The Limits of Presidential Power

June 25th, 2010

By Larry Ennis

With vastly expanded powers of government available at the discretion of politicians and bureaucrats, private individuals and organizations can be forced into accepting the imposition of powers that were never granted to the government by the Constitution.

The above is a quote from a Thomas Sowell article in Investor’s Business Daily. Sowell is an economist and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Sowell is, despite his credentials, a conservative of some fame or notoriety, depending on your point of view.

The IBD article deals with whether or not the President was within his powers of office when he penalized BP $20 billion for the damages done in the Gulf states. Sowell poses the question of constitutional issues when a President empowers himself to override that document.

The writer paints a pretty grim picture of what he believes is happening in our country today. As much as I dislike the picture, Sowell makes his case pretty well. The seizure of funds by the President or his subordinates without due process is a violation of the Constitution. I’m sure that this matter, like so many others, will not impede this President. Like the much-touted bull in a china shop, he lumbers on.

The change promised during his campaign has not happened. Instead he has made a very ambitious effort to force his agenda on our country. What little, if anything, he has accomplished has come at great cost to us all. He has divided the people using class warfare and plays one against the other if need be.

Even some of the President’s most avid backers are starting to question the way he does business.

Last night during his MSNBC program Chris Matthews was upset because the President doesn’t have enough advisers or cabinet members to help him through difficult times. The gist of what Matthews wants is more qualified people to take the heat for Obama. Matthews, during one of his familiar Obama rants, blurted that without a good chain of command, the President couldn’t “rule” properly.


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7 Responses to “The Limits of Presidential Power”



  1. Tom Carter |

    Conservatives, Sowell notable among them, are shouting in unison that this whole business is unconstitutional, pretty much the same way they make that charge about almost everything the President does. It’s getting tiresome, and I suspect many people aren’t listening any more. Of course, Sowell takes the tried-and-true extremist approach of comparing what the President has done with Hitler and the Nazis. That’s inappropriate and incorrect, of course, and also becoming tiresome. In fact, I’m very surprised to see a man of Sowell’s standing do it; he’s smarter than that.

    What the President did was pressure (“jawbone”) BP into agreeing to set up a $20 billion escrow fund, as I understand it. Nothing unconstitutional about that. Further, if the escrow fund is designed to hold the funds to pay legitimate claims that are subsequently adjudicated or otherwise legally established, it’s not only constitutional but procedurally routine. It could also be perfectly legal and constitutional under other accepted conditions.

    You say, “Sowell is, despite his credentials, a conservative….” What does that mean, if anything? That being well-educated with a PhD in economics means he shouldn’t be a conservative? Do you think that lack of education and ignorance is required to be a conservative? I’m surprised to see you saying that.

    The Stanford Institution is a highly-respected conservative think tank that includes many prominent convervative thinkers. If you knew that, why would you think that part of his credentials would be an impediment to his being a conservative?

    Was the last sentence supposed to make a point? If so, what was it?


  2. Dan Miller |

    President Obama can use his bully pulpit as much as he wants; that’s his prerogative and there is nothing unconstitutional, unlawful, immoral or even fattening about it.

    It might, however, be better for the country were he to get his “team” better organized and reduce the bureaucratic delays and apparent ineptitude in dealing with the “spill.” A tropical depression has now formed and may (or may not) affect the Gulf of Mexico as far north as the coast of Texas by Wednesday of next week as a tropical storm. Whether it will cause significant problems in the area of the “spill” is anybody’s guess.

    It has now been over two months, and the federal bureaucracy has failed to lead, follow or get out of the way despite repeated requests that it do one of those things. President Obama could and should use his bully pulpit to insist that his agents do one of those things; right now. Not next week, not months from now and not after a blue ribbon commission of experts in everything but dealing with oil spills has figured out what should have been done earlier.


  3. larry ennis |

    Tom
    I feel safe in saying that most so-called intellectuals tend to be left leaning liberals. They don’t like conservatism in any fashion.
    I believe your correct in saying that Americans are getting tired of all this anti-big government and anti-Obama rhetoric. A fact that I’m sure this President has counted on.
    My reference to the Chris Matthews comment about Obama’s rule was to point out that our President job is to govern not rule.


  4. d |

    Glad you said that,Larry. Glad to know intellectuals are left leaning. Here I thought you’d say all intellectuals were conservative.I am in good company then. I really thought most really smart people, leaned neither way,but looked at all sides.
    You have to be truly smart, to refrain from coloring everything, with your own prejudices,and preconcieved notions.


  5. Brian Bagent |

    Tom, I’m sure people got tired to Tail-Gunner Joe saying what he said, but the fact remains that McCarthy was right about everybody he accused of being a communist. He was absolutely vindicated by the Venona Papers, which were corroborated by documents from the KGB recovered after the fall of the USSR.

    So people are tired of hearing conservatives talk about every unconstitutional thing that Obama is doing? Does that mean people are tired of hearing the truth?


  6. Tom Carter |

    Brian, I didn’t say that “people are tired of hearing conservatives talk about every unconstitutional thing that Obama is doing.” I said that conservatives claim what the President did re the BP escrow fund is unconstitutional “the same way they make that charge about almost everything the President does.” There’s an important difference.

    For something to be unconstitutional, it has to be found to be so by the judiciary. Just because a bunch of ideologues proclaim something to be unconstitutional means, exactly, nothing. Everything Bush did, to include going to the bathroom, was considered unconstitutional by liberals on the far left. Now, everything Obama does, to include going to the bathroom, is considered unconstitutional by conservatives on the far right. To most people, especially those who have at least some sense of reality, all that babbling is just noise.

    People aren’t tired of hearing the truth. It’s just getting harder and harder to detect the truth buried in all the nonsense flying around these days.


  7. Brian Bagent |

    It’s no more difficult to discern usurpations today than it was in 1792. It is a simple, straightforward document.

    But, for what it’s worth, I also think the constitution has become a meaningless document. I’d hazard a guess that there are a great many federal judges, congressmen/women, and presidents (current and former, incl. Bush) that would just as soon use it as toilet paper than to actually follow it.

    The only group that routinely benefits from the “umbras, penumbras, emanations, and living document” mindset is lawyers and congresscritters. The rest of us are injured by such irrationalities and obvious deceits.


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