Archive for the ‘ President ’ Category

The American Revolution was almost 250 years ago, and yet, ripples are still being felt today as the thought of Hobbes, Locke, and the Framers of our government are just as pertinent to world events today as they were a quarter of a millennium ago. Historiography is essential since it’s only through a broad understanding of what has transpired that we can understand why certain theories have arisen and why they have gained acceptance.

Hobbes and Locke were very much products of their time and they themselves were undoubtedly influenced by what had transpired in their own recent history. The Reformation had taken place, King Henry VIII had lived and died, Catherine of Aragon had lived and died and greatly influenced her daughter Mary in the Catholic traditions, Ann Boleyn had become queen and was executed, but not before being a key player in the rise and spread of Protestantism, which her daughter Elizabeth I had adopted. Had all the dynamics during Henry VIII’s reign not taken place, had the Protestants not been persecuted and heretics not executed by the Crown, and especially by Queen Mary; the Pilgrims night not have been compelled to leave England in pursuit of religious freedom. Had the Pilgrims not left England, there might never have been a Mayflower Compact, which in 1620, constituted an early social contract, the creation of which must have influenced both Hobbes and Locke to some degree as it came into existence when Hobbes was a young man and twelve years before Locke was born—to Puritan parents.

Click to continue reading “Egyptian Unrest is in the Finest American Tradition: Hobbes, Locke and the Founding Fathers”

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The famous handshake.

The "famous" handshake.

The Obama-Chavez handshake got a lot of press.  The Left seemed pleased, the Right enraged.  Conservatives probably saw all of the “hard work” former President George W. Bush did taking a tough stand against dictators as having been given away so early into a new administration.  If you believe that Bush’s position was a wise one, it is easy to see why Conservatives would feel this way.  After all, people like Chavez are repugnant and, like the leaders of Iran and North Korea, they are not too friendly towards the freedoms that Americans hold dear.  Chavez did, after all, shut down a television station because they didn’t support his policies as well as many other things.

But is Obama’s embracing of these people really so terrible?  The short answer is: we won’t know for many years.

Barack Obama campaigned on bringing a change to American foreign policy and, indeed, he has done so.  George W. Bush’s policy of not talking to people like the Iranian president may have been morally justified but was it wise?  In shutting out people like Iran’s president Bush prevented any sort of progress from happening unless it started on their end first.  These leaders have staked their reputation on opposing America at every turn.  Indeed, it has become the red meat that they base their support on even as their economies crumble, all the while blaming America so as to deflect blame from their own shortcomings.  In embracing these leaders and showing that the United States does not necessarily view them as being evil President Obama does remove some of this power.  This is the good part.  The bad part is that we will not know for several years whether this policy of openness will result in our “enemies” taking advantage of us because they view communication as a sign of weakness.

It seems that critics like to point to President Jimmy Carter’s naive view of engagement as the “Obama model” while holding up President Ronald Reagan’s hardline stance as being the gold standard.  After all, Jimmy Carter didn’t do too well with foreign leaders while he was in office.  The Shah of Iran was deposed and a more brutal regime replaced him and the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan which led to the Taliban and, not long after, al Qaeda while Ronald Reagan’s “Evil Empire” stance led to the bankruptcy of the Soviet Union in 1989.  But times have changed somewhat.

New best friends?

New best friends?

The Soviet Union was, like the United States, a superpower with many of the same abilities and goals as the United States in terms of needing to project power whereas countries such as North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela do not have the size nor the projection of power that the Soviet Union had.  So the comparisons are not “apples to apples” although certainly all four countries did not have leadership which was inclined towards friendly relations with the United States. 

One thing we have seen under the “Bush Doctrine” of shunning unpleasant regimes is that these leaders have struck up alliances with one another so as to attempt to either counter-balance or make the U.S. believe there is a counter-balance to our friendly relationships.   Bush called this the “Axis of Evil” and, while I believe he was correct, his strategy did not produce any regime change in those countries.  If anything, he allowed those leaders to show that their hardened views of the United States were justified.

Right now President Obama is still in his honeymoon stage with American voters and world leaders.  This period cannot last once he begins to make defining decisions regarding Pakistan, Israel, Iran, and Russia.  President Obama was not, despite his vast amounts of charm, able to secure any real concessions from European leaders during the recent G20 summit which was a telling example of how, even with our “friends” it is not really about “cowboy” diplomacy under Bush versus Obama’s “Apology Tour” as, if it were, then countries like Germany and France would have agreed to put their troops in harm’s way in Afghanistan or accept Gitmo detainees.

So if our “friends” didn’t feel like helping President Obama out how will our “enemies” do better?  This is the central issue in Obama’s approach towards foreign policy.  Relationships take time to blosom and so do results but leaders such as Chavez and Ahmadinejad rule with a different set of responsibilities towards their “voters” than to leaders such as Sarkozy and Merkel.  Indeed, Chavez and Ahmadinejad have less responsibility towards following the wills of their people so it appears unlikely that they will change their behavior.

While it is too early to tell what the results will be of President Obama’s efforts the evidence suggests that not much will really change even if the volume of hate may decrease.

President Obama is rolling the dice on not being seen as a weakling when it comes towards standing up for the interests of the United States but, then again, much could be said of George W. Bush when he cut off many countries from his speed dial.

– Harrison @ Just Politics..?

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$152 billion is the total tally in government loans that insurance giant American International Group (AIG) accumulated over the past eight months and 90% the tax that a congressional bill proposes levying on bonuses for employees whose companies received more than $5 billion in federal bailout money.

328-93 was the final vote on that measure in the House of Representatives last Monday, and December 10th was the date that the bill’s catalyst—the story about continued AIG bonuses—broke. Fifteen is the number of weeks that President Obama allowed populist anger at Wall St. spending to mature before he forced Congress into action, and 15% is the amount his national approval rating dropped over that period.

Rick Wagoner is the name of the former General Motors (GM) CEO who was asked to resign by Mr Obama’s automobile task-force during a meeting last Friday—the same day that Mr Obama met with chief-executives from Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Morgan Stanley, criticizing them for failing to grasp the financial crisis’ magnitude. That day, March 28th—when Mr Obama decidedly took the reins of Detroit and downtown Manhattan—will mark the president’s shift in policy toward bailed-out American companies from financially interventionist to outwardly managerial.

Click to continue reading “The Perils of Populist Anger: From Rick Wagoner to AIG”

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Presidents from Monroe to Obama have used Signing Statements.

Presidents from Monroe to Obama have used Signing Statements.

For my last article I explored the issue of Executive Orders and the Executive Branch.  The bookend to this subject is something a bit more controversial: Signing Statements.  According to The American Presidency Project, Signing Statements are:

“Often signing statements merely comment on the bill signed, saying that it is good legislation or meets some pressing needs.  The more controversial statements involve claims by presidents that they believe some part of the legislation is unconstitutional and therefore they intend to ignore it or to implement it only in ways they believe is constitutional.”

Just as Executive Orders have not always been known as such, the same is true with Signing Statements.  In 1822 President James Monroe issued what we today call a Signing Statement saying that “he had resolved what he saw as a confusion in the law in a way that the thought was consistent with his constitutional authority.”

Click to continue reading “Signing Statements and the Presidency”

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In a Representative Democracy such as the United States, most people are familiar with what a law is, many people know how a bill differs from a law, but most probably do not understand what an Executive Order is.  Surely a week does not pass that it is not reported someplace that the President of the United States either signed an Executive Order to put into place a new policy or to rescind a previous one.  The situation can be confusing because the President of the United States is generally not understood to be someone who makes law.

The President of the United States is the head of the Executive Branch and he or she has some explicit powers and some gray ones.  The president can, for example, lead the country in making decisions regarding foreign affairs, nominate individuals for the Supreme Court, or in the role as “commander-in-chief ” lead the military.  But the president’s authority is not absolute as any treaty he or she negotiates with a foreign power must still be approved by Congress, nominees to the Supreme Court must be confirmed by the Senate, and any troop deployments over 60 days must be authorized by Congress due to the War Powers Resolution.  So, while the power of the president seems great it is, like virtually every other area of the U.S. government, subject to checks and balances.  One area in which the president can have a great deal of power is in the area of the Executive Order.

Click to continue reading “Executive Orders and the Law”

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