The wis­dom of di­vided govern­ment

The Founders would con­demn Obama’s usurpa­tion of con­gres­sional author­ity

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Ben S. Carson Ben S. Carson is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of neu­ro­surgery at Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity and au­thor of the new book “One Na­tion: What We Can All Do To Save Amer­ica’s Fu­ture” (Sen­tinel).

Speaker of the House John A. Boehner re­cently shocked many when he an­nounced that he was plan­ning a law­suit against the pres­i­dent for abuse of power. There is a feel­ing by many that a har­mo­nious work­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween the branches of govern­ment has been se­ri­ously com­pro­mised in re­cent years. When Alexis de Toc­queville vis­ited Amer­ica in 1831 to per­form an in-depth anal­y­sis of the Amer­i­can phe­nom­e­non, he was duly im­pressed by our well-struc­tured, di­vided govern­ment with sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers.

The writ­ings of the Founders of this na­tion cer­tainly ref­er­enced the Bi­ble fre­quently, but also paid great homage to the writ­ings of Baron Charles Mon­tesquieu, who wrote quite pro­lif­i­cally about po­lit­i­cal the­o­ries. One of his most well-known works is “The Spirit of the Laws.” In this book, he elo­quently ar­gues for the con­cept of sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers. That ar­gu­ment seems to em­anate from the Bi­ble’s book of Isa­iah, 33:22, where it states, “The Lord is our judge [ju­di­cial branch], the Lord is our law­giver [leg­isla­tive branch], the Lord is our King [ex­ec­u­tive branch].” Cer­tainly this sys­tem of govern­ment has worked ex­tremely well for us in the past, help­ing to es­tab­lish the United States of Amer­ica as the most pow­er­ful na­tion the world has ever known within a rel­a­tively short pe­riod of time.

In or­der for a di­vided govern­ment to work, each branch must re­spect the other two branches. There have al­ways been and al­ways will be squab­bles be­tween the branches, but the big prob­lem now is that the ex­ec­u­tive branch has de­cided to ig­nore any­one with whom it dis­agrees, in­clud­ing the U.S.Congress. Nowhere was this bla­tant dis­re­gard of Congress more clearly man­i­fested than in Pres­i­dent Obama’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate “re­cess” ap­point­ments of three people to the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board. He re­de­fined the word re­cess in or­der to ap­point in­di­vid­u­als who might have a dif­fi­cult time ob­tain­ing con­gres­sional ap­proval. This ad­min­is­tra­tion seems to have a pen­chant for re­defin­ing words to make them con­form to its ide­ol­ogy. Ob­vi­ously, if an in­di­vid­ual can re­de­fine any­thing any time he wants to, he can ma­nip­u­late vir­tu­ally any sit­u­a­tion into a fa­vor­able po­si­tion for him­self. If he is clever and no one is notic­ing, he can fun­da­men­tally change the foun­da­tional fab­ric of a so­ci­ety.

Pass­ing a law in the usual le­git­i­mate fash­ion and then uni­lat­er­ally chang­ing the law is an­other thing that this ad­min­is­tra­tion seems to cher­ish. Oba­macare is a prime ex­am­ple of this tac­tic. For ex­am­ple, it would be like a ruler and his coun­cil pass­ing a law against the grow­ing of Brussels sprouts, much to the plea­sure of his con­stituents. He then dis­cov­ers that his fa­vorite brother, who lives in Prov­ince A, is the largest farmer of Brussels sprouts in the re­gion and is also his big­gest fi­nan­cial sup­porter. He then uni­lat­er­ally amends the law to ex­clude Prov­ince A, much to the dis­plea­sure of the pop­u­lace, about whom he cares noth­ing. The point is it is in­con­sis­tent with fair­ness to es­tab­lish rules and then change them in the mid­dle of the game with­out the con­sent of the other par­tic­i­pants.

This ar­ti­cle and many oth­ers could be spent de­tail­ing all the in­stances that sup­port the ar­gu­ment of ex­ec­u­tive branch over­reach, but the truly im­por­tant thing is to be­gin ask­ing our­selves how can we re-es­tab­lish a truly co­op­er­a­tive and har­mo­nious bal­ance of pow­ers aimed not at the en­hance­ment of one po­lit­i­cal party or the other, but rather at pro­vid­ing life, lib­erty and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness for the people. This is clearly what the people want, as in­di­cated by their voting to put a lib­eral pres­i­dent in the White House and a con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. The people of this coun­try are not com­fort­able with ru­n­away govern­ment in ei­ther di­rec­tion.

Some will say that pre­vi­ous pres­i­dents used even more ex­ec­u­tive or­ders than Mr. Obama. In some cases this is true, but it is not the num­ber of ex­ec­u­tive or­ders that is im­por­tant. Rather, it is the ef­fect of those or­ders, how they im­pact so­ci­ety and what prece­dents they set. When some­thing is clearly wrong, cit­ing a pre­vi­ous mis­deed by some­one else does not serve as ad­e­quate jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. This is like the kid who gets in trou­ble for hit­ting some­one and says, “He hit me first.” Since there is so much child­ish be­hav­ior in Wash­ing­ton, per­haps govern­ment of­fi­cials need the same ex­pla­na­tion as the chil­dren who fight. Namely, no one should be hit­ting any­one, and we should di­vert that en­ergy to un­der­stand­ing the na­ture of the con­flict and re­solv­ing it. Civil con­ver­sa­tions would ob­vi­ously go a long way to­ward help­ing us as a na­tion to solve our prob­lems. How­ever, as Saul Alin­sky said, “Never have a con­ver­sa­tion with your ad­ver­sary, be­cause that hu­man­izes him, and your job is to de­mo­nize him.” This is why we see so much name-call­ing and fin­ger-point­ing these days, which is an­ti­thet­i­cal to our suc­cess as a na­tion. When the pen­du­lum swings once again to the right, it is vi­tally im­por­tant that people with com­mon sense gov­ern with the Con­sti­tu­tion in a way that re­spects the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers. There can be no pick­ing and choos­ing of laws to en­force, and no fa­voritism. The only spe­cial-in­ter­est group that should be con­sid­ered are the Amer­i­can people.


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