Executive Orders And The Next President

by Colonel Dan


The Cowboy Chronicle

May  2008  


Given the current slate of candidates and their political philosophies coupled with the stakes involved for America , I believe this election will be a major turning point that will shape our future for many years to come.  Consequently, it’s crucial for us to think well beyond what the candidates are promising today and look to what potential power they can wield tomorrow that would affect us all immeasurably were they to abuse or misuse that power.

As you know, I put zero stock in anything politicians say especially during a campaign year.  I focus rather on character and how they’ve conducted themselves in the past when deciding who I think should wear the mantle of command. Who can we best trust with such enormous power and authority?  Frankly, our track record of candidates in that regard does not inspire confidence.

A presidential power often overlooked but always lurking in the convoluted background of shadowy political intrigue is that of the Executive Order.

An Executive Order, whether viewed as constitutional or not by those of us who think about such things, becomes law simply through its decreed activation by the President and subsequent publication in the Federal Registry.

There have been hundreds upon hundreds of these executive orders signed over the years governing everything from declaring when the flag flies and placing our oil shale land off limits for development, to the virtual declaration of what is as close to martial law as we’ve ever seen in America. Presidents have used the Executive Order in times of emergencies to override the Congress as well as the Constitution.

Andrew Jackson used his executive power to force the Cherokee Nation off their land. The Cherokee fought Jackson ’s order all the way to the Supreme Court and won. But Jackson , using the power of the Presidency, continued to order the removal of the Cherokee Nation stating, "[Chief Justice] Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!" In the end the Cherokee lost that land.

Lincoln suspended many fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights closing down newspapers opposed to his war-time policies and imprisoning many so-called political prisoners suspending their right to trial and the right to be confronted by their accusers. Lincoln's justification was that the preservation of the Union took precedence over everything. After the war and Lincoln's death, Constitutional law was restored.

In 1917, as World War I raged in Europe, Woodrow Wilson could not convince Congress to arm United States ships sailing in hostile German waters. When Congress balked, Wilson invoked the policy through Executive Order.

FDR issued an Executive Order in December 1941 relocating approximately 100,000 Japanese residents to internment camps and confiscating their property. Both Lincoln and Roosevelt's actions were taken when the United States was at war and Wilson 's taken on the threshold of war. How history ultimately judges these actions will be decided by those who write America ’s future history books. The national emergencies associated with those Executive Orders however provided plausible arguments favoring their implementation during a time when fear gripped the nation and have been virtually unlimited in scope regarding the power and control such orders exert.

Now imagine, if you can, any one from our current crop of candidates with such power in an age of global terrorism—terrorism that would provide a readymade excuse for declaring a national emergency.  Just thinking about that is nightmarish!

In light of the demonstrated intent of terrorists to engage in acts of war on our homeland and considering the leading candidates of both parties, this election becomes more critical than any in recent memory. We would be ill-advised to put such executive power in the hands of anyone whose moral fiber or judgment might lead them to arbitrarily abuse it at the first opportunity.  Such abuse could transform America overnight into a country none of us would recognize.  

Although our economy and current level of freedom would certainly be the short-term victims of another terrorist attack, the potential aftermath of extreme executive action could be devastating in the long-term to our Constitution and way of life.  Frankly, the only thing that stands between us and something potentially akin to martial law is the character and temperament of the President coupled with a national crisis sufficient to scare Americans into obeying it…and of course a supportive Congress or at least one unwilling to politically challenge the order.   Yet one more consideration when deciding who to entrust with this massive but little publicized power. 


Just the view from my saddle…

Contact Colonel Dan: coloneldan@bellsouth.net







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