Nice Plan Mr. President…Sure Hope It Lasts

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Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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5 Responses

  1. Avatar E.D. Kain
    Ignored
    says:

    Fantastic, Chris. This is sort of what I was getting at in my I, Claudius piece. It’s not so much Obama that I worry over, but whoever comes next. Then again, we need a strong executive to get us out of this mess we’re in right? Then we can carve back some of those powers – unless of course some other crisis should come about – but honestly, what’s the likelihood of that?Report

  2. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    his actions continue to embed the poisonous precedent that the determination of policy on this issue is subject to the whim of The Executive–each succeeding Executive that is. It is not permanent enough and invests far too much power in one individual.

    We need a (yes I’m going to say it) bipartisan consensus legal framework set by Congress that will cover over the rule of both parties in the Executive (and Congress for that matter) throughout this era of geopolitics.

    Unlike I’m drastically misreading it, this speech called on Congress to pass some laws helping Obama deal with that difficult “Fifth Category.” The President will always continue to ask, and press, the Congress to do the things he wants it to. That’s how the system was set up. So yeah, it really is all about what the Congress does.

    The big difference between Obama and Bush in this case is that Obama is asking Congress in effect to tell him what to do with purportedly dangerous but unconvictable detainees, though he’ll certainly have some thoughts about it. But he can’t dictate them. Bush, on the other hand, simply did what he wanted, bypassing, at least initially until public awareness caught up to him somewhat, all reference to the legislature or the judiciary.

    So yeah, step up Congress!Report

  3. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    Blech. “Unlike” = unless.Report

  4. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    And as to Bush’s actions, I think our system simply is structurally inalterably vulnerable to a president who gets it into his head that he can do whatever he wants with all the people with guns he has immediately at his command as a result of his designation in the constitution as commander-in-chief of the military. There is nothing the Congress can do about an executive run amok in the short term. The standard response in the national security arena is that funding can be cut off. But can you cut off funding for arbitrary detention? Torture? Those things were already against the law. The president simply has the power to do them, up until the point where he can’t find people to follow the orders or he is impeached and removed.

    However emboldened the Congress becomes as a result of witnessing Bush autocratic machinations, or at our urging, or for any other reason, I believe the maximal limitations that we are likely to see them place on the executive are not rightly described as greater than marginal, and certainly nothing that changes the amount of day-to-day control over the coercive actions of the government retained by the president that we would not remain essentially helpless against a president who chooses to act arbitrarily, lawlessly, or in bad faith when it comes to the use of coercion and/or force at home or abroad.

    The president has such de facto power over the preponderance of concentrated force in the country that absent fundamental structural changes to our system we will remain dependent on his willing compliance with laws restricting his use of said power. That is why the question of the character of the people we put in that office should be of such concern to us every four years, and why I blanch when people dismiss character considerations in presidential candidates in favor of policy preferences.Report

  5. Avatar Chris Dierkes
    Ignored
    says:

    Michael,

    Your point about an executive unable to be checked is definitely worth some thought. Although at different points Congress and/or SCOTUS has been able to rein in an Executive. Sometimes (usually?) post facto….e.g. after Watergate. If you can’t necessarily stop the current Executive by holding them to account, by having well written laws, and burying that Exec in the media-sphere, then you make it next to impossible for the next slate of candidates not to have to follow. They will likely then create their own issues. Two steps forward, one step back is still one step forward.Report

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