Much was made back in the days of Richard Nixon of his aggregation of power to the White House. His was the first “Imperial Presidency” according to the intelligentsia at the time and Arthur Schlesinger made it official.Nixon was said to be assuming the powers of a dictator or king: the power to declare war; the power of the purse; and the power of immunity from legislative oversight.
Much has been made of the assumption of power by the executive branch since. Most recently George Bush was accused of this after 9/11 when the Patriot Act was passed by Congress. Opponents of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq used the term repeatedly despite Congressional approval and U.N. Resolutions. Helen Thomas was relentless in her criticism equating the imprisonment of Jose Padilla, a Taliwannaban, to the gulags of Soviet Russia and the internment camps of World War II. Ms. Thomas implicated the Supreme Court as well, who approved Bush’s measures when challenged by an activist Leftist bar.
And today, we have a president who has arrogated more power to his agencies and the White House than any in history, and the media and the Leftist bar are utterly silent.
Consider the use of Executive Orders:
Theodore Roosevelt 3
Others to FDR None
FDR 11 through the Great Depression & World War II
G.H.W. Bush 3
G.W. Bush 62
Consider that Obama created an unprecedented separate bureaucracy from his Cabinet level agencies and departments run by “czars” for banking, the auto crisis, Afghanistan, AIDS, the Border, Climate, Domestic Violence, Drugs, Green Jobs, Guantanamo and on and on. These czars are nominally accountable to the various departments but decision-making power rests with them and in the White House. Obama has emasculated the structure of our government, and yet no one has said a word.
A number of the agencies and departments, including and especially the EPA, the FDA, The Department of Agriculture, and the department of Homeland Security have arrogated powers never legislated to themselves such as climate change, industry regulation, and even transportation safety.
When the White House began to use the National Endowment for the Arts as a propaganda tool for his health care bill, enough scorn and criticism was rained down to quickly snuff what was an almost Orwellian use of governmental power.
Much more serious was the president’s decision to go to war in Libya. Executive Order 13566 declared Libya an extraordinary threat to the United States despite no act of war and in coordination with the United Nations Resolution 1973 which called for the protection of the Libyan people. Congress was informed, not consulted.
The law is, ever more, what the President says it is. As as expressed by Lewis Carroll so well, “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
And this is the root of the issue. At a time when there are bitter divides and when the policy battles are fought in the courts there has been no middle path. The aggregation of power in the Presidency has become fundamentally un-Constitutional no matter which party is in power.
The aftermath of 9/11 saw an accelerated use of executive power during an asymmetrical war with no rules. To institutionalize those powers permanently will be a final blow to the division of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.