It’s Up to Congress to Make Things Right

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There are all kinds of reasons that I’m excited about our new president. He’s smart, gracious, and well-informed, which is all quite a refreshing change, president-wise. When he gives a press conference, he actually tells me things that I didn’t know before the press conference, and he does it without sneering and smirking at everyone around him. He seems more like a president and less like a clueless bully who ended up playing a president on TV through a series of unfortunate events.

In substantive matters, as well, Obama has exceeded my expectations. He’s worked fast to get some economic legislation passed, whipped out what seems to be a thorough budget proposal, and made several good appointments. He keeps stealing our smartest and cutest Washington State politicians (although he’s welcome to some of them). He’s promised to close Guantanamo and stated firmly that the United States will not torture…

Hey, wait a minute… our last president promised the same things.

Which brings me to my point: we shouldn’t get too excited and expect Obama to take care of everything. Particularly when it comes to an excess of presidential power, you simply can’t trust the president to fix things, no matter how cool he may be or what he says he would like to do. While Obama has made some moves to restore the presidency to its traditional role and has used diplomatic rhetoric that indicates an understanding that a president who works for cooperative solutions is stronger than one who maintains an authoritarian stance, there have been numerous signs that we won’t be able to count on him to cede some of the executive powers he has inherited. His refusal to commit to investigating the abuses of the previous administration are particularly troubling, because they leave open the possibility that future presidents could commit the same abuses with impunity.

This is, perhaps, understandable. Even if Obama doesn’t want to preserve these powers for his own administration, a president who comes into office and immediately hauls the previous president into court is asking for political trouble. This is why the United States has (or once had) a separation of governmental powers. It’s not the president’s job to cede executive power, it’s Congress’ job to override him when he overreaches. That’s why I was pleased to see several glimmers of hope for congressional oversight in a recent interview with Speaker Pelosi:

Pelosi’s not as fun to watch as Barack Obama. No one in congress is as fascinating as the president is right now. But it looks as if Pelosi might be planning to do her job. Let’s do our job, wrench our attention away from our glorious leader, and remember that we’ve got lots of leaders. Let’s pester Congress until they do the right thing at long last.

If the restoration of constitutional law and balance of powers is important to you, write to the Senate and the House of Representatives.

~ by lolarusa on February 26, 2009.

2 Responses to “It’s Up to Congress to Make Things Right”

  1. It’s up to the whole bunch of them to make things as right as they can. Congress must pass the laws and the president must enforce them. It certainly helps to get laws passed if the white house and the congress are of the same party. Whether or not the laws that get passed and the policy that gets implemented are good laws and effective policy will take time to tell.

    We generally prefer in the U.S. to have divided government with the ruling party in Congress being different than the party of the president. It helps to balance the power and to make sure that one agenda doesn’t tyrannize the other–what de toqueville called the “tyranny of the majority.”

    But in times of crisis, like now, it sometimes pays to have everybody on the same page to make things happen faster.

    we’ll see . . .

  2. Hello gryphonscry,

    Hope you’re feeling better very soon. Your comment about divided government is something I’ve been thinking about, as well. Most of the time, it feels like a balance of opposing parties is a check on too much consolidation of power in one party, but for the past month or so, I’ve been grateful that there are large enough majorities in both houses to enact legislation – the last thing we need right now is inaction due to a political stalemate.

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