Implied power shouldn’t imply kingship
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 17:03
Imagine the days of yore when knights rode around on horses to save damsels in distress and a king spelled out the supreme law of the land while a class of peasants worked to sustain him. It looks a lot like 2013 America (without the chivalry, obviously).
The executive branch of the United States government has been absorbing power for the last 225 years.
While the Constitution grants power to a variety of elected officials in the United States, the problem of deciding which powers should go to what branch still remains a gray area.
The Constitution was specifically vague about a lot of hot topics so it could earn quick ratification among the various states. In fact, the Constitution only has about 4,500 words (excluding the Bill of Rights), however it establishes the federal government in its entirety.
This fogginess in the Constitution has led to an incredible power struggle among the branches of government.
While Congress gets an adequate amount of the loose power, the Supreme Court can impact law a great deal by judging important cases such as Brown v. Board of Education or Roe v. Wade.
A lot of implied power goes to the executive branch, however, which can lead to a very dangerous situation.
The executive branch is headed by the president, but contains many more important positions. Most of the bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. belongs to the executive branch. Do to the “spoils system” made popular by Andrew Jackson, whenever a president takes office, he can bring all his political buddies to key positions around the executive branch.
The bureaucracy was much smaller in Jackson’s time, but as the poet Oscar Wilde once said, “The Bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding Bureaucracy.”
The biggest problem with a bulk of the bureaucracy falling under executive control is that one elected official, the president, can appoint a plethora of other unelected officials.
The secretary of state, secretary of defense, secretary of treasury, etc. all enter office with very little input from constituents. Even when advocacy groups band together to try to get Congress to block a nominee, there is still little effect.
For example, when Chuck Hagel was nominated as secretary of defense, many conservative and pro-Israel groups called and emailed senators to vote against the nomination.
The initial attempt was blocked, but only as political collateral for the Senate Republicans to gather more information on the Benghazi attacks. In short, the American voter has practically no say in choosing these officials.
Chuck Hagel’s predecessor, Leon Panetta, was the man that made the controversial decision to allow women to serve front-line roles in the military.
This man was not elected. Congress did not vote on this measure. Even Michelle Obama has altered public policy.
Half-way through President Obama’s first term, his wife, Michelle, publicly pressured the department of education to make healthier school lunches.
It is simply remarkable that a person who was not elected, nominated, or voted for by Congress can have such an impact on public policy.
Obama clearly holds a lot of power. He also acknowledges his executive power. On Feb. 6, President Obama released a memo justifying the specified killing of any individual.
This particular memo was not acknowledged by the Obama administration until pressure from Congress and the press encouraged the administration to release the information to select members of Congress.
In this example, the executive branch didn’t even share critical information concerning the ability to wield lethal drone strikes to the Intelligence Committee in Congress.
This example shows the further proliferation of executive power. The President of the United States now has the ability to perform a justified execution via drone strike on any individual without due process of trial.
So, looking at the executive branch of our government, does it look like the monarchy in days of yore first described? Perhaps that was an exaggeration.
If you were to ask the founding fathers the same question, however, they would probably agree that the president acts more like King George III than the president that they awarded limited powers to in the Constitution.
Korey Speaight is a sophomore histyory major of Jonesboro.