Many democrats are quick to draw comparisons between President Obama and Abraham Lincoln’s civil rights impact, however there are also some very negative similarities between their presidencies. Prior to Lincoln’s first term in office, the executive branch had very little authority and most of the power was designated to the legislative branch. Lincoln is often remembered for his forward thinking stance on slavery however it is often forgotten how during the Civil War, Lincoln became an authoritarian dictator who ignored Congress and over-stepped presidential boundaries . In this vein of unilateral authority, Obama is clearly following in Lincoln’s footsteps. Reason reports on the President’s latest example of blatantly omitting the legislative process:
In a Rose Garden speech Friday, President Obama announced that per a “Homeland Security Directive,” his administration had called a halt to deportation proceedings for certain unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors. The eligibility criteria stated in the order roughly tracks the requirements of the Dream Act, which has never quite been able to make it through Congress. A mere technicality, the president suggested: it’s “the right thing to do for the American people.”
In an interview with a panel of Latino journalists last fall, the president had a different take: “This notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true. We live in a democracy,” he insisted. “You have to pass bills through the legislature and then I can sign it.” That’s why, despite the urging of immigration activists, he could not implement the Dream Act via executive diktat.
But that explanation is no longer operative, to borrow the old Clinton administration euphemism for “I lied.” Obama’s latest move underscores just how easy it is for modern presidents to “change the laws unilaterally.”
The University of Chicago’s Richard Epstein warns that “government by waiver” is “among the most serious challenges to the rule of law in our time.” The growth of the administrative state has concentrated enormous discretionary power in the president’s hands, and he can use that power to reward political allies and legislate by decree without the inconvenience of democratic deliberation.
In an interview with CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Sunday, Gov. Romney announced that, when it comes to preventive strikes on Iran, the Constitution’s “Declare War” clause is optional.
“I don’t believe at this stage, therefore, if I’m president that we need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force,” he said, “The president has that capacity now.”
That’s Obama’s position on war powers as well — as his Libyan adventure proved. Unfortunately, executive unilateralism is a bipartisan vice.