem that's what he campaigned on, though I'm not entirely sure he knew he was aiming for the low-hanging fruit.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Turns out we didn't elect a president who cares about the well-being of the United States.

    I warned you that would happen. You just laughed.

  • BigT||

    Signature achievement destroyed by a signature! LIVe by the pen (and phone), die by the pen(and phone)!

  • Tony||

    I don't know why this talking point is so prominent here. Trump is allegedly a sentient being, so can we judge his actions on their merits perhaps?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Great actions like Gorsuch, rolling back government, border wall and immigration reform, deporting illegals, standing up to foreign nations, potential peace in Korea, ending extremely stupid Iran deal, DeVos, repeal 2 EOs for every new EO, and much much more.

  • Tony||

    I believe we've established that you can recite Sean Hannity's bedtime chant. Care to express any original thoughts? Anything that's not pure partisan leg humping?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    You wanted Trump merits. You got them.

  • Tony||

    Those are only merits to a brain-dead partisan idiot. Neil Gorsuch isn't going to help you out in any way. You don't even know what you're talking about. You're just tallying points for Team Stupid.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Gorsuch is the last, best hope for preserving the Bill of Rights. Hopefully he can align with conservative justice against the gun grabbers, and the liberal justices on the 4th and 5th challenges.

  • BYODB||

    So, really, what you're saying is that you're shocked that anyone thinks differently than you. That's...surprisingly honest of you.

  • MJBinAL||

    Or to someone who likes those policies.

    That is at heart, your main issue. Trump is executing EXACTLY the policies he ran on and was elected to pursue. Despite all the "Trump is a liar" lines expressed everywhere, the main issue that you have with the Trump is that he is trying to keep those campaign promises.

    All the histrionics aside, you (and most progressives) are pissed at the policies he pursues, but it is actually your fellow citizens you distain. The truth is simple, your policies were championed by Bernie and Hillary and they lost. Those of what used to be called the "silent majority" prevailed and Trump was elected.

    In a significant way, Trump is proving to be MORE honest than the typical politician. He is actually trying to keep his promises.

  • SimonP||

    Trump is executing EXACTLY the policies he ran on and was elected to pursue.

    This is a bit of a... selective... reading of history. As I recall, Trump campaigned on a whole heck of a lot of things, sometimes he campaigned for something before he campaigned against it, other times he campaigned on something until he lost interest or it stopped grabbing headlines, etc. Cherry-picking the Iran deal as him fulfilling a campaign promise isn't exactly wrong - he did promise something like that, though not necessarily the way he's gone about it now - but it's a bit misleading.

    About the only thing he campaigned consistently against was brown people.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Who's Sean Hannity?

  • WoodChipperBob||

    If one is intending to judge his actions on their merits, there's a finite set of actions which one can judge, so it's not surprising if people wind up with the same lists. Everything on "Sean Hannity's bedtime chant," as you so cleverly call it, is something that Trump either has done, has claimed to have done, has been purported to have done, or said he was going to do. Different people will assess the same action differently, bur whether you think DeVos is good or bad, for example, her appointment is still an action on which the merits can be judged.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Tony, Hannity is right. The problem is that you are a communist traitor, and value evil things that hurt America. While the rest of us just want to live in a prosperous country where we are relatively safe and are largely left alone by government.

    We're good and you're evil. You worship evil things. Now go drink your Drano. That's one thing you can do to make things better.

  • Myshkin78||

    I'll give him credit for Gorsuch and Pai. Everything else from this administration has been a sad combination of bluster and bad ideas.

  • John||

    You mean like all of the deregulation? And the tax bill? Cutting taxes and regulations are never bad ideas son.

  • I'm Here, for MOAR Hihn||

    And hair. Terrible hair

  • SimonP||

    Great actions like Gorsuch

    Interesting how Trump gets credit for this, but not McConnell.

    rolling back government,

    Efficacy in this regard has been much exaggerated by the usual suspects.

    border wall and immigration reform,

    Neither of which has happened.

    deporting illegals,

    And "legals," as a labor shortage becomes more pressing.

    standing up to foreign nations,

    Like our longstanding allies and trading partners.

    potential peace in Korea,

    Yeah, don't count your chickens before they've hatched on this one. Kim doesn't need peace, and he may not even want it. He wants to break the Chinese blockade. He can do that by making Trump look like an unreliable baby who storms away from reasonable, multilateral negotiations. Which... uh...

    ending extremely stupid Iran deal,

    What's Plan B?

    DeVos,

    How does DeVos come up on this list?

    repeal 2 EOs for every new EO,

    That's certainly never been promised.

  • I'm Here, for MOAR Hihn||

    Yes Tony, but complaining about that here will get you no where. Reason, and even most libertarians I interact with, are cautiously fair in their assessment of Trump's performance. Case by case and issue by issue.

    Maybe you should talk to the rest of talking head media about how they should focus on the outcomes of his actions instead of kneejerk, hyperbolic rhetoric about him being a secret Nazi or Russian plant because he (clumsily) says things in a way that isn't at all intelligent sounding

  • BYODB||

    It seems like a lot of Democrats and leftists were satisfied with pyrrhic victories. Interesting. Is it possible for an entire political party to have a martyr complex? Lord knows the Republicans have been trying to prove it, but it's interesting that it's already the status quo for Democrats.

  • Just Say'n||

    "obstructionist Republican Congress"

    I guess you forgot that Chuck Schumer and half of the Democrats in the Senate also opposed the deal.

    Here's a crazy idea: Iran is not a threat to the US, so maybe we have no business being involved in any of this. Let the Saudis and Israelis deal with their own problem.

  • Just Say'n||

    "If Congress refuses to do its job, which is to write laws and give clear limits to the executive branch"

    Congress' "job" is to do what Congress wants. It doesn't answer to the executive. This is a Think Progress article. This is such a garbage take

  • I can't even||

    Thanks to the 17th Amendment, they don't answer to the states either.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    True. And on the other hand, it is not part of Congress' job to enact legislation just because public outcry and a self-actuating Executive want it to do so.

  • mpercy||

    Exactly. Consider DACA, which Obama said he had to implement because Congress would not do its job and pass the DREAM Act. But Congress took up the DREAM Act or substantially similar legislation something like 8 times in the decade before Obama did DACA, and rejected it each time. That's part of Congress doing its job.

    It's funny how Obama said he knew he didn't have the power to make up DACA (and the judicially rejected companion program for adults), repeatedly, in fact, but then he went ahead and did it anyway with his pen. And now the balls on progressives to sue Trump for ending the program and for the prog-friendly courts to let those suits not only continue but to issue injunctions...

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The judges should toss these lawsuits out poste-haste. If a president can create some decree without Congresses approval then a president can end that same decree.

    Suing to keep a presidential decree that the new president wants to end completely goes against our system of civil injury and standing.

  • mpercy||

    The Guardian

    A third federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to restart a program that shields young undocumented immigrants known as "Dreamers" from deportation and, in a first, to accept new applicants to the program.

    Writing that the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program was "virtually unexplained", the US district judge John Bates said on Tuesday he would stay the order for 90 days to allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) an opportunity to "better explain" its decision.

    "Daca's rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful," Bates wrote in his 60-page ruling, released on Tuesday evening.

    Two district court judges, in San Francisco and Brooklyn, previously ordered the Trump administration to spare Daca. Bates, however, went a step further and ordered that the administration accept new applications while litigation continues.

  • The Last American Hero||

    The judges ought to be tossed from the bench. Getting rid of an executive order is within the power of a presidency. Signing an unconstitutional one? Not so much.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    If congress won't impeach those judges, then perhaps the DoJ should look at possible criminal charges for them.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    If congress won't impeach those judges, then perhaps the DoJ should look at possible criminal charges for them.

    No need to impeach when you can just ignore them and do what you want anyway. And if the judge tries to call you in, don't legitimize the decision by showing up. And when he declares for the litigants for failure to appear, you go ahead and do it anyway.

    I'm not sure these judges are thinking clearly by acting as if they can legislate from the bench with no long-term consequences for the system of checks and balances. Jackson told them to fuck off, but he had a lot of popular support and what he felt was a clear mandate to do what he wanted. Trump doesn't have these things, and that could make things worse if he goes ahead and exercises his executive prerogative.

  • mpercy||

    It doesn't matter if it was arbitrary and capricious. The judge has no right to create a new immigration policy, or in this case, to further a defunct policy, from the bench.

    And yet, here it is.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    And this is another good reason to resurrect McCarthyism. That judge should be removed, disbarred, and on a blacklist.

  • ThomasD||

    +1

    Obama chose not to submit the agreement for ratification as a treaty. Obama was either an idiot who did not know how the US government operates, or he already knew that it would not pass the Senate.

    I'd say the limit was made clear.

  • I'm Here, for MOAR Hihn||

    I'm fairly certain the Constitution actually says that Congress has the power to write, debate and vote on laws, as well as have oversight of the Executive.

    Logically speaking, it can also choose to NOT do any of those things. It's not legally able to do anything else that I can think of.

    You quoted from the article, yet the quote said nothing about Congress doing the executives bidding, or even what doing what the executive requests. So what exactly do you have a hard on about?

  • ThomasD||

    "as well as have oversight of the Executive."

    Where in the Constitution are you seeing anything so broad? Certain acts of the Government require agreement by both POTUS and Congress, e.g. treaties require both the President's agreement, and Senate ratification, but that is not 'oversight.' Oversight ability would indicate that the branches are not co-equal.

    Perhaps you confuse Congressional oversight over the activities it funds - e.g. the Executive branch bureaucracy, but do not confuse that with oversight of the executive.

  • Sevo||

    "But this sort of zig-zag is exactly what happens when you end up governing with your pen and your phone, as Barack Obama did."

    Not sure there's equivalence here.
    Obo, by royal decree, put us into a treaty. Unconstitutionally.
    Trump just undid that bit of legerdemain.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Now don't exaggerate. The "treaty" that all the talking heads are crying about is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which could be described as a list of things to talk about if and when a binding document is constructed.

    Funny how most of the press refers to this as a "deal" or "agreement" when it really is neither.

  • ThomasD||

    An agreement to seek further agreement is still an agreement.

    If not much of a big deal, really.

  • I'm Here, for MOAR Hihn||

    Well, we just need to sit down and have a meeting about the meeting. Then have a LiveMeeting about the summit. Meet once more about the conference. Then there's an upcoming webinar that we'll have to have a conference call about beforehand so everyone gets on the same page. Otherwise, we'll have to have another listening session to hear everyone's feelings on having the next meeting

  • Ted123||

    obstructionist? Silly me. I thought Congress was a co equal branch of the federal government.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Even worse than that, they are supposed to represent the will of the people! Of all the nerve!

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Now Trump, like Bush and Obama, is mostly opting for the latter. What is it with these baby-boomer presidents anyway? Not a single one could pass the marshmallow test.

    You're expecting a generation that, generally speaking, is arguably more responsible for tilting the country towards its current hyper-partisan state than any other for the last 50 years, to produce leaders that are good at crafting consensus?

  • BigT||

    What is it with these baby-boomer presidents anyway?

    Last generation that learned cursive?

    Although millenials curse more.

  • Derp-o-Matic 6000||

    Fuckin' right!

  • Jerryskids||

    As some of us have been saying all along, the US did not make a deal with Iran, Obama made a deal with Iran. Senate approval binds the US, presidential signatures do not. Live by the pen, die by the pen.

    But of course, again as some of us said all along, Obama knew he wasn't going to get Senate approval but went ahead with the deal anyway, trusting that his minions in the press would spin any subsequent attempt to withdraw from the agreement as "the US going back on its word", and here we are.

  • ThomasD||

    Gillespie isn't so much a minion as a creature.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    It's unfair to blame any of this on Obama. He could not have foreseen that Russia would hack the election and install a puppet President. Hillary Clinton was supposed to win and continue Obama's Nobel Peace Prize winning legacy.

    #StillWithHer

  • BigT||

    Are you really into her?

    (Bill ain't)

  • Elias Fakaname||

    OBL is some over the top performance art.

  • Alcibiades||

    OT; Good job President Trump, Americans imprisoned by North Korea are coming home.

    Perhaps Obama just didn't have the time.
    Oh well...

  • John||

    Unless they were a deserter, Obama never really gave a fuck about Americans imprisoned abroad.

  • John||

    There are Americans imprisoned in Iran. And Obama never even asked for their release as part of the JCPOA. "Obama didn't give a fuck" should be written in stone above the entrance to his Presidential library.

  • Alcibiades||

    ... and directed an investigation into drug trafficking by Hezbollah to raise funds for their terrorist activities be stopped.

    Christ, Obama was a walking foreign policy nightmare for this nation.

  • ||

    Maybe we'll have another hurricane this summer and we can get Mike Meyers and Kanye to do a relief aid show together and Kanye can blurt out "Barack Obama doesn't care about American people!"

    The only thing left would be for Trump to tweet @BarackObama "You didn't build that!" live on Jimmy Kimmel and then drop the phone and I'd be pretty much done with all forms of entertainment.

  • Derp-o-Matic 6000||

    Any fair assessment of Trump would give him big points for prioritizing the release of Americans imprisoned overseas, not just this time but throughout his presidency.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Some of them were captured after Obama left office.

  • TxJack 112||

    Obama entered into agreements rather than negotiate treaties because he thought he was a king and smarter than everyone else. He thought he did not need Congress because they represent the people and the people are too stupid to know what is best for themselves and the country. Obama is a narcissistic, arrogant, elitist. The Iran deal was a disaster waiting to happen. It guaranteed a war after 2025 because it had no restrictions on developing ballistic missile technology or the miniaturization of a nuclear warhead needed for a ICBM. When the agreement ended, Iran would simply begin enriching uranium and within 1-3 years have nuclear weapons. This agreement is exactly what the world did with NK and we all know how that turned out. The major difference is Iran has vast oil reserves so it is not impoverished and has already demonstrated it has no problem using any weapons it has to attack it "enemies". Obama and Kerry supported this agreement because it was popular with Western Europeans whose opinions they cared far more about than the American public. If this were no true, they would not have hid so many details until after the agreement was signed.

  • John||

    If Congress refuses to do its job, which is to write laws and give clear limits to the executive branch, all we have to look forward to is a series of four- or eight-year lurches in this direction and that as the presidency slides from Republican to Democrat and back again. This is no way to run a corner market, much less a country. But it won't stop until the group Mark Twain identified as America's only native criminal class starts to actually do its job.

    Congress didn't refuse to do its job here. Obama refused to do his job of submitting a treaty to Congress because he refused to live with the answer he knew he was going to get. The Constitution is clear. The President signs treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate. If the Senate refuses to consent to a treaty, the treaty is dead. The Senate refused to consent to the JCPOA and that should have made the deal null and void. The only reason it continued is that Obama illegally refused to submit to the Senate and then live with the result.

  • gormadoc||

    Congress is absolutely refusing to do its job. Presidents have been embarking on actions that supposedly require its consent without that consent for half a century. Then they go ahead and support those actions without ever gaining that support. This just continues emboldening Presidents, giving us the situation we have now, in which a President could do virtually anything.

    Congress could have written laws that prevent resources from going to Presidential ventures without its consent, fulfilling both of Nick's ideas of their job.

  • John||

    Congress could have written laws that prevent resources from going to Presidential ventures without its consent, fulfilling both of Nick's ideas of their job.

    And those laws would not have meant anything unless they were signed by the President, which they would not have been. Thanks to the media forever blaming only the Republicans for any government shut down and the only way to pass a budget being by omnibus bill, there was no way for Congress to defund anything Obama did without shutting the entire government down and getting blamed for it.

    Regardless, it is the President's job to submit treaties to Congress. Obama didn't do that. That is him not doing his job not Congress.

  • gormadoc||

    Congress can override vetos and if the President simply refuses to sign but doesn't veto it still becomes law if Congress is still in session.

    Neither of them are or were doing their jobs assigned to them. Blame is not a zero-sum game.

  • ThomasD||

    I wouldn't call what Obama did illegal. The Senate didn't have to wait for him to submit the agreement. They could have taken it up all on their own.

    That they never did speaks volume.

  • John||

    I would argue that the Constitutional requirement for advice and consent of the Senate for treaties. necessarily implies that the President has a duty to submit treaties to Congress. The founders didn't recognize the existence of international agreements other than treaties. They wrote the treaties clause because they did not want the President obligating the United States without the consent of the Senate. To say the President isn't obligated to submit treaties to the Senate is to read that obligation out of the document.

  • ThomasD||

    The only thing certain from the Constitution is that treaties are not valid/binding until ratified by the Senate.

    But no mechanism is specified for obtaining such consent. They are co-equal branches. The Presdient is free to sign any agreement, and once formalized any such agreement is subject to Senate review and ratification.

    The President can (but is in no way required to) ask for confirmation. The Senate can choose to act on it's own, at Presidential request, or they can flat out ignore his request.

  • BYODB||

    So, what you're saying is that the Senate's ratification isn't a positive action at all. It's implied that it's ratified until they say otherwise?

    I think that's a pretty...interesting way of looking at it but maybe I'm misreading you.

  • ThomasD||

    No.

    What part of "until" was not clear?

  • ThomasD||

    The point being that a President can make any manner of agreement he wishes, but it only becomes binding treaty if and when the Senate makes it so.

  • John||

    Reason claims to be concerned about the Imperial Presidency and the US being entangled abroad and the interventions that inevitably come with that. They are either lying or more likely are too dim-witted to understand that allowing the President to enter into international agreements over the objection of the Senate makes the President more imperial and the US more entangled and interventionist. But thinking long-term and worrying about precedent instead of the short-term goal of getting whatever they want now isn't something reason seems to be able to do.

  • Alcibiades||

    Reason's stance on this issue totally, completely baffles me.

  • Jerryskids||

    It might help if you actually read the article. And stop listening to John, who seems to be angrily denouncing Reason for making the, um, exact argument that he's making.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Final point to the NeverTrumpers: Realize that everything The Donald does simply by pen and phone will be just as easily countermanded as Obama's own "signature achievements." If a president's signature ain't on a piece of actual legislation, it might as well be written in pencil.

    Nick added in a shout-out to let them know he's still up for parties.

    Trump is repealing former president's EOs not creating a bunch of new ones that can be repealed by future presidents. Repealing does not work that way. Future presidents would have to create new EOs which takes more time than repealing EOs. Its another reason why Trump is one the best presidents in 70+ years.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "Trump is repealing former president's EOs not creating a bunch of new ones that can be repealed by future presidents."

    He's less than half way through his first term, give him time.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    That could definitely happen.

    I just never heard of a president going into office looking to get rid of as many EOs as possible like Trump did.

    I think its clear that Trump has a very different mentality for what government should be doing and gov not expanding in leaps and bounds is one example.

  • gormadoc||

    Obama signed an average of 94.5 milliEO per day. Trump is at 142 milliEO per day.

    Obama: 276 for 8 years (34.5/year)
    Trump: 67 for 1.3 years (51.5/year)

    I don't imagine that he's repealing 16 EOs with his own per year, so the numbers don't really check out.

  • John||

    It might help if you would explain how we are wrong about the article. Try making a point rather than posting bullshit.

  • John||

    No Nick is not. Nick thinks the JCPOA is great and bizarrely the Senate didn't do its job when it refused to assent to it. Try understanding the article before commenting on it.

  • BYODB||

    This actually does seem accurate. Nick says he wishes we were still in it, and doesn't appear to realize that not acting is actually a choice in and of itself. Which is especially odd since this is at the very least a concept in economics which, supposedly, Libertarians are supposed to be better on.

    Choosing not to buy a product is itself an economic decision. So how is the Senate refusing to ratify a treaty not an explicit decision not to enter into a treaty with Iran?

    Nick doesn't explain himself on that point.

  • ||

    If that's what Nick thinks, then it's time to hang them up.

    On what grounds was this deal good?

    On the promise - wink - all actors would act in front of the cameras?

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    Let me help you out: Reason's stances become far easier to understand once you realize that most of the people who now work for Reason are unprincipled liars.

  • mpercy||

    And progressive value signalers.

  • ThomasD||

    Oh they have principles.

  • BYODB||

    They aren't unprincipled liars, they're by-and-large a bunch of kids without sufficient life experience to inform their politics and who majored in a topic that is explicitly valueless. They still feel their way through certain topics, rather than thinking through it critically.

    Also, and let us not forget this central truism; a Journalism degree is a garbage degree. Period. I don't give a shit if you got your journalism degree from State U, Columbia, or Harvard it's still a garbage degree for people who couldn't hack something real.

    It apparently hasn't dawned on journalists that their entire industry is able to be done by a slew of citizens without any formal education, but somehow those chickens haven't come home to roost. Why haven't they, you might ask? Why, it's simple. Billionaires are willing to pay top dollar for propagandists.

    There, I just saved anyone who was thinking about getting a journalism degree something like $50,000. You're welcome.

  • John||

    I think it is the result of the sea of cultural leftism that they swim in. The staff has an almost religious faith in agreements and peace processes.

  • Nardz||

    Yes.
    Because progressives believe fantasy is real.
    Reason is a progressive publication.
    Most of Reasons writers are progressive dbags.
    Intent is all that matters.
    That paragon of progressivism, Adolf Hitler, also considered himself to have good intentions.

  • John||

    Words have a magic effect on reality. If there is an agreement, there must be peace. We have an agreement right?

    That is actually what they think.

  • The Last American Hero||

    It works for Gun Free Zones, why wouldn't it work for international affairs?

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Both obviously provide magic force fields that keep us safe.

  • Ron||

    Faced with a recalcitrant, obstructionist Republican Congress

    You mean the same congress that Dictator Obama told to shut up and do as I say or I will put a gun to your head that congress, gee no wonder they weren't willing to work with him

  • Derp-o-Matic 6000||

    Yeah, Barry really wasn't good at working together with people who disagreed with him

  • Alcibiades||

    Yeah, Barry really wasn't good at working together with people who disagreed with him

    The concept of others not agreeing with his holiness is a heresy.
    It's ex cathedra all the way for God's representative on Earth, King Obama.

  • mpercy||

    Iran gets to keep the pallets full of billions in cash that Obama secretly ferried over there, though, right?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Pen and phone diplomacy never gets a refund.

  • BYODB||

    Yeah, this is a point that seems to be entirely lost on literally everyone in the media. As in, I have heard zero mentions of it at all.

    I guess no one is interested in what happens to close to two billion dollars handed over to a regime that thinks Chlorine Gas is the bee's knees.

    I guess it was no big deal when FDR was shipping guns to the allies either. There were definitely zero repercussions for that, right?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    In December 2007 presidential candidate Barack Obama told The Boston Globe that if he won the 2008 election, he would enter the White House committed to rolling back the sort of overreaching executive power that had characterized the presidency of George W. Bush. "The President is not above the law," Obama insisted.

    Another reason that Obama is one of the worst presidents in US history, down with LBJ, W. Bush, Bill Clinton, JFK, Wilson, and FDR.

  • ||

    LBJ, W. Bush, Bill Clinton, JFK, Wilson, and FDR

    Bush *and* Clinton but no Nixon?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Nixon should be included on that list of bad presidents. Andrew Johnson too. The list was not an exhaustive count of all bad presidents.

  • BYODB||

    You and I both know that you might as well use shorthand and say 'at least everyone since Wilson was shit'.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    I wish the American people would reconsider the idea that the President is supposed to be some sort of god who magically gives them everything they want. I wish in vain.

  • Just Say'n||

    Gillespie clearly doesn't agree with that sentiment. Congress is a mere rubber stamp for the executive according to his article and it isn't "doing its job"

  • John||

    I would love to hear Nick explain how Congress telling the President "No" is Congress not doing its job. It has to be the strangest argument reason has ever made.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Especially since this is politics. No doesn't necessarily mean no in politics. It may also mean not at this time, not under these circumstances, or not without these additional provisions. Then the job of negotiation and horse trading begins, and you get a compromise that is less than ideal but that everyone can live with. You'd think a Community Organizer would be better at bringing people together.

  • DesigNate||

    He was probably a shitty Community Organizer too.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Why would you think that? 'Community Organizer' is all about finding, and creating, divisions in a community, then exploiting the hell out of the chosen group(s) to suppress the out-group(s), while skimming money, power, and prestige off the ebb and flow of the never-ending conflicts.
    Without divisions, there's no reason to organize beyond the self-organizing community that already exists, but offers no leverage to slavers and other parasites.

  • BigT||

    Obama was the penultimate Commie Organizer!

  • Shirley Knott||

    As if.
    Just one more in an ongoing shit-stream of 'people' so concerned for the good of others that enslaving those others is perfectly okay. "We're convinced they're better off, how dare they think differently? False consciousness!"

    There's no end in sight, so BO is hardly the penultimate.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Obama's rise to power is a case study in why McCarthyism is so critical to saving America. If Obamacare had been on a blacklist, where a subversive like him belongs, his political career would never have gotten off the ground. How much better off would Americs be now without Obama in power?

    A lot of others too. Most democrats, and some really awful republicans would be marginalized and unable to get anywhere. As it should be.

  • ThomasD||

    Congress didn't say "no." They politely stayed silent. Obama didn't have the balls to ask, because he knew what the answer would be.

  • Derp-o-Matic 6000||

    It would have taken extraordinary leadership, especially in the teeth of a recession and the wake of the one-party passage of Obamacare, to get much of anything done.

    Hunh...it almost seems as though the Constitution put certain checks into place as a way to ensure that only policies with broad support are implemented into law. Imagine that!

  • damikesc||

    As was pointed out, the only legacy of Obama's 8 years is, well, Trump's term in office. Everything else has effectively died.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    No, Obama's did untold damage in America, and around the globe. He should be tried for treason.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    In all fairness, there's a reason another post on today's Hit and Run starts with an example of Chinese censorship instead of an example of Iranian censorship.

  • ThomasD||

    " Reader Ankush Narula points me to..." Hey look, squirrel!

    This place is sad and getting sadder by the minute.

    Lets not talk about the pathetic reality of Obama's 'legacy,' lets talk about what an evil usurper Trump might have been had this actually been a treaty.

  • libertynugget||

    "I'm an Executive Order, and I pretty much just happen..."

  • ThomasD||

    Nick:

    Our former narcissist-in-chief thought it important that he get an agreement with Iran. Sadly for you he did not think it nearly so important that the United States get a treaty with Iran, or he would have done things differently. But he didn't so the current narcissist-in -chief did what he did.

    This is nobody's fault but Obama's

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Ouch, North Korean Detainees returning to the US.

    Quit rattling sabers at Korea, don't antagonize them!

  • buybuydandavis||

    Who's got the pen and the phone now?

  • skunkman||

    Nick, one of the best Reason articles in months. You are exactly correct and for the right reasons. I think a lot on both sides is stupid. While I'm not going to stand up for Donald, I will say that I'm sick of the outrage from his opponents on this Iran issue. The outrage is not about a belief that the original deal was a good idea and this is bad, it is about distain for Trump over concern for the Country. Then there is the opposition to anything at all that could appear to be pro-Israel. I have no strong feelings about what the right choice is for a deal with Iran, but I do have strong feelings that there is increase numbers on the left that hate: capitalism, liberty and America in general.

  • JFree||

    If Obama had tried to negotiate the Iran deal as a treaty, rather than an agreement, he would have needed the Senate to sign off on it.

    This doesn't make a bit of sense. The Iran deal is an ENFORCEMENT measure of the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty. As were the sanctions before (which were about Iran's violations of its obligations as a signatory). Which was signed by us in 1968 and formally ratified by the Senate in 1970.

  • Brian||

    Why does Donald Trump's signature look like his name is "Deale Dessergh"?

  • Eidde||

    He spent a few months in medical school, just enough to learn how to develop an incomprehensible signature.

  • Eidde||

    If any of the Volokh people are monitoring this: Can the President repudiate any treaty he doesn't like, or does he need a legal reason like the other party is already violating it, or that he's using a denunciation clause in the treaty itself?

  • jaastark||

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  • RovingGrokster||

    I disagree in one key matter regarding the ephemeral nature of executive orders.
    Such orders are supposed to be for the express purpose of "faithfully executing the laws."
    Obama created new laws with his pen and phone, including an attempt to rewrite labor law by stacking the NLRB with non-confirmed staff.
    Trump and his people are merely trying to undo some of these non-laws, and regulations issued by bureaucrats beyond their authority. As you point out: Iran 'deal' was not a treaty, was littered with side agreements, and was unable to pass the Senate except by the subterfuge of turning the 67 vote approval into a 51 vote disapproval - IE 49 votes to pass. It was not worth the paper it, or Barry's signature were printed on. The Paris accords, likewise - a loose agreement by rich western nations to impoverish their people and spread the wealth around without actually tackling the non-problem of the ever-changing climate.
    The bigger problem is when the courts silently allowed Obama and his people to create these non-laws and workarounds of existing law, but now fiercely declare that Trump cannot undo them. DACA was the deliberate breaking of existing law, therefore faithfully executing the law requires that it be terminated, with extreme prejudice.
    I completely agree that the crooks in congress have abdicated their duties, and have been doing so increasingly since the 1930s, with the recent rot beginning in earnest in the 1960s.

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