The weak presidency

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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12 Responses

  1. North says:

    Kain! Re: that last sentence: GET OUT OF MY HEAD! That would be awesome!!!

    Regarding the rest: Yeah agree absolutely. I had hoped earnestly that Obama would walk back executive power in keeping with his soaring rhetoric. What I didn’t count on was his political cowardice. Walking back executive control on all those civil rights issues means essentially accepting that you cannot control everything even while also accepting that you will be left holding the bag by the public if a terror attack comes through. Obama just doesn’t have the stones to let go. I don’t know if we have a politician that does. Which makes Bush and Cheney even worse in my minds for letting this particular genie out of the bottle.Report

    • ThatPirateGuy in reply to North says:


      Assume that President Obama discovered a store of courage and rolled back all of the policies you discussed. What happens next is that the public and the media freak out, followed by the congress and senate rushing to give him the powers back when they see the poll numbers. 8 years of bush and we have normalized and accepted torture as a people.

      Funny, I call myself an optimist.Report

      • North in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

        @ThatPirateGuy, I’m slightly less of an “optimist” than you TPG. I’d say that Obama would be furiously condemned by the right and praised by the right if he rolled those powers back. If a terrorist attack then got through Obama would be impeached or voted out in a landslide and the Dems’d be out of power. If no attack got through then gradually we’d get back to the pre-bush Status quos. Then the right would re-instate all the powers and then some. Alas it’s a risk Obama simply has no inclination to take. The rewards outweigh the risks except in the long viewing eyes of history.Report

  2. Chris Dierkes says:

    I think this yet again shows the 60 vote thing (contra Greenwald) is a huge matter and the filibuster as the de facto norm is so corrosive to the legislative branch.

    We have 50 or so liberal Democrats, a liberal President who won a significant victory (I”m never sure of this “mandate” stuff), after having won a very significant 2006 Congressional election (2 waves in a row in their direction) and they can’t really govern all that much.

    Either our parties need to break up and allow for more cross-partisan vote wrangling or we need to have parliamentary proceduralism commensurate with our new parliamentarian identity and practice.

    The mismatch is killing us.Report

  3. Rufus F. says:

    I can’t understand the mechanics of vote wrangling either, but it’s hard not to watch the American government operate over the last two decades, at least, and not wonder if, in the B-movie scenario in which there is an asteroid headed for the Midwest and we need to do something now to stop it- they could actually come together and do anything.Report

  4. Nob Akimoto says:

    First, I don’t think it’s actually desirable to have an executive that’s highly restricted in its foreign policy power, given that foreign affairs is actually one area where the executive branch is SUPPOSED to have.

    Second, I’m not convinced the examples you’ve brought up are actually examples of excess executive power in so far as they’re a result of the executive acting unilaterally. All of the examples you cited are either done with the enthusiastic political and rhetorical backing of Congress or at the very least tacit acceptance by Congress and a washing of hands by everyone but the judiciary. Rather I think it’s a sign of weakness in the presidency that such measures can’t be undone without a freak-out from Congress. See: Gitmo Closure.

    On the other hand in areas where sensible non-political maneuvering would work wonders (re: Israeli settlements, GITMO, START, Copenhagen…) you have a long list of political considerations that make it impossible for the executive to actually carry out their preferred foreign policy or at least potential gigantic stumbling blocks in terms of senate ratification of diplomatic efforts or domestic politics implications of supporting a favored policy (like with settlement freezes)

    If anything the following is more true than not:
    The Presidency is enormously weak in formulating policy due to the fact that there’s so many stumbling blocks towards creating legislation. However the Presidency has enormous powers in EXECUTING policy once it has been decided. This is why I think you see a very large disconnect between the perceived power of the presidency as being very large (and it is to some extent) with the seeming inability to do course corrections.Report

  5. Bob Cheeks says:

    You libruls are gonna have to hep me out here.
    Youns got ‘socialized medicine’ passed and it looks like you’re gonna get ‘crap and tax’ (cap and trade) and that’s not good enough?
    Do you think the GOP is ever gonna have the nuts to roll back commie medicine (or lack thereof)? I don’t think so.
    The commie libruls have turned medicine over to a coterie of clowns that are confused about an oil spill.Report

  6. Mike Farmer says:

    Regardless what has happened so far in the Democrat Party, the far left is preparing to collect what’s owed them. You’re going to see 60s style protests and pressure for Obama and the liberal congress to deliver the goods. We’re just getting started. The far left know they won’t get a chance like this again for a long time. Ideologically, Obama is a kindred soul to the far left, and now they want to be blood brothers — true belief demands action.Report

  7. dexter45 says:

    Mr. Cheeks, are you really looking forward to the day when there is no EPA, FDA, national parks, libraries, schools and there is a toll gate at my driveway that I have to pay before I can get on the privately owned roads. I know our schools aren’t great, but would you rather have the christian equivalent of the madrassa. I know the government has problems. I don’t trust the government one iota, but I trust the corps less. If the only thing the government can do is start wars, I want the draft to be reinstated with absolutely no deferments, except for college. After college you are immediately sent to ROTC and then to the front. You won’t be able to get out because you have other priorities. Then, we will definitely know how popular our foreign misadventures really are.Report