A Constitutional Presidency

Networking problems have been banished, and on to a subject that we all talk about & know that what we have is not what the Founders of this country have intended.  Indeed, they warned against it.

Over Thanksgiving, my brother in law and I discussed the state of government, and how far we have drifted from the separation of powers and the roles of the branches of government as put forth by the Constitution.  Indeed, I don’t think that the Founders would recognize the Republic that they conceived, especially the Presidency.  Or perhaps, they would recognize it for what it has become.

Mike Pence, the Representative from Indiana, gave a speech at Hillsdale College in September 2010 commenting on the Presidency.  His speech can be found at The American Spectator, and excerpts with comments are below:

The presidency is the most visible thread that runs through the tapestry of the American government. More often than not, for good or for ill, it sets the tone for the other branches and spurs the expectations of the people. Its powers are vast and consequential, its requirements — from the outset and by definition — impossible for mortals to fulfill without humility and insistent attention to its purpose as set forth in the Constitution of the United States.

Indeed, Harry Truman had it right – image

The presidency must adhere to its definition as expressed in the Constitution, and to conduct defined over time and by tradition. While the powers of the office have enlarged, along with those of the legislature and the judiciary, the framework of the government was intended to restrict abuses common to classical empires and to the regal states of the 18th century.

Without proper adherence to the role contemplated in the Constitution for the presidency, the checks and balances in the constitutional plan become weakened. This has been most obvious in recent years when the three branches of government have been subject to the tutelage of a single party. Under either party, presidents have often forgotten that they are intended to restrain the Congress at times, and that the Congress is independent of their desires. And thus fused in unholy unity, the political class has raged forward in a drunken expansion of powers and prerogatives, mistakenly assuming that to exercise power is by default to do good.

This is exactly what is happening – politicians drunk on power have presumed to lord it over on the People, with the result that we see today – A huge government that duplicates responsibilities that takes more and more of our tax dollar only to waste it.

It is a tragedy indeed that new generations taking office attribute failures in governance to insufficient power, and seek more of it. In the judiciary this has seldom been better expressed than by Justice Thurgood Marshall’s dictum that, "You do what you think is right and let the law catch up." In the Congress, it presents itself in massive legislation, acts and codes thousands of pages long and so monstrously over-complicated that no human being can read through them in a lifetime — much less understand them, much less apply them justly to a people that increasingly feel like they are no longer being asked, they are being told. Our nation finds itself in the position of a dog whose duty it is not to ask why, because the "why" is too elevated for his nature, but simply to obey.

America is not a dog, and does not require a "because-I-said-so" jurisprudence to which it is then commanded to catch up, or legislators who knit laws of such insulting complexity that they are heavier than chains; or a president who acts like, speaks like, and is received as a king. The presidency has run off the rails. It begs a new clarity, a new discipline, and a new president.

The president is not our teacher, our tutor, our guide or ruler. He does not command us, we command him. We serve neither him nor his vision. It is not his job or his prerogative to redefine custom, law and beliefs; to appropriate industries; to seize the country, as it were, by the shoulders or by the throat so as to impose by force of theatrical charisma his justice upon 300 million others. It is neither his job nor his prerogative to shift the power of decision away from them, and to him and the acolytes of his choosing.

Here, here!!

The powers of the presidency are extraordinary and necessarily great, and great presidents treat them sparingly. For example, it is not the president’s job to manipulate the nation’s youth for the sake of his agenda or his party. They are a potent political force when massed by the social network to which they are permanently attached. But if the president has their true interests at heart he will neither flatter them nor let them adore him, for in flattery is condescension and in adoration is direction, and youth is neither seasoned nor tested enough to direct a nation. Nor should it be the president’s business to presume to direct them. It is difficult enough to do right by one’s own children. No one can be the father of a whole continent’s youth.

While it is important for the nation’s youth to be interested and involved in the governing of the country, the election cycle of 2008 was unprecedented.  Take a look back at my Close Encounters of the Obot Kind post, and you will understand the above statement.

The modern presidency has drifted far from the great strength and illumination of its source: the Constitution as given life by the luminous and passionate Declaration of Independence, the greatest political document ever written. The Constitution, terse, sober, and specific, does not, except by implication, address the president’s demeanor, but this we can read in the best qualities of the founding generation, which we would do well to imitate. In the Capitol Rotunda are heroic paintings of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the victory at Saratoga, the victory at Yorktown, and, something seldom seen in history: a general, the leader of an armed rebellion, resigning his commission and surrendering his army to a new democracy. Upon hearing from Benjamin West that George Washington, having won the war and been urged by some to use the army to make himself king, would instead return to his farm, George III said, "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world." He did, and he was.

To aspire to such virtue and self-restraint would in a sense be difficult, but in another sense it should be easy — difficult because it would be demanding and ideal, and easy because it is the right thing to do and the rewards are immediately self-evident.

A president who slights the Constitution is like a rider who hates his horse: he will be thrown, and the nation along with him. The president solemnly swears to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. He does not solemnly swear to ignore, overlook, supplement, or reinterpret it. Other than in a crisis of morality, decency, and existence, such as the Civil War, if he should want to hurry along the Constitution to fit his own notions or designs, he should do so by amendment rather than adjustment, for if he joins the powers of his office to his own willful interpretation, he steps away from a government of laws and toward a government of men.

Indeed, look at the role that not only the current President is playing, but the previous ones as well.  It is almost as if they are elected kings.  But even then, there are actions that the President must perform as part of being President.

Whereas, at home, the president must be cautious, dutiful, and deferential, abroad, his character must change. Were he to ask for a primer on how to act in relation to other states, which no holder of the office has needed to this point, and were that primer to be written by the American people, whether of 1776 or 2010, you can be confident that it would contain the following instructions:

"The President of the United States of America bows to no man. You do not bow to kings. When in foreign lands, you do not criticize your own country. You do not argue the case against the United States, but, rather, the case for it. You do not apologize to the enemies of the United States. Should you be confused, a country, people, or region that harbors, shelters, supports, encourages, or cheers attacks upon our country, the slaughter of our children, our mothers, our fathers, our sisters, and brothers… are enemies of the United States. And, to repeat, you do not apologize to them."

Yes, we seem to have an “Apologist in Chief” instead of a Commander in Chief.  This show a lack of respect for the office and the country, and leads to a lack of respect for the country abroad.  I’ve noticed that the trade deal with South Korea was accepted by the Koreans, but not when Obozo was in their country.  They waited until he left – obviously, they don’t have any respect for him either, and Europe is barely tolerating him.

The presidency, a great and complex subject upon which I have only touched, has become symbolic of overreaching. There are many truths that we have been frightened to tell or face. If we run from them, they will catch us with our backs turned and pull us down. Better that we should not flee but rather stop and look them in the eye.

Yes, We The People are awaking from a slumber and are taking a renewed interest in government and the people we elect to office.  We are beginning to face the reality that government is not the end-all nor the benevolent uncle that we would like to have in our family, but rather an unruly child.  Perhaps the following Michael Ramirez cartoons say far better than any meager words that I can write:

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About Tom Roland

EE for 25 Years, Two Patents - now a certified PMP. Married twice, burned once. One son with Asperger's Syndrome. Two cats. Conservative leaning to the Right. NRA Life Member.
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3 Responses to A Constitutional Presidency

  1. Here’s what amazes me: young people (high school and college) somehow have the idea that the President is the government. Indeed, they don’t know much at all about the Constitution and, specifically, about how much ink was spent there in delineating the responsibilities of the legislative branch.

    I’m convinced that our Founders are rolling in their graves. Our government has become lawless, i.e., shredders of the Constitution.

  2. Ken Taylor says:

    Excellent post Tom. Pence understands tha Constitution and has explained perfectly what has been taking place in, especially THIS presidency and why Obama has been in violation of his oath of office and the very Constitituion he has sworn to protect.

  3. Patrick Mahoney says:

    That is a great article !!!. I wish Facbook would let me post your link, so others could read it !!!. Do you have this article up on another website that i could perhaps post a link from FB to it ???.

    I don’t know why Facebook won’t let me post your link ???, i guess i’ll just chaulk it up to, an ever increasing amount of censorship in America.

Comments are closed.