Can the Constitution be Saved?

Charles Cooke notes that some on the right appear to be eagerly anticipating the time when a Republican President can invoke the “Obama rule” and just start doing whatever he or she pleases – and he doesn’t like it:

…I am afraid that I consider this approach to be little short of suicidal, and I can under no circumstances look forward to a system in which the executive may pick and choose which laws he is prepared to enforce. On the contrary: I consider the idea to be a grave and a disastrous one, and I would propose that any such change is likely to usher in chaos at first and then to incite a slow, tragic descent into the monarchy and caprice that our ancestors spent so long trying to escape. During the last 500 years or so, the primary question that has faced the Anglo-American polities has been whether the executive or the legislature is to be the key proprietor of domestic power. In one form or another, this query informed both the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution that followed it, and it was at the root of the Revolution in America. Cast your eyes across the Declaration of Independence and you will notice that the majority of the “long train of abuses and usurpations” have to do with the violation of the rights of assemblies by individuals who believe themselves to be the dominant arbiter of the state’s affairs…

I don’t like it, either; but the question is, can the cat be put back in the bag? That is where we get into very doubtful territory. Earlier in his article, Cooke notes the impossibility of actually explaining what is at stake to the average audience – which either won’t know the issues (thanks, public schools!) or won’t have the patience to deal with it. We are a very long way from any sort of America which fully understands what is at stake. This puts anyone who wishes to have a constitutional republic at a disadvantage as it is useless to discuss the finer points of what is actually a human right against someone who is promising the sun and the moon in a political campaign.

No system will ever work better than the people who run it. And the trouble with all human systems is that they are run by human beings – human beings who are prey to cowardice, greed, pride, flattery and all that. The historian Will Durant, in discussing the Principate established by the first Roman Emperor, noted that in legal terms the powers the Emperor had were no greater than those of an energetic American President – how, then, did the Principate so swiftly degenerate from the high tone of Augustus to the madness of Caligula and Nero? Because the people who ran the system allowed it to happen – it was easier to just let the Emperor rule; to take the bribe, the obtain the sinecure position, to let things slide. Fighting for principal only forced you to work and exposed you to attack. Better to go along to get along. One would have hoped in 2009 that Congressional Democrats would have been keen to preserve their own power vis a vis the White House, regardless of who is in office. But, nothing doing – once Obama was sworn in, Congress became the merest rubber stamp…and once the GOP gained the House in 2010, nothing happened in Congress because Reid, the alleged leader of the Senate, decided that it was just easier to let Obama do whatever he pleased. This it the nature of things in human affairs – and no system we have or can create will really change it.

Our now-tattered and broken system had a good run. From 1787 until 1950 it pretty much worked as planned, aside from a few abuses. It worked because everyone kept it working – the President didn’t abuse and Congress was vigilant in protecting it’s power. Since 1950, though, it as rather fallen apart (the signal for this, by the way, was Truman’s commitment to war in Korea without obtaining prior Congressional authorization: going to war in Korea was correct American policy – but Truman should have got a declaration of war from Congress, first). We have just drifted along with the tide of events – and Congress passed its legislative powers away: first to the Courts, later to the bureaucracy and now to the merest whim of the President. The one defense the Founders gave us against Executive abuse – impeachment – is a dead letter. It never really worked (if it had, a good dozen Presidents would have been removed from office over the years), and it was killed off when Clinton was acquitted by the Senate even though he clearly had broken the law and should have been removed from office. Unless by some political miracle you can get 67 Senators in opposition to a President, impeachment will never happen – and I can’t see either major party ever getting to 67 Senators while the other party is in the White House. Freed from any fear of impeachment, a President can do as he pleases while in office – there’s really no way to stop him (some people hold that the power of the purse can still be invoked: I ask, how? Suppose the President draws money out of the Treasury which hasn’t been appropriated; what is the only sanction you can hit him with? The aforementioned dead letter of impeachment…).

I don’t know how we get back to a place where the President holds himself in check and/or the Congress vigorously protects it’s own power. It could be that we’ll need to go through a period of executive tyranny (you know, dictatorship) which leads to revolution and the re-establishment of constitutional law. I hope it doesn’t come to that. And as a means of trying to prevent that, I do have some suggestions:

1. Don’t be afraid to rake over the past a bit. When a new Administration comes into office, one of its first orders of business should be the investigation of the previous Administration. This is especially true when it is a change of political party as well as a new Administration. Sure, this means that Bush Administration officials would have been raked over the coals by Obama people – but it also might mean that Obama people get the same raking over by President Walker’s troops. The thought that in just a few years the other guys might be in power and thus looking to send you to jail would produce a great deal of fear about abusing power and breaking the law.

2. Term limits. Part of the problem with Congress is that they can stick around too long…you’ve got a nice office, a large staff, things are going pretty well: why rock the boat? Might cause you to lose office. Better to just go along to get along. Term limits brings that to an end – if you can’t re-seek your current office next year, then might as well do your job (true, some people will just coast along to the end of their term…but others will be ambitious for different office, and what better way to make a name than to shake things up?).

3. Make all government officials – elected and appointed – directly responsible for their actions. No more government pays when official so-and-so screws up: nope, the official pays. In criminal and civil penalties. No more immunity for government officials: and no more anonymity, either…their names, salaries, positions and performance reviews are on line for everyone to see. Having the people kinda looking over their shoulders might make them less willing to do wrong.

That is just a few things; other people can come up with other ideas. But do keep in mind that there are two ways to make a government behave: have honorable men and women as a majority of the government, or put the most intense fear of retribution into the minds of government officials. We can’t ever be sure that anyone is actually honorable (even the best of us can go wrong), so we should concentrate on putting the fear on them – the thought that you are to be hanged in a fortnight does concentrate the mind wonderfully…and if a government official is worried every day that he might be called to account for his actions, he’ll either do as little as possible or be as honest as possible…in either case, we’re ahead of the game.

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10 thoughts on “Can the Constitution be Saved?

  1. tiredoflibbs November 18, 2014 / 10:28 pm

    Can the Constitution be saved?

    Under the present Republican “leadership” it can’t! Boehner and McConnel have cowered before this pResident far too many times. They have allowed the pResident to take powers he is not authorized to have. They have allowed him to circumvent Congress. They have not held Obame to the letter of the law on more than one occasion. In the House alone, Boehner could have used the authorized “power of the purse” to stop many of his unconstitutional executive orders, obamacare and others but each and every time Boehner gave him a pass. McConnell gave him his nominees saying “the President should be able to have the cabinet (or judges) he wants” regardless of qualification or experience. Challenging the pResident is foreign to these fools. Allowing obame and the Democrats to run rough-shod over the Constitution does nothing to save it and set precedence over more.

    Pathetic.

    • M. Noonan November 19, 2014 / 12:47 pm

      True – it has accelerated at an alarming rate under Obama, but we’ve been losing freedom for a long time, now. I’d like to bring up that it was stodgy, old Catholic philosophers and theologians who first pointed out, waaaaay back in the beginning of the Progressive era, that things like social security would set us on the path to tyranny. Trouble is, ever fewer people these days even understand what freedom is – outside of a freedom to have sex, of course: that has been rather well-drilled into the brain (though a part of feminism is essentially trying to ban heterosexual sex via their “rape culture” nonsense; I’ve seriously come across one feminist kook who believes that any sex between a man and a woman is rape).

      Getting back to freedom will be difficult – but I think we can step-by-step it, if we can just work out a way to win over the next few years in the political arena.

  2. tiredoflibbs November 19, 2014 / 7:26 pm

    Mark,

    It will be hard to get the necessary change that we need to restore the Constitution. It will prove very difficult when people who vote based on ideology and revisionism. These lefties can’t honestly observe what is going on around us. Their ideology will win out regardless of the facts that are out there. Take for example, voter ID – when statistics show that more people have participated in voting when an ID is required, they continue to put forth the ideological lie that the poor will be not be able to vote. The poorest of the poor in India have voter IDs so that throws that lefty lie out the window, but that does not stop them from spewing the same old crap.

    Take my comment above,
    “McConnell gave him his nominees saying “the President should be able to have the cabinet (or judges) he wants” regardless of qualification or experience.”

    A brainless lefty then lies as to what I stated saying:
    “I see tired is having a raging sad that Obama is allowed to appoint people to positions”

    Not even close….

    You can’t honestly debate people or put forth legislation when the left is just going to lie about what you are saying and what you are trying to accomplish. But that is what the left has, lies and brainless people who will follow them.

    • Amazona November 19, 2014 / 9:55 pm

      If only people WOULD vote according to ideology, instead of Identity Politics, we would have a much different government today.

      You have had it proved to you over and over again that even these raging Lefties whose emissions you find so addictive are not Lefties because of an ideology—-that is, because of a belief in the best way to govern the nation. No, they are slaves to their bigotries. They need to hate and attack, and the Left has callously but brilliantly devised the strategy of recruiting these personality disorders, praising them, vindicating them, and letting those afflicted see them as virtues and signs of superiority.

      So far only one, of the many dozens I have challenged, has been able to come up with anything even approaching an ideology—unless a blind adherence to hatred of an invented Right qualifies as ideology. They don’t have a clear idea of the ideology they support and enable. They bleat that they DO believe in the Constitution, while doing everything they can to destroy the movement that is trying to save it and restore it as the law of the land, which is proof that they have absolutely no idea of what they are doing, beyond squirting out various hate-driven inanities.

      I don’t even think these people vote the way they do due to “revisionism” because they are ignorant of everything that lies behind the result of those votes. No, they vote because they hate, and they vote the way they do because they are too stupid to objectively analyze facts and realize they are being led around by the nose and manipulated by their pathologies. They amuse themselves by purposely twisting what others say, as in your example, and this juvenile wordplay constitutes what they think of as “politics”. It is no more than lurking in the muck till someone they have identified as Republican, or Conservative, says something, and then lurching out to defecate on it, snickering all the while about their self-perceived wit and political savvy.

  3. dbschmidt November 20, 2014 / 12:02 am

    Way off-topic here but I will fill in on topic later–a little levity;

    In the hospital where a family member lay gravely ill, the relatives gathered in the waiting room.

    Finally, the doctor came in looking tired and somber. “I’m afraid I’m the bearer of bad news,” he said as he surveyed the worried faces. “The only hope left for your loved one at this time is a brain transplant. It’s an experimental procedure, very risky, but it’s the only hope. Insurance will cover the procedure, but you will have to pay for the brain.

    The family members sat silent as they absorbed the news. After a time, someone asked, “How much will a brain cost?

    The doctor quickly responded, “$5,000 for a liberal’s brain; $200 for a conservative’s brain.”

    The moment turned awkward. Some of the liberals actually had to try not to smirk, avoiding eye contact with the conservatives. A man unable to control his curiosity, finally blurted out the question everyone wanted to ask, “Why is the liberal’s brain so much more than a conservative’s brain?”

    The doctor smiled at the childish innocence and explained to the entire group, “It’s just standard pricing procedure. We have to price the conservative’s brains a lot lower because they’re used.”

    Then again–it could explain a great deal.

  4. Retired Spook November 20, 2014 / 9:07 am

    The next time someone tells you we should be more like France, remind them that during the 227 years that our Constitution has endured, France has had 16 constitutions.

    There’s a word in financial markets used to describe the unwinding of positions of high liquidity. It’s called deleveraging. The same thing will have to happen with the Constitution if it’s to be saved — the deliberate and calculated unwinding of all the damage done to the compact between the people, the states and the federal government by the Progressive movement over the last century. Isn’t it ironic that the necessity of deleveraging in both instances is to repair damage done by Leftists? It’s going to take a core of dedicated men and women of exceptionally high character and integrity who renew the Founder’s pledge of lives, fortunes and sacred honor to accomplish. I hope they show up soon.

    • Amazona November 20, 2014 / 9:40 am

      They need to start tonight. I heard part of Obama’s pre-speech speech, his warmup to tonight, in which he blatantly lied and said he is going to use the legal powers of his office. We need a Congress with the backbone to stand up to him and say no, the president does NOT have the legal powers to simply override legislation. He does NOT have the legal power to dictate which laws can and should be enforced. He does NOT have the legal power to make laws.

      I would love to see others stand up as well, such as the law enforcement officers in every state, county and city in this nation continuing to enforce the laws on the books and forcing King Obama to take legal action against each and every one of them, as he tried to do with Jan Brewer in Arizona.

      I am also going to write to Cory Gardner, our new Senator, to ask that a first order of business in the 2015 Congress be the passing of a law regarding enforcement of the oath of office and penalties for violating it. It would never pass the Dems, and if it did it would be vetoed, but it would be a way of making the Dems openly state their contempt for their oaths and their determination to be able to continue violating them.

      • Retired Spook November 20, 2014 / 10:29 am

        The guy who does the local drive-time talk show in Fort Wayne had an excellent idea last night. He suggested giving the GOP House and Senate leadership a 6 month grace period, and if they engage in the same ol’, same ol’, every GOP congressman and senator should get a deluge of mail, email and phone calls from constituents saying they will not get our votes in 2016 unless they actively support a change in leadership. That’s a movement I could get behind.

        And then there’s THIS.

        UPDATED with ABC decision not to air speech live: President Barack Obama will finally make public tomorrow night his plan to overhaul immigration. However, while his primetime speech will postpone part of Univision’s 15th annual Latin Grammys, it will not be covered by the Big 4.

        Un-frickin’-believable!!

      • M. Noonan November 20, 2014 / 1:15 pm

        The liberals would prefer, really, that the broad majority of Americans pay no attention – amnesty is simply not popular; its not even ragingly popular among the Latino population. Obama and the Democrats, I think, just want this done – and out of the way far enough in advance of 2016 that it doesn’t play a role in that election year.

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