If a person refuses a bowl of chocolate ice cream, does that mean they hate ice cream, or that they just don't like chocolate? The two alternatives are both perfectly possible, given the facts. What you might assume, might depend on what you already thought
Or, could it just be that they had a big bowl earlier, and don't feel they could eat another? Or maybe they simply want to lose weight? Or what if you approach them with annoyance because you were treating them for some other reason?
Why am I getting tied in logical knots over ice cream? Well, the answer might have something to do with Platinum Coins, 14th Amendment remedies and similar such ideas for extraordinary use of executive power, and why it may just be the case that we're fatally overextending our idea of executive power in the case of Barack Obama.
Partisans like us want results, and we want them now! We're often not content to let bureaucratic process move its way through. That said, for the system to have a certain level of fairness, stability, and predictability, the process does have to jump through some hoops.
The Constitution wasn't written to create a weak executive, by any means. The whole point of a Constitution like ours was to strengthen the ability of executive powers to carry out the laws. But at basis, that is what the Executive Branch is supposed to do, and Congress's powers are specifically designed to where the Executive Branch doesn't have a choice.
James Madison designed much of what went into the constitution so that if people couldn't agree on a particular change, or a particular policy on a certain matter, that you just wouldn't see any change. He specifically suggested many mechanisms so that factions in Congress would clash, and until compromise was made, things wouldn't get done.
The Framers didn't come up with the Debt Limit. That would be a product of the Twentieth Century. Before that, every time the US issued debt, Congress would be behind that issuance. It was a Congressional prerogative from the start, and all the Debt Limit did was delegate that power.
As the course of the Debt Limit Crisis unfolded, the desperation of Democrats here on Daily Kos grew, as they came to understand that the Congress and the President were negotiation some rather crappy deals. Well, we can't have that, can we? So, all kinds of ideas were floated here, and around the blogosphere, and folks talked about these rather unusual and unprecedented exercises of executive power.
The question would be, how would we react if the precedent we set meant a Republican President could do these same thing things, take these same reckless measures? Could you fund a war a Democratic Congress was unwilling to okay the funds for this way? For years we fought the reckless expansion of executive powers. We still resent their use in the hands of Barack Obama. But it seems when the flavor of the extraordinary power grab is vanilla rather than chocolate, some of us like it.
Over time, I've begun to realize that the generalizations about freedom and constraint concerning each of the parties are misleading. Conservatives and liberals aren't respectively the parties of liberty and bondage, or vice versa. Each political group wants different rights and different obligations given to Americans. It is the mix of those freedoms and constraints, those bindings and those liberties, the rights we value and the obligations we impose that make us who we are as political actors.
Years of strengthening of executive power, in part a result of our party and movement's emphasis on government constraint of the rich and powerful, in part a result of a long term military build up and defense establishment growth, have left us with a very different notion of the Presidency than we once had, and I think, in part, that's a mistake, and it's an error that gets in the way of true change.
The issue here is that Congress still functions to make the laws under our Constitution. When we become enamored of the President overstepping his bounds to do what we deem to be expedient at the time, we end up putting our hopes and dreams on the back of one person who Congress can force to bend to their will by the very nature of our constitutional democratic republic. Obama's charge in his oath is to faithfully execute the laws of this nation, which means that if he happens to disagree with a law that was passed, he's still legally bound to enforce it, and there are limitations to what he can do to circumvent them, and still remain on the right side of the law.
There are limits to what power he can grab, without setting the political precedent for the contempt of constitutional law in a certain area.
What am I saying here? That those who focus, even obsess over what President Barack Obama is doing may have their focus in the wrong place. It may not be popular to say this, or to express this sentiment, it may not fit with the preconceptions that generations of children brought up under the strong executive model of government had, but we may be wasting our time trying to force Obama to take out the Elder Wand and set the world to right.
I'm saying Obama probably realizes better than most what his constitutional constraints are, which is one reason he prefers ot "lead from behind" developing legislation behind the scenes, rather than taking a more aggressive stance.
I'm saying that if we're truly keen on seeing change, it's never going to be good enough to just get a President we like in there. If the President is right, but the Congress is not, the Constitution's bindings will limit that leader's options, and our ability to get results in a manner that doesn't disrupt our constitutional system will be curtailed.
Folks, we have to change Congress. Be a little picky, but not too picky, because this election, it's about getting the numbers to reverse the last election. The Election that delivered the House of Representatives back in the hands of the folks whose brinksmanship, whose abuse of constitutional power just resulted in a ratings agency downgrade of our debt that will have unpredictable results.
At the very least, we need to get power back into the hands of Nancy Pelosi, Rather than Mister Sad Citrus. That power, in his hands, has meant that a lot in this country didn't get done this past year, and a lot of things that shouldn't have come out of Congress did. That power mean that Obama didn't have so many choices in terms of fulfilling what our ambitions for him were.
As a person who had civics drilled into me in high school, who understands how the ability to set up the committees, the hearings, the debates, the votes, and the basic agendas of the Legislative sessions amplifies the power of the majority, let me appeal to you not to underestimate the necessity of regaining full control over our nation's legislature.