‘The Audacity of Weakness’

by Sam Staley

Michael Barone’s column on the “audacity of weakness” is worth another look even for those who have read it. He lays out a nice three-point case for why the Obama presidency is failing, but his first one is particularly worth repeating:

[Point number] one is a lack of regard for the Constitution. Congress is a separate branch of government, set up by Article I of the Constitution, which is not about the Executive Branch as Joe Biden said in the 2008 vice presidential debate. (Media outfits that dispatched dozens of investigative reporters to Alaska were apparently incapable of discovering this obvious error.)

Before last week, presidents and congressional leaders always agreed privately on scheduling presidential addresses to joint sessions before any public announcement was made. But it appears that no such agreement was made here, just a brusque announcement that had to be retracted.

Obama is a progressive, both intellectually and in governing, so separation of powers is really a nuisance for getting the business of the nation done. (Federalism is a similar practical casualty, as we’ve seen through environmental regulation, transportation policy, and low-income housing policy, just to name a few.)

The governing goal of a progressive political philosophy is the horizontal and vertical integration of government to ensure efficiency and maximize the ability of the government to implement its policies. In the words of one of the leading progressives of his day, Woodrow Wilson, the idea is to separate the “administration” of government from the “politics” of government. (Wilson detested Congress because it was political in nature, not administrative.) The Administrative State is the goal.

What we are seeing with the Obama White House is the impossibility of separating the politics of political power from the administration of government. In other words, the Framers were right, and Wilson the progressive was wrong. But, that won’t get in the way of politicians who think that they know best and the Constitution represents an outmoded, “pre-modern” system of government.

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