Excessive Presidential Powers

It seems to me that, with more and more powers falling into the hands of the President, that, in the future, we could be at the mercy of an unstable or dictatorial president.

Are we currently giving away our system of checks and balances in the war on terror?

What are we leaving ourselves open for in the future?

berdollos, I agree that this approach to the issue raises the concern more squarely than approaching it from the states’ rights issue.

I would suggest that the bottom line in this case is that it will depend on the vigilance of the other two branches, and the determination of the citizens of the U.S. as whole: the other two branches, particularly Congress, to monitor how the Executive uses the wide powers it is asking for, and the citizens to be watchful of their rights.

Do I think it will result in a dictatorship? No, for the simple but profound reason that the American people have over 200 years of experience with self-government, constitutional rule, and the protection of liberty. Those basic principles run deep in the American people, and I can’t see you guys surrendering them, no matter what the cause.

From the time FDR came into office during the Great Depression, up until the time of the Watergate scandal, more and more power was slowly funnelled away from the Legislative Branch of the Federal government (Congress) and into its Executive Branch (the President).

Some political science historians even refer to this era as “Hallowed Be the President.”

After Watergate, of course, Americans realized that too much power in the hands of the President was a Bad Thing [TM], and many laws were passed that tied the President’s hands. Jimmy Carter had to spend his whole time in office under the onus of those President-limiting laws.

However, some of the clauses of these laws involved a legal device called the Legislative Veto, wherein Congress could veto an executive order. During the early years of the Reagan Administration, a Supreme Court case, INS v. CHADHA, 462 U.S. 919 (1983), struck down the Legislative Veto as being unconstitutional. Suddenly, the President had most, if not all, of his old pre-Watergate powers back.

The power of the Presidency has really not diminished since.

This is a common tactic perpetrated by the powers that be. “National Security” is always a wonderful excuse to cut down on those damned civil liberties we are entitled to. The Sedition Act was passed during WWII under the guise of National Security, and basically resulted in the arrest of Socialists and anti-war protesters. Thousands of documents will not be released because of national security.

And now, the USA Patriots Bill has cut down our liberties considerably, including due process and the 4th amendment on search and seizure.

Northern Piper, I agree with you that this will not result in a blatant dictatorship, but I think you forget about the power of propaganda and the irreconciable damage it can do.

For example, the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was passed b/c of a supposed attack on a US gunship. This resolution ultimately gave Nixon, 5 years later, the power to continue the war in Vietnam despite Congress’ desire to end it. Nixon slyly pulled US troops out of Vietnam while increasing the bombing on North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and killing hundreds of thousands of civilians.

We don’t blatantly have to “surrender” our principles. We only need be efficiently propagandized with lies and misinformation, while also encouraged not to be politically involved.

The organization of the people can result in overturning oppressive laws, but it is a hard road to travel, beset on all sides by the tyranny of evil men. One must be willing to sacrifice time, money, and even their own lives for the cause.

And the beautiful thing about America, from the perspective of these Machiavellian policy makers, is the we have all these rights guaranteeing all these liberties, and we have the freedom to practice religion and choose your own party, etc. etc. We have a democratic process, etc. etc. Most Americans are well fed and have a TV and computer and can do this and that and…

ultimately what it does is pacify the people. People have no desire to stand up for their rights, unless they can tell that they have been overtly and blatantly oppressed. The “secret tyranny” of the US, in its foreign policy and sometimes brutal treatment of its own citizens, can continue as long as most Americans are proud of all these rights that we have that other countries don’t have.

Most people trust the government, and have immense pride in it. I gather you don’t live in America, despite my little knowledge in longitude and latitude, so you didn’t see all the US flag bumperstickers sprout up, without question, as we rolled into war in Afghanistan. Most people think we’re the best country on earth, and will stand behind the government without question, as long as they are not personally infringed upon.

I think: Never give one person too much power, no matter what the excuse. We are a democracy, and as such we should believe that democracy works in all situations. And we should see these acts as treasonous, as excuses to neutralize the power the elite in America has by limiting the avenues of political dissent.


Northern Piper wrote:

The Galactic Republic had over 1000 years of experience with self-government, constitutional rule, and the protection of liberty – and look what happened to them when they voted to give emergency powers to Supreme Chancellor Palpatine!

The Sedition Act was enacted in 1798. I daresay few Socialists were rounded up under its statutes.

I agree that national security has always been reason to curtail civil liberties. And ya know what? Those liberties have been returned to the people. That Sedition Act? Repealed. Internment of Japanese-Americans? Halted.

Are such curtailments right? Not IMO. But Chicken Little-esque crying about it, especially with a demonstrated lack of knowledge on the subject is silly and counterproductive.

I confused the Sedition Act with another act, passed in WWII with the exact same consequences as I noted. Unfortuantely, I have a big history book (“A People’s History of the US”) to look through to find the name of that act. But the Sedition Act, passed shortly after the American Revolution in order to keep poor farmers from their incessant insurgencies, is another example. Thanks. So that is 3.

I also think the reference to Chicken Little was unfair. In Chicken Little, (correct me if I’m wrong) the sky was not falling. Everything I said, besides confusing the name of one act with another, happens to be true.

And complaining about the seizure of our constitutionally guaranteed liberties is not counter-productive. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. It is a necessary vigilance that is quite lacking in our current political environment.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” -Edmund Burke

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” -MLK Jr.

Silly, huh? I apologize, Andros, for confusing the names. I simply think that “temporary powers” that defy democracy are ultimately dangerous. I think you agree, but perhaps you are more interested in refuting me.

To the poster who made the Star Wars reference. Very keen. Palpatine is indeed the Machiavellian fox quite similar to Richard Nixon. Of course Nixon didn’t have the force.

For another great movie that parallels this, see Bob Roberts. Great movie.


Don’t be ridiculous! Such a ploy would have been impossible on the part of Palpatine if he wasn’t a Sith. His powers gave him the ability to weasel his way to the top and prevent the Jedi from detecting his treachery!

Bah. Such a poor argument, Tracer. I’m disappointed.

Actually, I suspect you’re still getting the war wrong. There was an (in)famous sedition law passed during WWI.

I have to say, the 1918 law seems a good bit nastier than the 1798 law. The 1798 laws seems aimed at a.) rebellion against the legitimate government of the United States, or forcibly preventing the duly elected or appointed officials of the government from carrying out their duties–not, in principle, an unreasonable thing, although clearly subject to abuse and b.) punishing false and malicious statements about the government and its officials–again, possibly subject to abuse, but in principle along the same lines as libel and slander. (The 1798 act also seems to embrace the principle that the truth cannot be libel–if you were prosecuted for claiming the government had been taken over by evil Sith lords, you would have the right to present evidence in court before a jury that the government really is run by evil Sith lords.)

The 1918 law, on the other hand, appears to have criminalized “disloyal” (also “profane”, “scurilous”, or “abusive”) language about the United States or its form of government; it’s not really clear if it would be a defense against prosecution for having uttered or published something along the lines of “The government of the United States has been taken over by those God-damned, no-good, low-down, mind-controlling Sith lords!” evidence that the statement was in fact true.

The 1918 act was repealed in 1921.

SPOOFE: And you know there are not Sith lords in our government how…hmmm?

Thank you MEBuckner.
I got the feeling last night that perhaps the Sedition Act came around twice, and that is why I confused it.

Again, I apologize to the board for my misinformation,
although I still stand by my feelings behind the issue.


Well, you’ve always got that trusty ol’ 2nd Amendment to fall back on. Yippie-ki-yea, mutherfucker.

SPOOFE wrote:

Ah, but now the Jedi are all but extinct. Without their watchful eye, you don’t need Sith powers to weasel your way to the top anymore! Just look at Ted Turner!