An overreaction.

Earlier this year, a coworker, upon learning that I taught history, government, and economics, asked who my favorite President was. I responded that as I learn more about them, they fall further in my esteem. I said that with each successive administration, they seem to pay less and less attention to the Constitution and they rarely if ever give back any of the power the office accrues. I lamented that only occasionally do we elect a man who is truly modest about the authority of the presidency, say a Cleveland or a Coolidge, before resuming the decades-if-not-centuries-old trend of electing borderline sociopaths who insist that they and only they can be trusted with that much power.

I stopped blathering for a moment because she looked a bit taken aback. Then I said, “Maybe I should’ve just said Washington or Lincoln.”

Perhaps my case was a bit overstated; sometimes, I suppose, we do need leaders to lead us. But I think those times are far more rare than our politicians do, and it would be so nice to hear a President say (sincerely) that he should not or does not have a particular power, or that the Constitution does not give him such a power.

13 thoughts on “An overreaction.

  1. In your opinion, which President has most abused the power of his office? (Abuse meaning politically/legislatively, not in the manner of Marilyn or Monica)

    It seems to me to be a toss-up between Bush 43 and Obama, which I guess makes your point about the accrual of “power”.


  2. I’d have to think about that. But Obama has increased the rate of abusing power slower than any President since Ike!

    (Please don’t make me have to explain the reference.)

    Let’s see… just sticking to the last century, and in chronological order: Wilson, Hoover, FDR, LBJ, Nixon, W, Obama.


  3. The power of the Executive now is truly scary in context to the simple times of Washington. I recently was able to view his annotated copy of the “Acts of Congress” and saw his notes labeling “powers”, “responsibilities” and “mandatory.” His notes were scarce. Interesting that the only item he labeled mandatory was the address to the Congress held annually, our now celebrated “State of the Union.”


  4. I read an interesting defense of unmanned drones recently in a Stratfor debrief. Do you consider the use of these drones by Obama to be an example of overreach of power?


  5. I don’t consider it an overreach in a legal sense– the President’s the Commander-in-Chief, and we give them a lot of leeway when it comes to conducting operations in other countries. It may not necessarily be a good idea, but that’s a separate matter. Link to article?


  6. There are a couple of ways to look at it.

    1. It’s a good thing that we keep people out of harms way and the precision munitions they land save both our lives and “innocent” lives on the ground. (See casualties from “dumb” bombs versus drone “smart munitions”)

    2. It’s a bad thing that we are further creating a “moral hazard” by seperating the actor from danger. Foreign governments will not hesitate to use our precedent in the future to strike in lands they are not formally at war with and have no jurisdiction under any international charter over. Groups easily swayed by propoganda will see the drone powers as even greater cowards and “moral-less” beings that deserve to be fought to the death.

    Couter argument to 1: See 2.
    Counter argument to 2: The “bad guys” will use whatever information they have to demonize their enemies. We are currently “cowards” and “Godless” for wearing body armor and driving in armored vehicles. So, what different does drones make? Also, foreign governments act on their own interests(realism) and technology is just a tool. Drones are just one more tool. It is not an mistake to use the technology you have in a reasonably responsible manner. (utilitarianism)

    Caveat: This does not even discuss the use of drones to kill your own citizens and the legalism behind it. There are arguments and counters to that as well. I have heared Lincoln’s use of force to kill Southerners used as a precedence for using drones to kill citizens without the full judicial process.


  7. I’m not going to post the text of the article. Think about the subject. Think how difficult it’s been to get straight answers about the topic from the government. Now think how seriously they might take copyright infringement.


  8. Don’t worry – Stratfor actually allows you to share the text of the article as long as you include that it’s been republished with the permission of Stratfor. I checked before I lived dangerously and utilized copy & paste. It’s also a free article, not one included on their “pay us your soul and also a kidney” subscription.


  9. Michael Walzer, the author of “Just and Unjust Wars” is going to chair a symposium on the drone issue in the next week. I wish I had the free time/cash to go. I’m going out on a limb to guess he’ll say it’s immoral.


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