Rand Paul and the Imperial 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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29 Responses

  1. tom van dyke says:

    Sometimes a cigar’s just a cigar. The dreaded laundry list just muddles things, EDK.

    The issue here is Libya, the “imperial president” is Barack Obama.

    “If they didn’t need congressional authorization here in these circumstances, can you tell me under what circumstances you’d ever need congressional authorization if we’re going into a war? Nobody answered [that] question,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.). “The administration and its lawyers believed they had the authority under the War Powers Act.


    this is Obama’s theory of how to win the war:

    Step 1: Enforce a No-Fly Zone

    Step 2: ?

    Step 3: Regime Change!


  2. Chris says:

    I’m glad to see Tom addressing this from an objective, informed perspective.Report

  3. Chris says:

    Please get off my back, sir, unless you have some substance to add.

    Hello Pot, this is the Kettle calling. (See previous thread.)

    Anyway, nonpartisan and objective are two different things. Your ignorance is obvious. I suppose, then, that pointing out the obvious doesn’t amount to substance. So off your back I will get.Report

  4. Hyena says:

    To be honest, though, the executive is the least democratic branch of our government. Even the Supreme Court has multiple members. So we shouldn’t be surprised if the executive is openly contemptuous of democracy or fails to abide by democratic norms. It’s not designed to be democratic in any way, it’s meant as a place to store dictatorial powers and that’s why Congress has all sorts of authority to hamper it.

    The problem is not the imperial presidency, it’s Congress’s complete abdication of any form of executive oversight. But that shouldn’t surprise much either: the presidency is a good media tool and the two parties will never seek to undermine it. If we had 6 parties, you’d see a lot less of this because most of the parties would have no stake in executive power.Report

    • jivatman in reply to Hyena says:

      “To be honest, though, the executive is the least democratic branch of our government.”

      Indeed, countries that use presidential systems without term limits have a tendency of have “President-for-life”, think Ben-Ali, Mubarak, Saleh.

      The presidency remains a more popular branch of government than congress, in my opinion, because congressman and senators for the most part are for life, save for a small number of swing seats that switch.

      Still, I don’t favor absolute term limits – there are some good people that should stay there. Rather, I favor limits on consecutive terms, which eliminates the power of incumbency but allows the truly deserving to return, competing as challengers rather than incumbents.

      Experience is legitimately valuable, but so are new people and new ideas, consecutive term limits strike the best balance, as well as helping to combat the revolving-door effect – representatives are likely to do more ethical work when they’re of of term if they think they can come back. Also, the limit of terms reduces the time they have to use the power of their office to make “connections”.

      “If we had 6 parties, you’d see a lot less of this because most of the parties would have no stake in executive power.”

      Winner-Takes-All systems, over time, always devolve into two-party systems, this is called “Duverger’s law”

      There are a number of different proportional representation systems, while probably better than Winner-takes-all, have their own problems. In any case it’s extremely unlikely such a drastic change would be implemented in the U.S. on a federal level,

      On a state level, many early states used some forms for a while, municipalities even longer – often to break the power of political machines – and some still do.

      But, of course, individual state legislative experimentation in general are rare now, eclipsed by federal laws and bureaucracies. Though there doesn’t seem to yet be any laws against states using PR.Report

  5. 62across says:

    E.D. –

    I may have disagreements with the Pauls or with guys like Gary Johnson, but I can say with some certainty that at this point, if you were to put any of them up against the current president, I would vote for them in a heartbeat.

    After which, I’d say within 12 months of inauguration as we start bombing Iran, you’d be profoundly disappointed that your preferred candidate had succumbed to the wishes of the oligarchy, the military/industrial complex and his congressional caucuses.Report

  6. BlaiseP says:

    This is all so much mendacious handwringing. Call me a vengeful old bastard, I remember the Munich disco bombing and the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing and Qadhafi’s role in the Munich Olympic atrocities.

    But most of all, I remember Abu Nidal and Libya’s role in the El Al massacres at Rome and Vienna.

    Anyone who pretends this invasion isn’t completely justified by American deaths has political amnesia. Before we predicate our calculus on how many teachers are fired per Tomahawk, I would grimly observe there’s enough American blood on Qadhafi’s hands to justify at least a few.Report

    • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

      I’m pretty sure our next target will be France. I can’t believe we’ve let these atrocities committed against our merchant sailors go unpunished by invasion for so long!

      Seriously, though, this seems nonsensical to me. Is Gaddafi a bad dude? Yeah. Should he be punished for his actions in the past? Yeah. Does this mean that we should be bombing the country, potentially arming the rebels, etc.? That’s a huge leap. Are we going to go around punishing everyone who’s done us wrong, often decades after the fact, with military force?Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Chris says:

        France really did get off lucky there though. Look at the war of 1812- really it was started by Napoleon in Berlin, 1806, when he issued his decree against trading with Britain. They responded with a blockade a few months later (really just making official what was already happening) and the US eventually went to war with Britain over it! My theory is that there was still kinship between the sister revolutions at that time. But, yes, I am okay with the US letting the issue of late 1700s piracy go at this point. In exchange for Carla Bruni.Report

  7. Rufus F. says:

    I have a feeling that in the near future the political debates in the US are going to be between one side saying, “We’re totally broke. We can’t afford anything… except butter” And the other side will be saying, “We’re totally broke. We can’t afford anything… except guns”. And the funny thing is that, for the first time in my life, I haven’t the slightest clue who is going to be pushing for guns and who is going to push for butter.Report

  8. Zach says:

    Is it fair to blame Obama for failing to close GTMO? He tried a few different ways to do it quickly and got support from Illinois to transfer prisoners there. Congress made that impossible (over the impassioned objections of Durbin and others). He’s seemingly winnowed down the population as quickly as possible as willing countries are found to receive prisoners (which is the real problem; GTMO Midwest would be no better). Has he been adding prisoners without charging them with anything?

    Banning torture and renditions and pledging to close GTMO were his first acts as President. I think it’s likely that he’s done everything he can within the law up to this point. Moving the prisoners by fiat and spending Defense money outside of where Congress approved it to be spent would be break other, less serious, principles and likely gin up another round of anti-Muslim bigotry.Report

  9. Mike Schilling says:

    Great skewering of Newt and Fox. Unfortunately, it’s from a roast, which is the only time politicians are allowed to tell the truth.Report

  10. stuhlmann says:

    “I may have disagreements with the Pauls or with guys like Gary Johnson, but I can say with some certainty that at this point, if you were to put any of them up against the current president, I would vote for them in a heartbeat. ”

    Would you really vote for Rand Paul? Would you really vote for a less-than-one-term senator, given our recent experiences?Report

  11. NoPublic says:

    If you honestly think that Rand Paul would do less damage than a second Obama term you’ve wandered deep into the swamps. The man is a complete fruitbat.Report

  12. Jaybird says:

    There is a General of recent renown who I’d like to paraphrase and, I hope, explain the problem.

    Boots on the Ground
    Boots on the Ground

    Lookin’ like a fool
    With your boots on the Ground
    With the oil in your mouth
    Map turned sideways
    Boots hit the ground

    Call yourself a cool cat
    With your boots on the ground

    Walkin’ downtown with your boots on the ground!

    Hey! Get your boots off the ground!
    Lookin like a fool!

  13. tom van dyke says:

    Rand Paul quotes a certain ex-senator

    “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

    —Sen. Obama, of course, 2007Report