My Assessment In Hillary Goes Up

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment

And it’s largely because of her answers to these questions:

I want to start with some questions about foreign policy and terrorism. If you become president you’ll enter the White House with far more power than, say, your husband had. What is your view of this? And what specific powers might you relinquish as president, or renegotiate with Congress — for example the power to declare a US citizen an enemy combatant?

Well, I think it is clear that the power grab undertaken by the Bush-Cheney administration has gone much further than any other president and has been sustained for longer. Other presidents, like Lincoln, have had to take on extraordinary powers but would later go to the Congress for either ratification or rejection. But when you take the view that they’re not extraordinary powers, but they’re inherent powers that reside in the office and therefore you have neither obligation to request permission nor to ask for ratification, we’re in a new territory here.

And I think that I’m gonna have to review everything they’ve done because I’ve been on the receiving end of that. There were a lot of actions which they took that were clearly beyond any power the Congress would have granted or that in my view that was inherent in the constitution. There were other actions they’ve taken which could have obtained congressional authorization but they deliberately chose not to pursue it as a matter of principle.

I guess I’m asking, can a president, once in the White House, actually give up some of this power in the name of constitutional principle?

Oh, absolutely, Michael. I mean that has to be part of the review that I undertake when I get to the White House, and I intend to do that.

What few people understand is the explosion of presidential powers that have occurred in the past 6 years under Bush-Cheney, many of the clearly beyond the scope of the Constitution.  This should be alarming to both small-government conservatives and libertarians.  Even if you don’t think Bush-Cheney has abused those powers, you should be concerned that a president — any president — in the future could decide to abuse them.

Hillary seems to understand that, and is the only candidate to my knowledge to openly suggest and work toward scaling back the presidential powers to make them in line with the Constitution.  It’s also smart of her: it counters the ridiculous meme (thrown out by conservatives) that Hillary is a scary powermonger.

Of course, as others suggest, whether any future president is willing to voluntarily relinquish powers remains to be seen.