Presidents and the late, not-so-great Congress
Some folks say President Obama ignores the U.S. Constitution and rules like a dictator. Yet his two beautifully written and well-delivered inaugural addresses do not foretell of any dictatorial designs. But, by contrast, an earlier U.S. President was much more direct. Here are excerpts of how that President described the situation he faced:
"...Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kind is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone. More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim prospect of existence and an equally great number toil with little return...." [Sound familiar?]
Then, the newly inaugurated president spent most of the next 20 minutes explaining how it was going to be necessary for him to throw limited government -- the core Constitutional concept he had just sworn to defend -- under the bus.
In its place, he foretold a form of government in which the Executive Branch might have to eclipse the Legislative Branch and in which the "separation of powers" might have to be blurred.
He said the dire state of the nation "...can be helped by national planning for and supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and other utilities..."
Turning to the role he foresaw for ordinary Americans, he said: "We must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress can be made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good...With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack on our common problems... But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for un-delayed action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure...
"...But in the event that Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses...I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis -- broad Executive Power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe...They [the people] have made me the present instrument of their wishes. [Hitler made the same claim.]
Ruling for the next 12 years, President Franklin D. Roosevelt buried Congress which, under Democrats or Republicans, has still not risen from the dead. Then, in 1945, the advent of the Atomic Age further increased the power of the Executive Branch over the Legislative Branch and even cowed the U.S. Supreme Court.
Until the U.S. Congress finds a way to achieve Resurrection, the U.S. Constitution will continue to mean whatever a sitting U.S. President says it means.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame, and is a recipient of the University of Nebraska 2015 Alumni Achievement Award. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
©2015. William Hamilton.
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