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Presidential Power

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"Presidential Power"

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In other Jonah Goldberg-blogging, his LA Times column makes the point that people tend to take an expansive view of presidential power if and only if the current president is one they like:

Today, the dynamic is reversed. Liberals fret over creeping fascism while conservatives give Bush the benefit of the doubt. Both sides are open to charges of hypocrisy, and neither is immune to partisan amnesia. The only consistent crowd are the Libertarians, who distrust all government power.

I wish I had some solution to offer, but my guess is there is none. Indeed, you can be sure that if Hillary Clinton is elected president, someone will denounce her as “the most radical president we’ve ever had” — whether it’s true or not.

I think there is a solution to this, albeit an impractical one. The crux of the matter is that proponents of a strong presidency are right — the legislature shouldn’t be able to hog-tie the administration of government. But the proponents of a weak presidency are also right — the executive shouldn’t able to run amok irrespective of the legislature. The solution, as applied in all sorts of countries around the world is parliamentary government wherein the executive (i.e., the prime minister and his cabinet) are able to govern with a very free hand, but must at all times retain the confidence of the parliament.

The current war debate highlights the intrinsically problematic nature of the current structure. It really is pretty ill-advised for the congress to be attempting to dictate military strategy. At the same time, it’s even more ill-advised to keep letting an incompetent president and his discredit team have a free hand to continue their failed policies. In a proper country, the result of the 2006 elections would have been a new cabinet that had the confidence of the new parliament. Alternatively, the GOP would have dumped Bush as leader rather than plunge into an election with such an unpopular, inept chief.

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