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View Diary: What A "Unitary Executive" Means - President As King (243 comments)

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  •  Unitary Executive? (none)
    Isn't that, like, not compatible at all with the Constitution? Separation of powers, checks and balances?

    I must have been sleeping while we turned into a parliamentary regime.

    •  Unitary Warhead (none)
      Same thing as Unitary Executive.

      Two wrongs don't make a right. But two rights make a wrong.

      by zephyr on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 09:59:23 AM PST

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    •  There are aspects (none)
      of our Constitution that are enforced by interpretation - usually witnessed at the Supreme Court level.  Seperation of Powers was designed to facilitate the inevitable debates via contention and distinction of seperate pools of plebiscite power.  Whoever won, created traditions and policies beyond the hard document.  Not unlike the English system which perpetuates without a hard document.  Since this Unitary Executive idea has been evolving for some time and has now ripened for debate in the present context, Congress has no choice but to either put down the play or accept it as a legitimate power grab. Power grabs are not necessarily unconstitutional.  They become unconstitutional if people in power are willing to enforce it that way.
      They can either force the issue of its illegiality with hearings and impeachment or shut the fuck up.
      I hate to put it that way, but looking for the Supreme Court to go against Bush after Alito is seated seems far-fetched.  

      "I'm an insect who dreamed he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over..." - Charles E. Pogue, "The Fly".

      by edsdet on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 10:11:30 AM PST

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      •  I want concrete examples (none)
        Alito has provided vague generalizations regarding the unitary control of the President over the executive branch of government, but I would like to have some examples.  Does Congress, for example, have the right to provide hiring standards for federal workers, for example?  What about the War Powers act?  What about the Miranda decision?  What about the Boland amendment outlawing U.S. assistance to the Contras in Nicaragua?

        Just saying the President has control over the executive branch doesn't tell me much.

        •  One is FDR and his power play (none)
          in 1935 by attempting to "pack" the Supreme Court with more judges.  He considered it his right as executive to appoint more judges per Art. III of the Constitution.  From Wikipedia
          The Section explicitly requires "one" Supreme Court, but does not set the number of judges that may belong to it. Proposals to divide the Supreme Court into separate panels have been made, but they have all failed. Since all the proposals failed, the Supreme Court has never ruled upon the constitutionality of such a division; however, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote, "the Constitution does not appear to authorize two or more Supreme Courts functioning in effect as separate courts".

          It was a legitimate power play considering the gray area left to manuever in, but the Republican Court stood up along with many in Congress (democrats included) to dispense of the grab.

          "I'm an insect who dreamed he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over..." - Charles E. Pogue, "The Fly".

          by edsdet on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 10:45:16 AM PST

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          •  Court Packing Plan Different From This Description (none)
            FDR wanted to add more justices to the existing Supreme Court via an act of Congress, not simply appoint new members without approval or create a separate panel.  The idea was to add a new justice for every justice over a certain age.  The plan was designed to counter the striking down of almost every significant piece of New Deal legislation passed in the first wave.  While it was a power play designed to alter the makeup of the Supreme Court, he didn't seek to circumvent Congress and claim a right to determine the number of justices on the Supreme Court by Constitutional fiat.
            •  Good point. (none)
              FDR had a sense of propriety that Bush lacks and was upfront with Congress and the American people.
              Still it was a power grab through a Congress he thought he had sway over and would affirm.
              If they had passed the Bill he proposed, it would have reintrepreted the Constitution, specifically Article III.
              My point being, there is no Big Daddy of the Constitution of the United states that will confirm views of the ultimate illegalities of power grabs.
              People in power either stand up and say its not so or it becomes an acceptable adjunct to Constitutional law.

              "I'm an insect who dreamed he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over..." - Charles E. Pogue, "The Fly".

              by edsdet on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 11:14:55 AM PST

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        •  It just seems to me that (none)
          the Unitary Executive no longer has to comply with the law. I mean, just looking at the questions you brought up, a U.E. would be allowed to have its own federal hiring standards even if those standards violate federal law, or hand money to foreign terrorists, again in violation of federal law.

          No branch has or should have complete, exclusive control over itself. That is so basic to the Constitution even I am shocked they are sinking to this level this openly.

          •  The king can do no wrong (none)
            was (and I think still is, in the UK) a principle of the common law.  I thought we had rejected it in the U.S.
            •  In my comparative politics class (none)
              the main thing I remember about the UK is "Parliament reigns supreme". They really don't have checks and balances, no single written Constitution, and no judicial review. The monarchy is mostly ceremonial but there is the Royal Assent, in which the Crown rubber-stamps what Parliament passes.

              In past centuries, after the Civil War when Parliament gained more power, a bill was more likely to pass if it was known the Crown supported it. That's how Queen Victoria got herself voted in as Empress of India.

              They do believe that the King/Queen can do no wrong, but it's irrelevant because that belief no longer influences governing. Here, of course, that is not the case.

          •  Leahy tried to pin him down (none)
            I saw Leahy's questioning excerpted during the lunch break, and he asked a lot of questions about the warrantless eavesdropping and the torture signing statement, and Alito said that the burden of proof would be on the executive to explain why it was ok to violate the law.

            However, the question of whether it is Constitutional would, I suppose, depend on what limits you believe the Constitution places on the executive branch, so the whole thing takes us in one big circle, doesn't it?

            •  It's odd for Alito to say that. (none)
              Who, exactly, would this U. E. even have to be explaining itself to in the first place? I guess this means I should motivate myself to actually read a transcript of the proceedings. :)

              Your latter statement is accurate. As another poster further up this thread said, there is no ultimate, independent authority out there watching over how we handle the Constitution. That means we should appoint people who believe the government should not be allowed to break the law. I think the executive being required to follow federal laws passed by Congress is a valid interpretation of the Constitution. If only the federal government agreed with me!

          •  Look no further (none)
            than the Supreme Court.  Their decisions stand.  And through the decades, they have evolved their own role in their right to interpret the Constitution as they see fit.  They can strike down laws.  They in many ways have complete control over their own branch and have expanded the breadth of thier power over lawmaking.

            "I'm an insect who dreamed he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over..." - Charles E. Pogue, "The Fly".

            by edsdet on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 12:05:27 PM PST

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            •  But that's their job, (none)
              to interpret the Constitution. Of course they're going to do it as they see fit because that's what they get appointed for. The trick is to find out if those appointees are going to do the job correctly, with the Constitution in mind as they make the tough choices.

              The Court is furthest from the will of the people, for example by means of Justices serving life terms. To broadly paraphrase the authors of the Federalist Papers, the USSC is supposed to stay its distance from popular politics - let the Senate and especially the House be more democratic. The fear, a very legitimate one, was that jurisprudence would become politicized.

              That's why, as I said in some other posts, we should appoint good people to this body. It's a terribly important job, but someone really needs to do it, and it's my opinion that alternatives to the USC as set up in the Constitution would be even worse. A politicized judiciary, especially here in the US, would likely be an unmitigated disaster.

              Their decisions should stand. We can't have an endless chain of appellate courts stretching up into infinity where people go court-shopping until they get the decision they want. Someone has to make these choices.

              As well, nominees are selected by an elected President (yes, I know, I'm talking about the theory here), confirmed by a majority vote of the Senate, and can be impeached, so there is accountability in theory. Whether people act on that, as you have accurately pointed out elsewhere in this thread, is a separate matter.

              •  Many feel (none)
                that making law is not their job.  And they do so.
                Check out all the "incorporation" fixes to the Fourteenth Amendment.  The mixed and matched, copied and pasted an original document.
                That is Law making.  A right reserved to the Legislative branch.  Do they have the right to go beyond the original job description.  Absolutely!
                If they successfully assert that right without objection.  They're in like Flynn.

                "I'm an insect who dreamed he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over..." - Charles E. Pogue, "The Fly".

                by edsdet on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 01:13:32 PM PST

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