It’s Up to Congress to Make Things Right
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.