It’s that time again when all eyes are drawn to the spectacle that is the American presidential campaign. We watch as Romney and Ryan bus from one end of Ohio to the other and observe Obama seeming to run the Administration from Air Force I on the way to fundraisers in California or small town rallies in Iowa and Colorado. As we watch the quadrennial drama unfold, the inevitable question arises: Is this any way to run an election?
There are many problems inherent in the way America elects its chief executives. Many of us have our pet ideas of ways we think it could be changed for the better, but no reform pops up with more regularity than the abolition of the Electoral College. Before the heat of summer begins to slide away, the Op Eds and blogs appear and polls are reported showing a majority of the American people seeming to back the system’s demise.
He may be modeling his re-election efforts after those of Harry Truman in 1948, but entering the last year of his term, President Barack Obama is taking considerable efforts to also wrap himself and his presidency in the mantle of Theodore Roosevelt. The comparison is not without merit. His January 2012 recess appointment of Richard Cordray as the head of the new Consumer Protection Bureau, in fact, has its best precedents in the actions and constitutional theories of Roosevelt and the wider progressive era challenge to the Founding vision of America.
The drumbeat of war is raging yet again with many calling for American intervention in the Syrian civil war conflict and for American action to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program. However, successful short-term policy outcomes often make for bad constitutional precedents. On March 19, 2011, President Barak Obama ordered American missile and air strikes against targets in the sovereign nation of Libya in support of rebel forces opposing the government. By late October, Muammar Gaddafi’s body was being dragged through the streets and abused by the triumphant rebels who had been assisted by American bombs.
None of us mourn the toppling of a brutal dictator, but we should all mourn for the overthrow of the plain meaning of the U.S. Constitution by any president who takes it to be within his power to bomb any other nation, to kill foreign citizens with weeks and months of cruise missile strikes, and expend the nation’s treasures without any consultation with Congress.