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Happy Ends, Uneasy Means

Friday, January 23, 2009
Yesterday Obama issued a series of executive orders that has me and a lot of other liberals quite happy. He moved to close Guantanamo Bay, banned torture, ordered a review of detention policies, and weakened executive privilege. Obama also liberalized FOIA rules and lifted the global gag rule.

Substantively, there are all very good moves, and long overdue. If Obama does nothing more than restore basic civil liberties, I will count his presidency a constructive one. However, the fact that Obama's ascension to the Presidency was required for these policies to be implemented annoys me greatly. With the exception of possible executive privilege requirements, each of these executive orders were essentially legislative acts, not executive ones. They involved fundamental changes in policy rather than the detailed administrative rules executive orders are intended to be.

In short, Obama's recent executive orders are further examples of the monstrous concentration of power in the contemporary presidency, a trend that has continued through Democratic and Republican presidents, Democratic and Republican congresses, divided and unified governments - through every conceivable combination of partisan control.

These policies should have been reversed when the Democrats took control of the Congress in 2007. They had working majorities in both chambers, and policy formulation should rest with the Congress as the legislative branch. But instead we have a pusillanimous Congress that is all to ready to cede the policy initiative to an overweening White House - whatever the partisan coloration.

I'm not saying that I'm not thrilled that Obama is taking his responsibility seriously. I am. But I'd be happier if he took his oath to preserve the Constitution seriously, a document whose essence is the meaningful separation of powers.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:34 AM
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