In defiance of constitutional principles (10/21/2015)

At a gathering tonight in Idaho Falls, we will discuss one of the most pressing problems America faces, presidential abuse of power, writes David Adler.

By David Adler

Presidential abuse of power, the sordid legacy of Democrats and Republicans who have sat in the Oval Office for the past half-century, has become so entrenched in American politics that is the new norm.

Executive unilateralism, in defiance of constitutional principles, has relegated the separation of powers, checks and balances and collective decision-making to the ash can of history.

President Barack Obama is not the first president to abuse power; he is merely the most recent. He violated the War Clause of the Constitution in 2011 when he initiated hostilities in Libya without congressional authorization.

His claim of authority as commander in chief to use military force to defend Syrians trained by the United States is without foundation in our constitutional architecture.

The nuclear agreement with Iran, apart from the relative wisdom of the pact, should have been submitted to the U.S. Senate as a treaty, in accordance with the Constitution.

His unilateral decision, moreover, to spend funds on particular aspects of the Affordable Health Care Act not authorized by Congress renders him constitutionally vulnerable to a lawsuit justly commenced by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Obama’s predecessors have engaged in equally contemptible violations of the Constitution. The unilateral and, it must be emphasized, unconstitutional presidential wars and acts of war in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Bosnia and Iraq, among others, mark decades of flagrant defiance of the Framers’ unanimous decision that Congress, not the president, would make the solemn decision on behalf of the American people to initiate military hostilities.

Unfounded assertions of executive privilege have kept Congress and the American people in the dark about White House initiatives that lack legal authority and threaten the national interest. Executive orders and executive agreements have undermined the crucial legislative role assigned to Congress and laid waste to the Doctrine of Separation of Powers. The litany of executive offenses against the Constitution is long and shocking.

The American citizenry, it may be said, has become virtually inured to assertions of presidential power. In truth, this is owing in part to congressional abdication of its own constitutional powers, and its acquiescence in the face of presidential usurpation of power. Why, indeed, has Congress remained silent in the theft of its powers? And the judiciary, too, has fed the springs of executive power through decisions that have removed constitutional barriers erected to cabin presidential actions?

If the American people hope to hold the presidency accountable, and maintain the integrity of the republic, it will be necessary for them to expand their fund of knowledge about constitutional limitations.

Tonight, at 7 p.m., at the Trinity Methodist Church in Idaho Falls, as part of my series, “Constitutional Conversations,” we will analyze the scope of presidential power.