the imperial presidency (again)


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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23 Responses

  1. Avatar paul h. says:

    Do more posts like this.Report

  2. Avatar Alex says:

    People always complain that the Senate filibuster is the worst piece of U.S. legislative minutae ever invented, and proves time and time again to be a wooden shoe thrown in the machine of a successful Democracy.
    I humbly submit that the Presidential pattern of laughing off the War Powers Act has proven much, much worse, as it enables the Executive branch to essentially deploy the entire United States military into a conflict of the President’s choosing. Once successfully entrenched in aforementioned conflict…only then does the President have to inform Congress of that activity.
    Which is harder on Democracy? Endless debates or a single individual capable of deploying the largest, most heavily armed, and most expensive military in the history of humanity?
    Further, to me it appears that when Congress actually used the legislative language of the 2002 Iraq Resolution to require the President to prove just cause for military action (for once enforcing the rules of the WPA), the President then authorized torture to try to prove the al-Qaeda – Iraq connection so the Iraq War wouldn’t be illegal. Double Whammy!Report

  3. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Thanks, Paul. But what do you mean by “like this” exactly?

    Alex, it’s tricky. I was thinking perhaps we should lock the Senate away on an island while in session, away from media and special interests, and let them hash it out Old School.Report

  4. Avatar Alex says:

    There are islands left that don’t have special interests?Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I worry that the reason Obama turned around has more to do with stuff that the CIA said that they would release if he released those photos.

    In response to the leaks about how Bush authorized the torture, it came out that the Congress knew all about it… and did nothing.

    What would come out if Obama released those photos? A release that Obama was briefed, personally, in 2005?Report

  6. Avatar greginak says:

    Obama wasn’t on any committee’s or in a leadership position to suggest he was likely to have been briefed on torture.

    Agreed, the apparent ability of president’s to start wars whenever they want has indeed been a bad thing. Of course the majority of the American people don’t seem to mind which is unfortunate.Report

  7. Avatar EngineerScotty says:

    I’ve an interesting question on Congressional culpability for any role in torture. Certainly, certain members of both houses have been briefed previously on what was going on, including Speaker Pelosi (who was in the opposition at the time); the current laws bind any congresspersons receiving such briefings to silence. As many have noted, there isn’t any mechanism for a member of congress to contest the classification of material which may be inappropriately classified (for reasons of political expedience rather than containing genuine secrets, for instance).

    Some have suggested that Obama not going full out against torture (releasing the photos, etc) is because Democrats might be damaged by revelations that they were “in the loop”.
    I would think, though, that any member of Congress would be immunized from any prosecution (at least by the US) by the Constitution’s speech or debate clause. Is that not the case?Report

  8. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Good point, Scotty. I’m not sure, but that seems like at least a catch 22….Report

  9. Avatar Chris Dierkes says:

    I agree that the real issue behind this issue is that Congress has vacated the building. There job is to set a legislative frame for the Long War/War on Terror/Overseas Contingency Operations. Otherwise you’ll just have Executives running around trying to do whatever they can and occasionally getting smacked down by SCOTUS. By the courts can’t legislate (nor should they). It’s a real ‘effin mess.Report

  10. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Mess indeed, Chris. Big one.Report

  11. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Did Obama promise to limit the powers of the Presidency in the campaign? Was he pressed to? I don’t know that we’re getting anything we didn’t know we were electing at the time.Report

  12. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    Mr. Kain,
    Well, I enjoyed this. Isn’t politics fascinating? You see ‘O’ as a gentleman with ‘good’ intentions and I see him as a dedicated afro-centrist Marxist. Oh well. Yet we both agree re: the unfortunate and un-Constitutional power of the executive.
    So we have a ‘leftist’ (you) and a ‘rightist’ (me) and we both want, what? A republic? hmmmmm! Is there common ground here?Report

  13. Avatar Juma Wood says:

    A dedicated afro-centrist Marxist? Christ, hard to follow that up.

    You put important words to something gnawing at me (E.D., not the Glenn Beck fan above). Ever the idealist with a rare ability to gain consistent traction with his idealism, Obama seems to be trying to construct a government only he could operate. Or at least the idealized version of him (leaving open the possibility that he is indeed a dedicated afro-centrist Marxist with a hidden agenda to set up concentration camps for gun owners and champions of freedom everwhere, just to cover my hide).

    Divisions of power are built in because we are indeed made from crooked timber, and no time soon will potential Nero’s be eradicated from the equation. It is foolhardy to assume the future of the executive will house presidents of increasing moral clarity and ethical goodness.Report

  14. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Michael – true, but that’s not really my concern. My concern is what comes next, or rather whom.

    Bob – a strong presidency is indeed bad for all sides of the political spectrum, though what’s to be done is beyond me.

    Juma – exactly.Report

  15. Avatar Cascadian says:

    “Divisions of power are built in because we are indeed made from crooked timber”

    The problem is that we haven’t had substantial division of power for too long. Separation of powers is clearly not sufficient.Report

  16. Avatar greginak says:

    Part of the problem with the presidency, aside from acid trip conspiracy theories, is that to many people have come to see the pres. as a surrogate daddy and moral guide. So they allow and want him, or her eventually, to be powerful so he can protect and guide us. This is instead of the pres being a job, we hire somebody to do for a few years.Report

  17. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    What’s to be done, apparently, is to make a big show of refusing to vote for a presidential candidate that will not promise to voluntarily give up large portions of the accrued power of his office. That is, if you see the presidency itself as the problem. Alternatively, if you think this is a case ofr checks and balances, then you need to get out and advocate for Senators and Representatives that will promise to reign in the executive. But then you have to admit that the problem lies in that branch, not the Executive. One thing the founders did NOT envision was a voluntarily self-limiting Executive.Report

  18. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Well it’s tricky, Michael. A lot of the presidential candidates who do run on that platform also run on a platform of limiting government in ways that I find too drastic. But I have yet to see someone run on the platform with a positive message about government itself, and a negative message about the excesses of the executive. And you may be right – it may just be the spineless congress that is at fault. They have, time and again, authorized this power.Report

  19. Avatar Cascadian says:

    “One thing the founders did NOT envision was a voluntarily self-limiting Executive.”
    Nor do I think they envisioned a voluntarily self-limiting Federal Government. Separation of powers (the three branches) isn’t sufficient. The legislative and judicial can check the executive but they can’t check the Federal government. They are the federal government and are as likely to diminish the power as a whole as they are to diminish their little corner of it. The only check on Federal Government is the division of powers (State or individual vs Federal).Report

  20. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    If something is important enough, it becomes the single issue on which you vote. If not, it doesn’t.Report

  21. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I was kind of hoping that Clinton’s impeachment would be followed by a couple of decades of every president being impeached for *SOMETHING*.

    You’d think that the Dems might have been able to find something from 2001-2009…

    Ah, well. Not meant to be.Report