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Presidential Powers in Perspective

  1. Feb 20, 2006 #1

    SOS2008

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    Introduction: This being President's Day, the News Hour with Jim Leher aired as summarized:

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/newshour_index.html

    It reminded me of ongoing discussion of balance of power between branches of government, comparison of presidents in our history, the role of the vice president, and so forth that we've had here in PF. According to the experts on the PBS program, historically presidential power is gained by landslide victory/popular majority support, control of both houses of Congress, or crisis such as war, depression, etc. In choosing which president has had the most power, both experts agreed upon Roosevelt.

    So how does the current president rate, and why? A brief overview:

    The U.S. presidential election of 2000 was one of the closest elections in U.S. history, which ended with an even more controversial and narrow 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in lieu of a recount in Florida. Only a slim Republican majority remained in Congress. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_v._Gore)

    The crisis of 9-11 occurred just eight months into Bush's first term. Bush's approval ratings surged to near 90%. Within a month, the forces of a coalition led by the United States invaded Afghanistan. The next strategic target was invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, bolstering Bush's approval rating in the month of May to 66%, and ensuring a war time environment during the 2004 election. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_U.S._presidential_elections#Background)

    Bush's popularity as a wartime president helped consolidate his base, and ward off any serious challenge to the nomination in 2004. However, Bush's high approval ratings did not last, and he has never enjoyed continual majority support. Though Bush was the incumbent and a "war president," he only won the 2004 election by 286 to 251 votes. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_U.S._presidential_elections)

    Nonetheless, in 2004 the Republican Party increased its majorities in both houses of Congress. Of course we now know the volume and direction of funds from K Street that was shifted to Republicans. This from a report in 2003: "Lobbyists in 2002 contributed $16.2 million to members of Congress; $6.8 million in 2003, with 52 percent to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics." http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0829/p01s01-uspo.html

    My thesis statement is: Had it not been for the tragedy of 9-11, and further capitalization upon this tragedy to invade Iraq, Bush would not have retained, or been able to expand his presidential powers. In addition, had it not been for 9-11 fear-mongering and growing corruption, the Republican party would not control both houses of Congress, thus providing further support for the president. This will be the evaluation made on future President's Days.

    Looking back with hindsight, we can see it all unfold, beginning with legal maneuverings and claims about Article II of the constitution to win the election in 2000 (someone does have good legal counsel with an understanding of history)...

    Aside from the thesis statement, this OP opens up many topics of discussion. Has presidential power really diminished since the Vietnam War and Watergate? Is Cheney the strongest VP in history, and if so, why? Though Congress is Republican controlled, will it ultimately seek self preservation against the Executive power grab?
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2006
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  3. Feb 20, 2006 #2

    Pengwuino

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  4. Feb 20, 2006 #3

    russ_watters

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    Well, its tough to know how his presidency would have unfolded had 9/11 not happened, but it is certainly true that the Afghanistan and Iraq wars wouldn't have happened without it.
    Considering the Republican majority in Congress started before Bush was elected, I don't see how that follows.
     
  5. Feb 20, 2006 #4

    SOS2008

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    Boy that was a stretch. "In the last cycle alone, lawyers gave Democrats with $134 million in campaign contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which does not include lawyer money in the same category as lobbyists. During that same time period, Republicans drew $45 million from lawyers." So was it done illegally? Who has more $$$, the Dems or the GOP, and where do you suppose it comes from?

    The Republican National Committee’s been spinning that this is a bipartisan scandal. It is a Republican-financed scandal. Not one dime of money from Jack Abramoff ever went to any Democrat. You can check out the FEC reports, or Center for Responsive Politics that is constantly used as a reference by the RNC:

    http://www.opensecrets.org/indivs/s...=3&Cycle1=2006&Cycle2=2004&Cycle3=2002&Page=1

    http://www.opensecrets.org/indivs/s...tEmploy=&txtCand=&txt2000=Y&txt1998=Y&Order=N

    So that's your input for this discussion? Well I guess it's a start.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2006
  6. Feb 20, 2006 #5

    SOS2008

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    True, and I state that. But it was a slim majority in 2000, which meant moderate Republicans and Democrats were still necessary to pass bills, etc. More seats were gained in 2004, making it a clear majority. We all know what it takes to filibuster for example.
     
  7. Feb 20, 2006 #6

    Pengwuino

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    I was responding to your inaccurate-in-context statement of:

    Are those numbers, $16.2million and $6.8 million illegal money only or are we, as i assumed, talking about all lobbyists money.

    And you already know my opinion on the anti-bush attack recycling method of screaming "fear-mongering" and using the 9/11 card over and over and over again.
     
  8. Feb 21, 2006 #7

    Moonbear

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    She's asking a fair question. 9/11 was a determining moment in Bush's presidency. People were fairly ambivalent about him leading up to then. Sure, he had supporters, but even among those who voted for him in his first term, it was almost a coin-toss decision. The political discussion for the 2000 election was that nobody really had a strong preference for either candidate. When he first started in office, his approval ratings were mediocre, reflective of the votes he got. The whole hanging chad controversy really didn't help, so he was mired in controversy from day 1. But, in the aftermath of 9/11, he gained incredible favor. At the time, no, it wasn't fear-mongering, one didn't have to fear-monger, there was plenty of real fear. His approval ratings soared. Plus, Iraq is really what carried him through the 2004 election, you just have to look through the old posts here to see what it was people were discussing about him and Kerry...yes, there were other issues, but those weren't really deciding factors between the candidates, because they didn't really differ enough on those. So, was 9/11 an important deciding moment in Bush's gaining of power with Congress, yes, I think so. Would he have gotten there anyway without 9/11? I don't know...maybe much more gradually, maybe not at all, maybe something else would have been his defining moment for good or bad, but 9/11 certainly made it happen faster. There's nothing like the country being under attack to get both sides of Congress to start agreeing on things and get laws passed quickly and to support the President in his requests.
     
  9. Feb 22, 2006 #8

    SOS2008

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    It took awhile for transcripts to become available, but here is more on the PBS program. About presidential power:

    So in view of history, both feel presidential powers have not been diminished what so ever.

    About VP powers:

    Both agreed Cheney is the most powerful VP in history, though only "as powerful as his boss wants him to be." Also, as per other discussions, Cheney has a lot of power because he does not intend to run for President in 2008. He doesn't have to worry about his image and popularity.
     
  10. Feb 23, 2006 #9

    BobG

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    No, presidential power hasn't diminished. It experienced a dip during the Ford and Carter presidencies, but returned to the same trend it has followed since FDR - more presidential power. FDR was a spike in increased presidential power, but the bar has never returned to pre-FDR levels.

    The War Powers Act passed as a result of Viet Nam hasn't had much effect at all. Since the War Powers Act, Reagan conducted military operations in Libya, Grenada, Panama, and Lebanon with no declaration of war; Bush I drove Iraq out of Kuwait with no declaration of war (but he at least made token acknowledgement to the War Powers Act); Clinton conducted military operations in Somalia and Kosovo with no declaration of war; and Bush II conducted military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq with no declaration of war. Some (or at least a couple) of the operations were justified, but Congress has tended to be relieved at not having to accept responsibility even in the most obvious situations - in fact, the easier the decision, the more responsibility Congress has been willing to avoid.

    As for VPs, you could make a case that Lyndon Johnson was a pretty strong VP. He had quite a bit of interest in the space program, seeing as how it had some economic impact for Johnson's home state of Texas. Still, you could say Johnson's power was more like a Senator's power (a Senator who happened to be located in a particularly opportune place).

    Cheney is the first Vice President to have so much effect on the US's overall foreign policy. I never felt that good about Cheney being VP and being just a heartbeat away from being President. Cheney was a good Secretary of Defense, but being President (or an incredibly influential VP) puts him on the wrong end of the leash.
     
  11. Feb 23, 2006 #10
    Ooops...

    Well you got that one dead wrong! If no Democrat ever took money from Jack Abramoff, why is that just hours after the whole story blew up Senator Clinton announced that she'd be donating $2,000 worth of money she accepted from Jack Abramoff to charity? Charles Rangel, a fellow NY Democrat, did the same. And those $2,000 token donations were not even the full sum of money they had recieved from Mr. Abramoff.

    So, that comes out to at the very least 40,000 dimes that Democrats accepted from Jack Abramoff. That's a lot more than one! And, if you really wanted to, I'm sure you could do the research and find tens of thousands more where those dimes came from. Please, let's not be so naive as to say that Democrats have never had any connections to bad lobbyists.

    Source: http://uttm.com/stories/2006/01/11/opinion/garver/main1202076.shtml and many others are available as well.
     
  12. Feb 24, 2006 #11

    SOS2008

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    "And some are keeping the money, saying that to return it would be admitting that they did something wrong." This is about the only worthwhile information from that article. In other words, despite who did what in the past, and aside from the fact that Abramoff clearly redirected funds away from Democrats to Republicans, it is a matter of how and why donations were made. For example, Reid received funds from tribes in his state but it was done in a legal manner for obvious purposes. Also, I prefer sources such as the FEC report.

    Without muddying the issue, my point stands that the redirection of funds helped Republicans gain more seats in Congress in 2004.

    "It is not our job to seek peaceful coexistence with the Left. Our job is to remove them from power permanently."
    - Jack A. Abramoff

    And aside from 9-11 fear mongering, we could add to that redistricting, possible election fraud, propositions to ban gay marriage, and so forth. These are the ways Republicans gained the clear majority in 2004. But ultimately 9-11 was the catalyst for the shift.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2006
  13. Feb 24, 2006 #12

    BobG

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    I think the gain in seats in 2004 was due more to riding the coat tails of a Republican presidential victory, plus adding a few hot button items such as anti-gay amendments that mobilized people that would identify with Republicans more than Democrats. 9/11 might have had a more significant impact on the 2002 midterm election since it is usually very hard for the President's party to hold a majority through the midterm election (especially if the economy's sliding).

    Abramoff is just one lobbyist. A second trend that helps the Republican Party is party unity and party discipline (something that also helped redirect lobbyist money towards Republicans). Tossing the author's politics aside from this: Congressional Loyalty Scorecards, it does provide some interesting info. On key dividing issues between Republicans and Democrats, 97% of Republican votes toed the party line while only 82.6% percent of Democratic votes toed their party line. With a majority and greater party loyalty, that's a huge plus for Bush's power (provided Bush and Rove can drive the party line).

    I don't think extreme party loyalty is necessarily a plus. Personally, I'd prefer Congressmen that have a little more loyalty to their country, state, and district than to their party.

    In fact, I'm totally lost on who I'll vote for in this year's election for Congress. Hoefley's retiring - he was very conservative, but also one who wasn't afraid to stand up against Hastert and DeLay (he was the Republican Chairman of the House Ethics Commitee that sanctioned DeLay for ethics violations several times before Hoefley and other "disloyal" Republicans were replaced on the commitee). Given that no one was actually expecting Hoefley to retire, the only decent candidate currently in the race is a Democrat.
     
  14. Feb 24, 2006 #13

    SOS2008

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    You make very good points as always, especially in regard to the timing of the mid-terms.

    If there were more parties perhaps it wouldn't be such an "either you are with us or against us" environment. Recently I received an email asking for my vote on whether Dems should be made to toe the party line. I voted NO. As you say, representation should be that of the constituency, but also voting one's heart and mind. Now we are seeing less and less willingness among Republicans to withhold disagreement in order to retain unity, because the perception of "unity at all cost" is hurting Republican credibility.
     
  15. Feb 24, 2006 #14
    You're misinterprating what I said

    I think you're misinterpreting what I said. I wasn't trying to come to the defense of the Republican party here, nor was I trying to excuse the filthy idiots who did take money illegally from Jack Abramoff. I was just pointing out that what you said was completely wrong. You said that no Democrat had ever taken a dime from Jack Abramoff, which is false. I don't "toe" any party lne, but I do insist that they both be treated fairly. Your claim was not at all fair, and it was that I was seeking to point out.
     
  16. Feb 24, 2006 #15
    Unity is not always a bad thing

    There's something that I would point out here. But, before I do, just realize that I'm not trying to defend any specific party here. I regularly vote for candidates of both parties, and in fact have even campaigned for candidates of both parties. But before you go slamming the Republican party for stressing unity, there is something I would consider.

    The Founding Fathers were not at all ideological soul mates. They passionately disagreed about many things. But, if they taught us anything, it is that compromise is absolutely essential to government. They taugt us that there are certain times when unity is more important than ideology and personal beleifs. If the Framers hadn't understood this we wouldn't have a Constitution today! No Bill of Rights either. There would be no America.

    I imagine it must have been pretty hard for Alexander Hamilton at times to write some of his Federalist Papers. After all, his view of executive authority was very much different than what he was arguing for in the Federalist Papers. I'm sure there were a myriad of things he would have changed about that document. Nevertheless, he recognized that unity on this issue was more important than his ideology, and he faught with all his brain power to have the Constitution ratified in New York. And, we should be glad he did! Just imagine what our country would be like now if the Framers hadn't understood the importance of unity, and hadn't "towed the party line" every once in a while.

    Now, I'm not saying that perhaps the Republican Party hasn't gone a little overboard every once in a while with their party unity tactics. I think they probably have. But, it is something that has allowed them to achieve some pretty remarkable sucusesses. Especially considering the circumstances they did them under. Seeing as most Republican lawmakers do actually beleive in what their party is representing, I think almost all of them would tell you that it was well worth it to compromise in favor of unity a few times in order to promote their larger goals. Perhaps the Democrats could even take a lesson from the Republicans in this area.
     
  17. Feb 24, 2006 #16
    Be careful what you wish for!

    That's a valid point. But, don't forget that their are also a lot of disadvantages to having more parties. Probably the most important disadvantage is that it would become almost impossible for a presidential candidate to garner the necessary 270 electoral votes to win an election in our country. Thus, we'd have a mini "Constitutional crisis" as a part of every presidential election, with the winner having to be declared by the House of Representatives.

    That's something I really don't think you'd want, especially since the entire delegation of each state gets only one vote in such a situation. Considering your political leanings this would be a catastrophe for you, seeing as it would inevitably tend to favor conservative candidates by giving low population midwestern states an incredibly unequal say in deciding who would become president.

    Just as a case study in the 2004 election GWB got 53% of the electoral to JK's 47% If the election had been decided by the House, assuming each state delegation would vote the way its electoral votes went, GWB would have come away with 64% of the vote. Now, there's nothing obiliging the states to vote for the same candidate that won that state. So, if we look at a state by state breakdown of how many states have a majority of republican reps and how many have a majority of democratic reps we find that 62% of the states have a republican majority. Liberal parties would be doomed in such a system.

    But, aside from requiring a consitutional ammendment to make anything other than a two party system work in America, there are still other disadvantages. Just look at countries like Germany, where there are several key political parties. Their leaders are almost always forced to make the most awkward of compromises in order to establish any form of working government, which really destroys everyones ability to accomplish anything. Imagine if FDR had to try and get his New Deal programs through the kind of wacked coallitions we see in Germany! We'd still be in the Great Depression.

    So, the moral of the story: Two party government might have some sucky downsides, but I'm not convinced it's not better than the alternatives.:smile:
     
  18. Feb 24, 2006 #17

    SOS2008

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    Dated January 12, 2006 (I have not yet found any new information since this date from a credible source):

    http://mediamatters.org/items/200601120002

    The so-called list that was printed in the Times was a smear generated by the RNC, and has yet to be proven accurate by a credible source.

    Aside from this, there are several points of confusion. First is that of legality. Second is whether contributions were made directly from Abramoff. Native American tribes have been politically active for years before some of them were victimized by Jack Abramoff. Much of the donations included on these lists (or per the FEC report) came from clients or associates who were not represented by Abramoff or working with him at the time of the donation. Including what Pengwuino eluded to -- Abramoff worked for two national law firms that have several hundred lawyers combined. Attorneys who work at the same firm or with Abramoff should not be lumped into the category of having their campaign contributions being directed by Abramoff.

    As Dean stated: "Every person named in this scandal is a Republican. Every person under investigation is a Republican. Every person indicted is a Republican. This is a Republican finance scandal."

    The "K" street project that was being run by Tom DeLay and Rick Sanctorum was basically a protection racket to make sure they would be the only power in the lobbying industry. Now, this is not to say the Dems are pure as the driven snow in past affairs, or in regard to dealings not connected to Abramoff. And who is to say whether any Dems will yet be caught in the net of the ongoing investigation of Abramoff. The OP only refers to this particular scandal, and at this time it is only a Republican scandal.
     
  19. Feb 25, 2006 #18

    BobG

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    What a strange analogy. :confused:

    You point out how important it was for opposing view points to compromise in order to form an effective goverenment, but then extend that to how important it is for Republicans to unite against Democrats? The important lesson for Democrats to learn is that they need to unite against their common enemy - the Republicans? They're both part of the same government!
     
  20. Feb 25, 2006 #19
    No, I am not saying that they need to unite against the Democrats, nor am I saying that the Democrats should unite against the Republicans. What I am arguing is that by having a strong united party, any political party--Republican, Democrat, or what have you--will be able to succeed in accomplishing goals that it wouldn't otherwise be able to.

    Now, I'm sure that some people would argue that the common goal of the Republican party is just to destroy the Democrats. And, I'm sure some would say the same about the Democrats; that they're just out to destroy the Republicans. I don't buy that.

    Sure, their may be a few members of each party out there who are just hell bent on destroying the others. But, atleast from my own experience (I've worked for a Republican member of the US House, and a Democrat in the Idaho Senate) I've found that most of them share the common goal of making the country/state/city a better place. Of course they disagree occasionally on what is the best way to accomplish this, but I'd say they're far from such cynical goals as just trampling the other party.

    Furthermore, just becuase I'm saying that party unity can be a good thing, does not mean that I don't think the parties shouldn't occasionally compromise with eachother to further certain proposals. That is the only way we will ever be able to solve problems like Social Security and such. You were really twisting around my words there.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2006
  21. Mar 6, 2006 #20

    SOS2008

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    http://today.reuters.com/news/artic...01_N06312759_RTRIDST_0_BUSH-VETO-UPDATE-3.XML

    Hey, George "Record Deficit" Bush, NO! No more unconstitutional expansion of the Executive branch and your incompetent bungling!
     
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