Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Imperial Presidency

Clintonite Bruce Reed argues in Slate that Democrats need to embrace the Nixon/Bush imperial presidency. Yet isn't part of being a liberal the rejection of tyranny?

It's interesting to read his take on how Dems lost faith in the presidency. According to him, after Nixon,

With nowhere else to turn, Democrats learned to love Congress, a branch of government liberals had largely despised well into the 1960s. Democrats also began to depend on the Supreme Court to check the White House, a dependence that would come back to haunt us as we discovered how losing one would eventually cost us the other.

In the 1970s, Democrats passed a number of laws to rein in the executive branch, from campaign finance to CIA and FBI reforms to the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act that Bush skirted in the current flap over domestic spying. Even with Carter in the White House, Democrats were more comfortable with the role of congressional oversight than with presidential leadership. Our heroes were referees and whistle-blowers like Sam Ervin, John Dean, Judge Sirica, and Woodward and Bernstein, not rogues and swashbucklers in the great American tradition of Teddy Roosevelt and John Kennedy.
It's a paradox: The party with grand ambitions for government is suspicious of the office that could best achieve them, while the party broadly opposed to the use of government power wants to get its hands on as much of it as possible.

Reed is basically saying: "Fuck your principles and grab that power. Otherwise they're going to abuse it. Once we're in power we'll wield it justly."

I am not so sure about that.

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  • At 2:35 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    WHAT? Jesus, I don't even know where to start with Reed's stupid argument. This is just asinine:

    But the best way to curb the imperial presidency isn't for Congress to tie the next president's hands. It's for Americans to elect a new president and Congress who will go all-out to earn the public's trust.

    Tie the president's hands? In what sense? By insisting that he obey the law? That's not Democrats being suspicious, that's anyone with a brain. Straw-man Democrats might want to limit Presidential power more than that; real ones don't so much.

    And this:

    Even with Carter in the White House, Democrats were more comfortable with the role of congressional oversight than with presidential leadership.

    Gee, didn't we have another Democratic President since Carter? I'm blanking on his name right now, but I don't remember him being all that shy about exercising Presidential authority within legal limits. Mostly. And I don't remember it being the Democrats in Congress who went all impeachment over some bullshit.

    Besides, if we do elect a Democratic President, does Reed really think Republicans are all of a sudden going to trip themselves up with the contradiction that they wanted unfettered power for their guy, but all of a sudden it's not okay?

    Finally, Reed offers not one example of a specific government policy better pursued under the a lawless president than a lawful one. Instead he has to end with this weak beer:

    As Gore recognizes, we won't win the war on terror with congressional hearings.

    Another straw man. And terrorism is not an existential threat to this country; we need to stop acting like it is.

    To win it, we need commanders in chief with panache and integrity, who can inspire confidence at home and abroad, win the respect of our allies, and instill fear in our foes.

    Uh-huh. This has nothing to do with actual power and everything to do with public style. And our "foes" aren't ever going to be afraid of us, no matter how many stupid articles Slate publishes.

    On the home front, it will take an unapologetically powerful leader to break Washington from its transactional rut. At the same time, we need a vigorous Congress with a sense of urgency that can hold the executive branch accountable not only for the rule of law but for results.

    Come on. I mean come on. Transactional rut? Do you really have to recycle "gridlock" cliches from eight years ago to make this weak-ass point?

    Yikes, man, don't link to things that give me this much heartburn, or put some kind of warning on them if you do.

  • At 2:41 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Haha I knew you'd like this one.

    The only thing I agree with him about is the fact that Al Gore is doing muuuuuch better ever since he fired Reed as a speechwriter.


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