Is the Solution to Obama a Parliamentary Government?

Part of the genius of our Founders was the really clever way they blended three forms of government into one.  We are part monarchy, part Republic, part democracy.  The Democracy, of course, is the House – one man, one vote and everyone counts.  The Republic is the Senate – each constituent State has equal representation regardless of population.  The monarch, of course, is the President.  Most people don’t fully realize this aspect of our government – but the President is as much a king as anyone who ever sat a throne except for one thing:  his term of office is limited by years rather than by his life span.

It is interesting that in Churchill’s history of the First World War – The World Crisis – the description he gives of the American government observes that in practical terms, in 1917, the American President held more power than any other single individual on earth.  That was written before the enormities of Stalin and Hitler, but by Churchill’s lights at the time, it was correct – even though Russia had a Czar and Germany and Austria-Hungary had Kaisers. The President is at once party leader, head of State and head of government.  A vigorous person in that office is able to impose his will upon Congress and the people and move policy in the way he desires, even without violating the Constitution. And the President can pretty much get America into war any time he wants by simple fact of moving military forces under his own authority anywhere he wants, and letting the resultant events almost compel a declaration from Congress.

I believe that our Founders set this up quite deliberately – that they wanted a system which embodies what they perceived as best in all forms of government, but with each side checked vigorously by other Powers in government. And it worked very well – we had our leader who could act decisively in an emergency while also ensuring that final power to actual change things was in the hands of elected officials, with a final referee, as it were, in the Supreme Court to ensure that neither President nor Congress strayed beyond the bounds of settled law.  There was, however, a weakness in the system and it is a weakness which cannot be avoided in any system: it is dependent for its operation upon the actions of human beings.  Human beings are Fallen and thus get things wrong; usually very often. But we had a great bit of good luck at our start in that our first President – our first King, as it were – was George Washington.  Here was a man who genuinely held himself to be no more than the first magistrate of a free people and while he could have stayed in office until he died – and, indeed, at one point could have gotten himself crowned as actual king – he voluntarily gave up office and retired to private life.

This example of humble Presidential leadership stood us in good stead for quite a long time, but by the time Theodore Roosevelt took office, it started to wear thin as he and most of his successors thought of themselves not as agents of an impartial government, but men of destiny who had to place their indelible imprint upon the nation and the world.  From Theodore Roosevelt to Wilson to Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama is a pretty straight line, only slightly pushed off course by Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan, who did have a much more Washingtonian ideal of the Presidency than most over the past century.  It was Theodore Roosevelt who first denied the limitations of power in the Founder’s system – saying that unless something was specifically forbidden a President in the Constitution, the President was free to do it.  This was a watershed event – and quite in contrast to Roosevelt’s recent predecessor Grover Cleveland who routinely vetoed legislation for the sole reason that he found no warrant for the law in the powers granted to the government by the Constitution. Now we’ve finished the task and in Obama, we’ve got a President who is essentially claiming that unless someone can actually stop him, he can do as he wishes – the pen and the phone are mightier than the Constitution.  And, so, how do we fix this?

The Founders thought they had provided sufficient safe guards against such things by inserting into the Constitution the power of the legislative to impeach the executive. It was thought that out of a jealous desire to preserve legislative power that the legislature would vigorously oppose the executive and be willing to use the extreme sanction of impeachment when a President started abusing his office.  It didn’t really work out like that – the first impeachment of Andrew Johnson was the merest bit of partisan hackery where the legislative majority simply  wanted to do away with an uncooperative executive; the second against Nixon was only successful because Nixon’s own allies abandoned him; the third against Clinton failed because Clinton’s allies refused to abandon him even though it was clear that Clinton has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors”. And that was that – once it became clear that partisanship would rule the day in impeachment, then it became a requirement that the Senate have 67 firmly committed members to vote for conviction before impeachment would even be considered and given the partisan nature of things, this means a Senate wherein at least 67 members are from the opposition party.  You can look back in time and see how few and far between are the times when any party controlled 67% of the Senate seats.  This means that impeachment is functionally impossible. We need another means of controlling the executive.

We could decide to lower the bar on impeachment convictions, and that might be a sorta-good way to go.  Better than no restrictions, after all.  But if we made it so that only 55 Senators had to vote to convict, then we would see more partisan hackery in the matter of impeachment where the Senate majority just wants to get rid of a President who isn’t cooperative.  That is fatal to good government quite as much as an out of control executive.  Maybe, and this is just me starting to think it over, we should remove the President from day to day executive authority?  That would be to interpose a Prime Minister between the President and the operations of government on a day to day basis.  A Parliamentary regime.

We’d still want a Commander in Chief for war time and other such emergencies, but we also very much want a President who can’t use his pen and phone to alter law.  So, we amend the Constitution to command the President to nominate as Prime Minister the leader of the party holding the most seats in the House of Representatives, and that person – upon confirmation via the Senate – nominates the heads of the government Departments and monitors and controls their actions subject to approval or overthrow by the House. We would make it so that the President signs laws into approval, or vetoes them as he desires.  He would still command the armed forces, negotiate treaties (with the advice and consent of the Senate as now) and could recommend legislation – but in what the Departments would do, he would have no say. And the people who do have the say in the actions of the Department, they can be removed by a simple majority vote in the House – and if the people don’t like how government is going, then every two years they get a chance to change the composition of the House, and thus get a government hopefully more to their liking.

Yes, this could lead to a situation – as it does in France, from time to time – where the President and the Prime Minister are of different parties.  Would it really be that bad if they had to work together?  The PM can want this, that or the other thing, but he’s not going to get it into law unless the President agrees – ditto on the President’s side. Other changes can also be made (I’ve long been in favor of limit the President to one, six-year term, eg), but we do have to think seriously about how we are going to ensure the means of cutting off a President – like Obama, but also like Johnson and FDR and Wilson in the past – who doesn’t care what the law says and is just going to do what he wants, defying anyone to stop him, secure in the knowledge that his opponents won’t have those 67 Senators necessary to convict on impeachment. At any rate, if anyone has a better idea, I’m all ears.


16 thoughts on “Is the Solution to Obama a Parliamentary Government?

  1. Cluster June 25, 2014 / 8:10 am

    The status quo won again last night as big government democrats helped Thad Cochran win a 7th term in the Senate. A 7TH TERM!!!! 36 years already served and now working towards 42 years. How does everyone feel about that? I think it’s insane. No one should serve in government that long. Cochran is an establishment, stale, old, entrenched, bought and paid for legislator that does not have any new, fresh ideas or energy to fight for a different kind of government. He is a go along to get along guy. Exactly the kind of person that is hurting this country.

    • M. Noonan June 25, 2014 / 3:02 pm

      He’s all that – but he was smart enough to go where the votes were. I wanted McDaniel to win – but he failed to come up with a counter-strategy…and had he appealed to A-A votes he probably would have got just enough to overcome Cochran, given how very close it was. Lesson learned – leave no vote un-asked-for. Indeed, this has been a thing I’ve harped on a long time…Cochran did it for narrow political reasons, but he does point the right way: go get votes which haven’t come our way before. Broaden the base. Make a bigger party.

      • Cluster June 25, 2014 / 3:47 pm

        Cochran hasn’t learned any lesson. He is what is wrong with politics. A career politician who is in it for himself. And he courted Democrat voters who were only interested in keeping an establishment politician in place – someone who brings home federal money.

        That being said, he is at least a GOP’er which helps us get rid of Harry Reid.

      • M. Noonan June 26, 2014 / 2:39 pm

        To be sure, Cochran is an out-of-touch political dinosaur, but smart TEA Partiers are now thinking, “can two play at that game”?

        Remember, for all our liberals supposed concern for African-Americans, they have really treated them like dirt and made things worse for them, especially in the bluest of the blue cities. But a TEA Party candidate looking both to surprise a RINO as well as build up a coalition for the fall (and the longer future) could go into African-American areas to campaign…asking these voters, who won’t be needed in the Democrat primary to, instead, vote in the GOP primary. Like this: schools suck, policing is lousy, too many young people are in jail, too many young women are unwed with children and no education or prospects…what is the TEA Party ultimately for if not to break down the system which shoved these people into that mess? Might as well go talk to them, offer them solutions and ask for their votes.

      • Cluster June 26, 2014 / 5:44 pm

        100% agree that we need to engage in conversation with the “disenfranchised” Democrats – i.e.; those who the Democrats purportedly care about, but whose policies in reality harm. However, Cochran’s message towards this group was very progressive in nature and not at all conservative. He won just like a Democrat. That is what I take exception with.

      • M. Noonan June 26, 2014 / 11:44 pm

        Agreed that Cochran’s tactics were low – but to me, they’re still a sign post. After all, baring something totally unexpected, Democrats won’t win State-wide office in MS…so, might as well use it as a test ground to get African-American voters to come over to the GOP.

      • Cluster June 27, 2014 / 11:17 am

        With re: to the topic at hand – the prime minister is an interesting idea, but our Constitutional Republic will work just fine if we have a more educated, engaged populace who are mindful of career politicians incompetence and graft and take the appropriate remedies.

      • Amazona June 27, 2014 / 11:20 am

        I don’t see Cochran’s actions as a “signpost” of anything even remotely positive for conservatives. He did not ask Democrats to vote for him because he offered a crossover message—he asked them to help him sabotage someone who is more conservative. I don’t see anything at all positive in being able to get Democrats to undermine a conservative candidate to help keep a RINO in office. He did not offer them “solutions”, he asked them to stop someone who actually had solutions. These Dems did not vote for a Republican over a Democrat—it was a REPUBLICAN PRIMARY and they voted to keep a Progressive in. I can’t imagine thinking that they will then vote for Cochran against the Dem candidate.

      • M. Noonan June 27, 2014 / 2:06 pm

        We GOPers can then work in the States to make all primaries closed – or go to a State convention method of nominating our candidates. But the laws in MS covered what Cochran did – and McDaniel’s failure was to not see soon enough just what Cochran was doing and counter it. The vote was so narrowly in Cochran’s favor that even a blatant, TEA Party appeal to African-American voters might have got McDaniel enough votes to overcome Cochran. That is where the sign post is – and McDaniel failed to see it.

      • Amazona June 28, 2014 / 11:17 am

        Right now I think the worst thing about Cochran’s nomination would be a knee-jerk reaction from disgruntled conservatives leading to them just not voting. Nominating Cochran is not a victory—-driving GOP voters away from the polls would be.

        Cochran is a politician, so he is not going to stand up and fight the party if reelected. I don’t think we were foolish enough, or naive enough, to think we could get rid of all the old entrenched RINOs in one or two elections, and we have always known we would be stuck with some until they just fade away. So we need to learn what we can from this (don’t allow open primaries which allow our opposition to pick our candidates, for one thing, and to be smarter, for another) and make the best of it.

        That is, to make sure Cochran is elected, because he is still an R in the right column, and as such would still contribute to having a Republican majority in the Senate, unseating Harry Reid, and giving conservatives a voice we don’t have now even if his is not part of it.

  2. Retired Spook June 25, 2014 / 11:48 am

    At any rate, if anyone has a better idea, I’m all ears.

    Mark, your idea is intriguing, but would, as you note, require a constitutional amendment. I don’t see Congress initiating that anytime soon, and an Article V convention of the states, while being actively discussed by a number of factions, is also not likely to happen in the near future.

    I know I sound like a broken record, but I don’t see anything other than some kind of national emergency moving the needle of reform at this point in our history. The Left is on a roll, albeit enabled my many on our side, like I’ve never seen in my lifetime. Currently we have too many sheeple, too many of which are lined up at the guv’mint trough, but, at some point, there will be an outcry of “enough”. The timing or the form such a proclamation will take is anyone’s guess, but I’m growing increasingly skeptical that it will be done peacefully. There’s just too much rage growing in flyover country.

    • M. Noonan June 25, 2014 / 1:28 pm


      It is a disturbing time – I haven’t read Levin’s “Liberty Amendments” book, but I’m sure they are a bunch of good ideas…but my issue is that what laws we have are not the problem: the problem is that the President is entirely lawless, and so is his entire Administration. I think that insufferable ass, Koskinen, is who really crystalized it for me – you can just see in his smug face the knowledge that he’s rich and powerful and immune from prosecution. As long as he does what Obama wants done, no one will touch him – and he’s also probably convinced that even if a Republican wins in 2016, in the “Good Old Boy” spirit, no one will want to rake over the past and go after people like him.

      Setting up a Prime Minister wouldn’t necessarily fix all that – but I think it would make those who run the Departments a bit more wary…far less willing, even if in the same party, of just doing the President’s bidding.

  3. Retired Spook June 25, 2014 / 1:24 pm

    OT, but just too funny to pass up, the eclectic team of Hank Paulson, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer say climate change is one of our greatest economic threats, and 2 days later first quarter GDP is adjusted down to a negative 3% due to (drum roll, please) COLD WEATHER. YJCMTSU!!

  4. tiredoflibbs June 26, 2014 / 3:07 pm

    On the side of the Constitution today and against obame’s lawlessness, the Supreme Court ruled UNANIMOUSLY against obame’s recess appointments, where he claimed the Senate was not in session (maybe at that exact second) and made appointments of favorable hack’s to the LRB.

    The proggies defended his appointments as to not being outside of the law and relied on a favorable hack judge’s opinion to back them up. Again, the rule of law stands out against their ideology of “a pen and a phone” and let the pResident act on his own and bypass Congress.

  5. Amazona June 27, 2014 / 11:27 am

    This plan would have given us President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Nancy Pelosi, followed by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister John Boehner. That seems to be compounding the disaster of just having Obama as President and some Progressive as Speaker of the House.

    No, the last thing we need is another layer of authority in the federal government. What we need is a Congress that can be controlled by the people—-that is, one with term limits——–and a Supreme Court reined in regarding its actual scope of authority. We need to strip the judicial branch of its assumed powers and get it back where it belongs, and we need to strip down the agency branch of government that has become a de facto fourth branch of government.

    Adding another layer of federal authority to solve the problem of federal authority run amok is akin to dealing with digging oneself into a hole by hiring more diggers.

    • M. Noonan June 27, 2014 / 2:03 pm

      Term limits are a long standing desire of mine – it would be better, in my view, if the President were limited to one, six year term; Senators to two, six year terms; House members to six, two year terms; federal judges to twenty years. I’d also put in that while you are holding a federal office, you cannot seek a different federal office until two years after the end of your last federal term. If we could get that, it would resolve a lot of problems – but not the problem of a lawless President. I don’t think that it would still be actually possible to remove a President via impeachment even under a term-limit system.

      In Obama we have a man who simply does not care what anyone thinks – and he can do this because there is no power in the United States which will call him to account. The idea of a Prime Minister removable by the House by simple majority vote does put a lot of pressure on the head of the Administration to curb his or her appetite.

      You are right that in 2009, this would have meant President Obama and Prime Minister Pelosi – but in 2011 we would have got Prime Minister Boehner, and that would have meant, among other things, no more Eric Holder at Justice. That would have been a good thing – even if Boehner had appointed to the most spineless RINO in existence to the post; I doubt that such would have been quite a racist, race-baiting and law-breaking as Holder has been.

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