« Unringing the bell | Main | Venezuela buys anti-aircraft missiles »

"Check, please!"

OK, I just might have to make Captain Ed my new "go-to" person for topics. He's done it again.

Yesterday, he put up a piece discussing a New York Times article concerning President Bush's latest Executive Order, an attempt by him to exercise some control over the federal bureaucracy. I was a bit troubled by it, too, until I started reading Ed's piece. That got me thinking -- and is often my wont in matters political, that led me to the Constitution.

The Constitution divides our government into three branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. Congress makes the laws, the President enforces them, and the Supreme Court reviews them.

The federal bureaucracy is almost entirely concerned with the enforcing of the law. As such, it falls under the executive branch. This means that every federal bureaucrat, even a Forest Ranger or a meat-packing inspector or a Circuit Court Clerk, is part of a chain of command that eventually ends in the Oval Office.

The Constitution gives very specific powers to the executive branch, and it is through law and tradition that the president has passed on the authority to exercise those powers to lesser officers. But that is not irrevocable: with but two exceptions, I cannot conceive of a single power granted to the executive branch that cannot be directly exercised by the president at his whim.

(The two exceptions are from Article I, Section 3, and Amendment XXV, Section 4: The president may not preside over the Senate, nor may a president involuntarily remove himself from office.)

The whole federal bureaucracy that the New York Times is concerned about protecting is, ultimately, acting under the authority of the president. This particular president has decided to reassert his authority in a way they might not care for, but it is rooted in the Constitution.

Nor is it a "power grab." Congress and the Courts have their ways of checking any potential abuses. Since these bureaucrats are charged with enforcing the law, if Congress finds that they don't care for how it is being done, they can re-write the laws involved with the dispute to clarify just what they wish the bureaucrats to do -- even if it means spelling it out in excruciating detail. And if the bureaucrats choose to rewrite or just plain ignore the laws, then the Courts can be called upon to bring the bureaucrats to heel.

The whole "mindless, unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats" have long been a cliche', the punchline of a whole truckload of bad jokes (with us as the butt of those jokes). There have been endless calls for reformation and accountability and simple clarity in wending one's way through the bureaucratic jungle.

Is Bush's plan the best solution? I sincerely doubt it. But it does have one redeeming feature, as Captain Ed points out: it puts in a position of authority someone who, even indirectly, is accountable to the people via the process of elections. If they do their job wrong, there is a very good chance they will piss off enough people to get their ultimate boss kicked out of office -- and their ass fired.

I leave with one final thought to those who see this as a "naked power grab" by the Bush administration:

In less than two years, Bush will be out of office. And if your constant natterings and predictions and bellyachings have even the slightest foundation in reality, then he will be succeeded by someone far more to your liking -- be they Hillary, Barack, or some other Democrat. At that point, all of Bush's appointees will be gone, too, and will be replaced by that next president.

Because that's how the system works -- or ought to. I most likely wouldn't like the appointees that a President Hillary Clinton (shudder) would put in place, but I wouldn't challenge her right to do so.


TrackBack

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Check, please!":

» The Thunder Run linked with Web Reconnaissance for 01/31/2007

Comments (12)

That's what I thought excep... (Below threshold)
Veeshir:

That's what I thought except I got there a different way.

The President is the boss of each and every person who works under a cabinet minister, as in Commerce, Defense, State, etc. It's his right and responsibility to tell people who work for him how to do their work. That's just elementary civics.

One of my greatest disappoi... (Below threshold)
BlacquesJacquesShellacques:

One of my greatest disappointments with nearly all elected Executive branch 'conservatives' has been their failure to use their powers. Why did Bush not fire people at CIA and State right and left when he was first elected? Less than 2 years of lame duckiness left and now he makes a tentative and weak step? Not only is it not a power grab, it is not a big deal.

The Republicans should have had a firing list and Bush should have axed everyone on it the day after he was sworn in.

Sorry Jay,"The Const... (Below threshold)

Sorry Jay,
"The Constitution divides our government into three branches:...the Supreme Court reviews them."
The constitution says nothing about the power that the supreme court declared it had in Marbury v. Madison to pass judgement over the laws passed by congress.

I can't remember where I re... (Below threshold)

I can't remember where I read it, but it stuck in my head:

All forms of government eventually devolve into an aristocracy. These aristocracies take the form of a hereditary nobility, a priesthood, or an entrenched bureaucracy.

There's another aspect to t... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

There's another aspect to this, Jay. From what I've read, Bush is mainly trying to compel the regulatory agencies to comply with a Reagan-era law, still on the books, that requires them to perform cost/benefit analysis on all proposed regulations. The agencies have been ignoring this law for some time. (The Clinton administration kind of encouraged them to do so, by taking a nudge-nudge-wink-wink approach to the whole thing.)

The President does not have the authority to make law with an EO. However, he has every right to use an EO to compel federal agencies to comply with an existing law. In fact, he would be derelict in his duties if he did not do so.

Congress and the Courts ... (Below threshold)
Brian:

Congress and the Courts have their ways of checking any potential abuses. Since these bureaucrats are charged with enforcing the law, if Congress finds that they don't care for how it is being done, they can re-write the laws involved with the dispute to clarify just what they wish the bureaucrats to do -- even if it means spelling it out in excruciating detail. And if the bureaucrats choose to rewrite or just plain ignore the laws, then the Courts can be called upon to bring the bureaucrats to heel.

I can't believe you can still write something like that with a straight face.

You ignore Bush's stepped up use of signing statements, which he uses to say "I don't need to follow this law." You ignore Bush's repeated violations of law, which he claims the Constitution allows him to do when he feels it's necessary. You ignore Bush's attempts to prevent the courts from bringing him to heel, by claiming even the most trivial issues to be a national security matter.

How do you defend a president who claims that he has the power to ignore laws, he has the power to ignore Congress, and that he and he alone has discretion over whether courts even have jurisdiction in those matters?

You ignore that everything ... (Below threshold)
MikeSC:

You ignore that everything Bush has done has ample case law and legal opinions behind it defending it.
-=Mike

Jay Tea:Your summa... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

Jay Tea:

Your summation strikes me as somewhat inaccurate. It is worth remembering that a great deal of administrative rulemaking is a signficant legislative function, with the legislative power delegated to the executive agency for the sake of efficiency.

--|PW|--

You ignore that everythi... (Below threshold)
Brian:

You ignore that everything Bush has done has ample case law and legal opinions behind it defending it.

No, I don't at all. Bush can present all of his case law and legal opinions to the courts, and let them decide. That is the rule of law in this country. As Jay notes, "the Supreme Court reviews [laws]".

What I object to is Bush's circumvention of that process, thus subverting our system of checks and balances.

That's just it Brian, he ha... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

That's just it Brian, he hasn't circumvented anything. Everything he has done has been in accordance with law. Just because the left wants to redefine the Executive powers because they don't like the current incumbent doesn't change anything. Legally, he's done everything according to the laws and rights granted his office. The fact that you don't like it doesn't make it illegal and the fact you would think so (probably from reading yet another ignorant about the Constitution website) speaks more about your total lack of knowledge of how your government works than any supposed "power grab" by the President.

Please site one single federal court ruling that the President overstepped his bounds in any of his decisions. If you can't, then your entire premise is flat out wrong--whether you care for it or not.

Signing statements are a legal thing for the President to do. If the legislature or the courts disagree with those statements they can (and have) addressed them. You don't have a case to argue here no matter how badly you want one.

Please site one single f... (Below threshold)
Brian:

Please site one single federal court ruling that the President overstepped his bounds in any of his decisions. If you can't, then your entire premise is flat out wrong--whether you care for it or not.

I'll cite two: Judge Rules Against Wiretaps, Justices say Bush went too far at Guantanamo

So I guess this shows that your entire premise is "flat out wrong"?

Of course, one can be deceived by this and declare that since Bush's decisions are being reviewed by courts, then everything's fine. But that would ignore the reality that Bush did everything he could to try to keep both of these issues out of the courts. That's one of Bush's tactics: claiming what he does is legal, while at the same time doing everything he can to avoid judicial review.

Legally, he's done everything according to the laws and rights granted his office.

It's nonsense to argue that what he's done is legal. He has clearly broken laws, and continues to profess the right to continue breaking laws. No one denies that, including Bush himself:

President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/04/30/bush_challenges_hundreds_of_laws/

The sticky point is that might be "legal" for him to break those laws. Why? Because the state secrets act allows him to declare anything he wants to be shielded from court review. So is that "legal"? Perhaps. But it's hard to argue that, when the argument is that it's legal for Bush to declare that courts can't decide whether what he's done is legal or not.

But even if it's legal, is it right? Well, let me ask you if Clinton declared that his sexual affairs were state secrets, and therefore shielded from questioning in court, would you still defend that action as "legal"?

Fortunately, at least a few courts aren't buying this from Bush, and that's why we're starting to see the courts shut him down. And now he's dropped the domestic spying, and trying desperately to kill the court review. Why, if it's so legal?

If the legislature or the courts disagree with those statements they can (and have) addressed them.

Yeah, look how well it worked when the legislature tried to address it: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/04/AR2007010401702.html

You don't have a case to argue here no matter how badly you want one.

OK, then you'd have no disagreement with allowing the cases to be ruled on by a court, would you? Or are you afraid that you have no case?

Democracy?... (Below threshold)
sian:

Democracy?




Advertisements









rightads.gif

beltwaybloggers.gif

insiderslogo.jpg

mba_blue.gif

Follow Wizbang

Follow Wizbang on FacebookFollow Wizbang on TwitterSubscribe to Wizbang feedWizbang Mobile

Contact

Send e-mail tips to us:

tips@wizbangblog.com

Fresh Links

Credits

Section Editor: Maggie Whitton

Editors: Jay Tea, Lorie Byrd, Kim Priestap, DJ Drummond, Michael Laprarie, Baron Von Ottomatic, Shawn Mallow, Rick, Dan Karipides, Michael Avitablile, Charlie Quidnunc, Steve Schippert

Emeritus: Paul, Mary Katherine Ham, Jim Addison, Alexander K. McClure, Cassy Fiano, Bill Jempty, John Stansbury, Rob Port

In Memorium: HughS

All original content copyright © 2003-2010 by Wizbang®, LLC. All rights reserved. Wizbang® is a registered service mark.

Powered by Movable Type Pro 4.361

Hosting by ServInt

Ratings on this site are powered by the Ajax Ratings Pro plugin for Movable Type.

Search on this site is powered by the FastSearch plugin for Movable Type.

Blogrolls on this site are powered by the MT-Blogroll.

Temporary site design is based on Cutline and Cutline for MT. Graphics by Apothegm Designs.

Author Login



Terms Of Service

DCMA Compliance Notice

Privacy Policy