Last night, President Barack Obama addressed the nation to declare that “this can be a breakthrough year for America.” But, in order to achieve the wonderful opportunities awaiting for all Americans, President Obama must assume some necessary powers to create a better tomorrow for everyone. This may include the need to sidestep the legislative process.
Now some of you may say that I’m being too conservative, and I’m overreacting to last night’s speech. The State of the Union Addresses have always been a media stunt and a political platform since the first one was broadcasted to the American people by radio. However I’m not simply responding to the speech because of party ideology or personal spite against the current administration. Rather it is both the content and spirit of the speech which cause me to look negatively toward this President and his agenda. Let me explain.
Before Tuesday night, I read various opinion pieces and news articles to see what seasoned political analysts were expecting to hear. Everyone had their own policy issues which they felt required the most attention. Some of these ranged from reviewing and modifying the Affordable Care Act to Pre-K education, immigration, and income inequality. But they all agreed on one thing: they expected the President to begin using Executive Orders more liberally during his final years in office. Executive Orders, or EOs, and their close relatives, Presidential Proclamations, are a means for the President to enact a policy with the weight of a law without the hassle of the legislative process in Congress. And they have no constitutional basis. Try as you might, you’ll find nothing in Article II of the Constitution which grants the power of quasi-legislating to the President. Yet they have a legal precedent since the time of George Washington.
Because of their questionable nature and tendency to assume legislative powers, members of Congress and concerned citizens often resent their use. And thus presidents have tried to minimize their number of EOs and their effects to protect the current lawmaking procedures as well as their reputations. So one would think that President Obama would follow suit as well particularly after having an awful year in 2013. Unfortunately such is not the case.
After spending a couple of minutes emphasizing the need for bipartisanship and compromise to strengthen the economy and provide greater socio-economic mobility, Mr. Obama declared himself to be an independent agent unwilling to let the frustrations of a democratic process get in the way of his agenda. “But America does not stand still, and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation…that’s what I’m going to do.” And after describing the federal projects he would like to see Congress accomplish, he claimed all rights to curbing government spending and regulations. “But, but I’ll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects…”
Such words, dear readers, are not the words one should hear from the leader of the free world. They are not the words one should hear from the president of a nation state that prides itself for observing the rule of law and for its democratic republican system of government. Rather these are words of a self-proclaimed dictator. One can almost hear Julius Caesar or Sulla explaining why the people’s ancient constitution must be put aside in order that they can set the social and political orders right. Ave Caesar! Ave Caesar! All hail the imperial president!
Now again, someone might accuse me of being melodramatic and an adherent to the rumor that Obama is secretly trying to find a way to win a third term. I can assure you that I find such a conspiracy unrealistic and outlandish. And my “dramatics” are only means to pointing out a serious problem: the president of the United States openly and unashamedly dismissed the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances laid out in the Constitution. The president may not have plans to try and run again. He may not have an intention of overriding Congress at every chance he gets. And he may not setup secret police and turn us into Stalinist Russia or even into another N. Korea. All of these things are indeed extreme and shouldn’t be considered likely. However, it does set a dangerous precedent for future presidents. And we the people should start paying attention, or else it may be too late for a Brutus.
A full text and video of the SOTUS can be found here.
EOs have been frequently used by presidents, and Pres. Obama is among those to use the least in the past century. A list of EOs and their presidents can be found here.
For more information about EOs and the Constitution, check out www.usconstitution.net.