About that Recalcitrant, Do-Nothing Congress…

obama oval officeScott Wilson in yesterday’s Washington Post (Obama’s rough 2013 prompts a new blueprint):

An internal White House assessment concludes that President Obama must distance himself from a recalcitrant Congress after being badly damaged last year by legislative failures, a government shutdown and his own missteps.

Obama has said that his fraught relationship with Congress, especially after Republicans won the House in 2010, complicated his ability to promote his agenda. But for the first time, following what many allies view as a lost year, the White House is reorganizing itself to support a more executive-focused presidency and inviting the rest of the government to help.

I keep wondering why the press isn’t leaping on this.

Publius (Madison): The Federalist 47 (January 30, 1788):

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

Publius (Madison): The Federalist 51 (February 6, 1788):

TO WHAT expedient , then, shall we finally resort, for maintaining in practice the necessary partition of power among the several departments, as laid down in the Constitution? The only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so contriving the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places.

But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

In a single republic, all the power surrendered by the people is submitted to the administration of a single government; and the usurpations are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct and separate departments.

In his widely read—and wildly controversial—book, Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg points to the words and actions of Woodrow Wilson and charges him with being “the twentieth century’s first fascist dictator”:

Wilson would later argue when president that he was the right hand of God and that to stand against him was to thwart divine will. Some thought this was simply proof of power corrupting Wilson, but this was his view from the outset. He always took the side of power, believing that power accrued to whoever was truly on God’s side. As an undergraduate, Wilson was convinced that Congress was destined to wield the most power in the American system , and so he championed the idea of giving Congress unfettered control of governance. During his senior year, in his first published article, he even argued that America should switch to a parliamentary system, where there are fewer checks on the will of rulers. Wilson was a champion debater, so it’s telling that he believed the best debaters should have the most power.

Wilson wrote his most famous and original work, Congressional Government, when he was a twenty-nine-year-old graduate student at Johns Hopkins. He set out to argue that America should switch to a centralized parliamentary system, but the work evolved into a sweeping indictment of the fragmentation and diffuseness of power in the American political system. Wilson fully abandoned his faith in congressional government when he witnessed Teddy Roosevelt’s success at turning the Oval Office into a bully pulpit. The former advocate of congressional power became an unapologetic champion of the imperial presidency. “The President,” he wrote in 1908 in Constitutional Government in the United States, “is at liberty, both in law and in conscience, to be as big a man as he can. His capacity will set the limit; and if Congress be overborne by him, it will be no fault of the makers of the Constitution,… but only because the President has the nation behind him and Congress has not.”

Journalist Ron Fournier likes to draw parallels between the George W. Bush and Obama administrations (for instance: ‘This Is the End of the Presidency’ and Do You Trust This Man?).

I wonder when he will write about the greater parallel here: between presidents Obama and Wilson.

Clearly Mr. Obama and his staff think it’s time for Wilson II.

Are we going to let him?

If we can’t stop him (remember, Democrats haven’t shown any willingness at all to hold him accountable and Republicans’ hands are tied politically), how will we undo the damage he will have done?

I don’t mean by that just policy or economic damage—but the damage he is willing to execute on the separation and balance of powers the Founders thought so critical to the survival of the United States.

We are blessed that, outside of an unfathomable ability to get elected (and stay elected) Mr. Obama has demonstrated no ability at all to get “the nation behind him.”

But the precedents he has set and continues to author will not go quietly and harmlessly into long-ago history.

We are going to be paying a long time for this reckless sowing of the seeds of rebellion.

I really wish the “non-partisan” press would wake up and address these issues.

As for me, I’d rather have a recalcitrant, do-nothing Congress than one that’s not even aiming at the target they’re pointing at.


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