Chris Lu, executive director of Obama’s transition team, told supporters in a conference call earlier this month that Obama’s aides have “started developing executive orders that the pres elect is considering –not only ones the President-elect will sign after January 20, but also ones we will want to repeal.”
Obama aides didn’t respond to requests for more detail, but the president-elect campaigned against what he called Bush’s abuse of executive authority.
“I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president, I actually respect the Constitution,” Obama told an audience at a campaign fundraiser in 2007.
On the list as everyone has probably heard by now, the closing of Guantanamo Bay and ending the abusive treatment of prisoners – excuse me – stopping “enhanced interrogation”. Obama also promises not to abuse executive signing statements, not to end them, but not to use them in the manner in which Bush used them to say in so many words that he wouldn’t obey laws he felt were inconvient. This is all been covered before during Obama’s campaign. Its good to hear that Obama is going to try and deleiver on those promises. Given that, Obama will, as the obnoxious spokesman from right leaning CATO was quick to point out will likely use as much executive power as possible to manage the economy. Regardless of what one may feel about presidential powers it general, short term there is probably little that can be done and in this instance our economic situation is dire enough that some extraordinary measures are neccssary. Obama isn’t likely to go so far as to undermine recent gains of his party. Long term it would be best if we got off the executive orders and presidential power see-saw. A subject that Garrett Epps gets into at The Atlantic, The Founders’ Great Mistake
For the past eight years, George W. Bush has treated the White House much as Kenneth Grahame’s Mr. Toad treated a new automobile—like a shiny toy to be wrecked by racing the motor, spinning smoke from the tires, and smashing through farmyards until the wheels come off. Bush got to the Oval Office despite having lost the popular vote, and he governed with a fine disdain for democratic and legal norms—stonewalling congressional oversight; detaining foreigners and U.S. citizens on his “inherent authority”; using the Justice Department as a political cudgel; ordering officials to ignore statutes and treaties that he found inconvenient; and persisting in actions, such as the Iraq War, that had come to be deeply unpopular in Congress and on Main Street.
Epps notes the Constitution goes far more into defining the powers of Congress then the executive – a must read. While modern Democratic presidents have pushed for executive power or refused to give up powers where previous presidents of both party’s have set precedents, Bush reached new heights of arrogance, all with the slimmest justifications. The founders probably never imagined the case where there would be so little resistance by Congress or the courts. They mistakenly assumed that Congress, even if the presidents and the legislative branch party were the same, what was legal and best would take priority over loyalty to partisan agenda. Jefferson and company never imagined the kind of recklessness and zealotry that the modern Conservative movement is capable. Matthew Yglesias thinks that moving to a parliamentary system where the executive is much less power isn’t practical – probably in the sense that he thinks we can’t move toward such a system – that doesn’t stop some of us from hoping. In a more practical and imminently doable vain is making Attorney General an elected office. Matt states the problem succinctly,
Not, of course, that I have any real hope that any of this will be done. The American public and political class are both strangely complacent about institutional issues. There’s a tendency to become really unhappy about political outcomes and processes, but to give almost no thought to the idea that changing the rules that govern our institutions might be a potent way to relieve this unhappiness. Instead, we believe that a change of personnel will eliminate our unease—that George W. Bush will “change the tone” or Barack Obama will restore hope.
Judging by Obama’s appointments to the legal side of his administration there is reason for some celebration, but they are at the end of the day a change in people, not a new way. Not the core changes that need to be made. Will Obama and this Congress have the vision, magnanimity and courage to make the changes that will get America off the the see-saw.
Last month, Obama campaign strategist Steve Hildebrand went so far as to publish a chiding message  to progressives who dared object to the president-elect’s Cabinet choices. “This is not a time for the left wing of our party to draw conclusions about the Cabinet and White House appointments that President-elect Obama is making,” Hildebrand lectured, in full-throated Fox News indignation. He offered no indication of when, exactly, would be a more appropriate time for progressives to become involved in the political process.
Never mind that the largest problems facing the nation and the president-elect today could have been avoided  if progressives had not been similarly dismissed as unreasonable kooks during both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Progressive ideas about financial-industry deregulation, unrestrained “free trade,” climate change and, of course, Iraq were once considered rash but have all been proven correct.
There is a difference between trashing Obama about every other appointment he makes and holding him accountable. The MSM pundits have already decided that not the center, but the center-right is what America wants and what is best. Even though the center-left has an astonding track record of having been “proven correct”. Obama as said that he doesn’t want to live in the presidential bubble; since we should take his word over a babbling surrogate like Hildebrand there is no reason that those Americans that have been remarkably prescient about our foreign, economic and environmental policies should stay out of the fray.