The Imperial Presidency
December 26, 2007 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Candidates on executive power: a full spectrum. Boston Globe reporter Charlie Savage, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on presidential signing statements, surveyed the major 2008 presidential candidates about their views on the limits of executive power. [BugMeNot, via Huffington Post.]

It doesn't looks like Savage bothered to ask Gravel or Kucinich, but the former's view can be summed up as "power to the people."
posted by homunculus (18 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Democrat Hillary Clinton says "in very rare instances," she might attach a so-called signing statement to a bill reserving a right to bypass "provisions that contradict the Constitution."

In other words, in very rare instances she'd govern just like a Republican.
posted by three blind mice at 1:27 PM on December 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

aside from a Captain Obvious nomination, do you deserve recognition for pointing out a problem that nobody is going to fix?
posted by jsavimbi at 1:38 PM on December 26, 2007

How was the survey conducted? Both Clinton's and Obama's responses read as though delivered in writing, whereas McCain's was clearly a face-to-face dialog (clarifying questions, conversational tone). Doesn't that lend some bias to the presentation of this survey, i.e. making Clinton and Obama come across as more nuanced, well-read, etc., and McCain as off-the-cuff?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:46 PM on December 26, 2007

I wonder what degree of reliability we can place on this survey, ie how likely is it that any given candidate would actually do what they said they would do? This is one of the ways that the Bush administration has broken the American democracy: they proved that the mechanisms to enforce honesty do not actually work.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:47 PM on December 26, 2007

Glenn Greenwald talked about this story at length on his blog at Salon. He focuses on Romney and his take is basically that Romney's response amounts to a claim that he would have the right to behave as a tyrant and ignore clear Constitutional provisions if elected.
posted by lackutrol at 2:12 PM on December 26, 2007

That "power to the people" video is Hilarious. After watching it last night, and receiving a flag from my grandma for christmas, it gave me the inspiration to hang it upside down in my street-facing window.
posted by localhuman at 2:13 PM on December 26, 2007

The best argument for electing a Democrat to the White House: It's the only way to prevent the executive branch from evolving into a monarchy. Another republican gets into the White House, we get a throne and a crown. With cool eagles and stars on them, and maybe some diamond-encrusted letters that spell "In God We Trust" and "Freedom." The republicans won't let it happen if it's a democrat.
posted by mullingitover at 3:05 PM on December 26, 2007

It seems to me that this survey, while interesting, is largely irrelevant. Investigative journalism is one thing, but this kind of getting-to-know-you stuff doesn't serve a purpose. The things a candidate says during a campaign and the things a candidate-elect does in the Oval Office are (sadly) disparate. At this stage of the race the most vague, equivocal, rote partisan response is the norm, lest they label you a flip-flopper or ideologue.

It's also an issue loaded with all the baggage of the last seven years, which makes it more of a referendum on the Bush Presidency (with typical results) than a substantive inquiry. I don't mean to suggest that it isn't a serious question, only that to answer it is impossible. Come February 2009 we will begin to see how one of these people really conducts themselves as President. Until then it's all just noise.
posted by kurtroehl at 3:40 PM on December 26, 2007

New Handshake, Same Grip
posted by homunculus at 4:05 PM on December 26, 2007

This is one of the ways that the Bush administration has broken the American democracy: they proved that the mechanisms to enforce honesty do not actually work.

The general stereotype about politicians is that they lie. This has been true for my entire lifetime. GWB may have taken it to an extreme, but he definitely didn't start anything new here. Clinton lied about sex, Bush I lied about new taxes, and Reagan lied about shady arms deals. I'm too young to remember what Carter lied about.
posted by aubilenon at 4:07 PM on December 26, 2007

I think these sorts of surveys are great. I love being able to read the candidates positions on and thoughts about issues in their own words, it's valuable to me as a voter. At the Washington Post I gave advice on the Choose Your Candidate Flash applet that lets you judge candidate by nothing but their words... I enjoyed reading the full responses so much that I pushed to get them added to our presidential campaign site. There's now an "On the Issues" section right under the headlines for every candidate we have responses for.

Some responses are extremely guarded and seem to be the textual equivalent of a Rorschach test, allowing voters to hear anything they want to hear, yes. But many give bold, uncompromising answers and even when I disagree profoundly I like those candidates more for being forthright. I can't think of anything more valuable, pound-for-pound, than the candidates' statements, even if they just help you avoid the mealy-mouthed. They're not perfectly accurate, but that doesn't mean they're irrelevant or useless. I even think a referendum on the Bush presidency is newsworthy, he's run a unique presidency of an especially-divided country during historic times.

The nihilistic idea that this discussion is "just noise" and nothing matters until after someone's been sworn in doesn't leave much basis for picking a candidate and actually electing them. Politics may be frequently frustrating, unrepresentative, and unsatisfying in a dozen other ways, but that doesn't sweep away the good things it can do.

(Really and truly not speaking for my employer -- just happy about what I get to do.)
posted by Harkins_ at 4:20 PM on December 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would agree with you in part, about the good things politics can do, my main objection is with the inanity and often the dishonesty of what politicans say when asked loaded politicized questions. This is what i called "noise," not the discussion here.
posted by kurtroehl at 4:52 PM on December 26, 2007

Harkins, that is really good. Since you can't without violating the self-posting rules, would you mind if I include these quizes in an FPP?
posted by blahblahblah at 4:56 PM on December 26, 2007

kurtroehl: Yep, we're definitely in agreement about how some of these answers are terrible -- it's just painful to read politicians dance their way around a question, doubly so when they're trying to produce tea leaves that voters on all sides of an issue will read their own answers into. Some of them are really sophisticated and I know a lot of care went into the dodge, which makes them even more frustrating to read. Fellow English majors, use your powers for good, not evil!

blahblahblah: No, I don't mind at all. I think there's a few of these "Hey, we're a media outlet with enough clout to get candidates to answer questions" surveys online, and I know I'd love to read 'em all. (...even if none have quite enough clout, time, or resources to keep saying "You didn't actually answer the question" and "No, really, what about the actual question we asked?" when politicians dodge 'em.)
posted by Harkins_ at 5:12 PM on December 26, 2007

"In other words, in very rare instances she'd govern just like a Republican."

Edwards and Obama both gave a similar answer in regards to signing statements.
posted by Manjusri at 5:33 PM on December 26, 2007

Challenging Cheney: A National Archives official reveals what the veep wanted to keep classified--and how he tried to challenge the rules

I hope all the candidates agree that the Vice President is part of the executive branch.
posted by homunculus at 7:18 PM on December 26, 2007

Creeping Fascism: History's Lessons
posted by homunculus at 12:51 PM on December 30, 2007

Oops, that should have been in the next thread.
posted by homunculus at 12:55 PM on December 30, 2007

« Older Do You Smell What I Smell?   |   When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments