tv Washington Journal David Schultz CSPAN December 18, 2020 6:25pm-7:27pm EST
congress to the white house, watch it all live on c-span, on the go at c-span.org, or listen using the free c-span radio app. hamline university professor of political science, david schultz, who is here to talk to us about the strength of the u.s. presidency and whether it should be weakened. david, good morning. guest: my pleasure. thank you for having me. thank you to the audience. host: you have written an op-ed in the hill newspaper, i want to read that first paragraph and have you tell us why you think this. contrary to what many people may think, the best thing joe biden can do as the next president is weaken his office. as an institution the office of the president has become too powerful and it's time to reset the power of the presidency. david, why do you think that? guest: i think that because in many ways what we have seen, not
just with donald trump, not just with barack obama and the period that's really been occurring for a long time, the balance of power has shifted dramatically away from congress and over toward the president to where what we are seeing now is almost an executive dominance of the national government. what we really need to do is rethink, or reset the dial. much in the same way that after richard nixon in the 1970's, congress sought to reset the dial then. we need to do that again because, again, my basic premise here, this is not about democrat, it's not about republican. it's about gradually congress acceding constitutional authority and powers over to the executive branch, including the presidentcy. host: explain to us what you mean by congress ceding power over to the executive branch. what is the president doing that you think that the president shouldn't be doing, it should be in the hands of congress.
guest: let's first think about, do a little bit of sort of constitutional law here for a second here. article 1 outlines the powers of congress. article 2 outlines the powers of the presidentcy. each branch has certain constitutional powers that they can perform. the president has a variety of functions in terms of being the head of the executive branch, commander in chief, sort of chief law enforcer. all think that presidents can do and have authority to act within their domain. what's happened over time, perhaps starting during the new deal, but we can even trace it back earlier, is that congress has gradually said, well, we are going to either delegate more powers to the president, not just in the areas of war making, but in the areas of making decisions about immigration or tariffs or what constitutes a national emergency, or how to move money around. and congress has gradually delegated, which it is allowed
to do up to a point, more and more decisionmaking over to the president. or in some cases, congress, because it's deadlocked, unable to make decisions, has basically punted, if i can use a football aalcy, punted and said let the president or the executive branch worry about this. over time it has shifted or by default let the president do things that congress should do. and as a result, the presidency has become very powerful. back in the 1970's, historians arthur schlesinger jr. wrote a book about the imperial presidency. talking about the fear of the shift of too much power in that direction. in the 1970's post-watergate congress tried to take back some. 50 years later presidents have now assumed incredible amounts of authority that really tip the constitutional balance of power in an improper way, according to
me. host: are you saying that the relationship between congress and the president and the amount of power that's being wielded by the president is not in the way the founding fathers designed it? guest: i'm not going to go back and make purely an intept of the framers argument because i do think there is a sense in which we have to understand how over time tradition and how, let's say, changing circumstances necessitate maybe a shift from that original sort of intent of the framers approach. but what i am arguing, if we can think of power as an equilibrium f. we 24i of performance -- if we can think of performance of task, certain things should be performed by one branch as opposed to another. the argument would be the balance has shifted too much in favor of the presidency at this point. where esentencely we are letting the president take action that
is really ought to be done by congress and they ought to be held responsible by their voters and by their electorates by making certain types of choices. in some sense that's what i'm getting at here, not a frozen in time 1787 model, although we make that as our touch stone, as our starting point for understanding the concepts of what? separation of powers and checks and balances. host: you aim your editorial toward president-elect joe biden, saying it's the best thing he can do coming in. why would an incoming president agree to weaken the power of the office he's about to hold? is there an advantage or a disadvantage for incoming president to even think about this? guest: normally i would say no. why would a president want to be weaker on one level? but on the other hand i'm going to invoke another book. i'm going to invoke what some people consider to be one of the greatest books ever written on the presidency, the one on
presidential power. he says the real power of the presidency is the power to persuade, influence. that all presidents have roughly the same official powers, but there are other variables out there that really determine how effective they are. one of the things that we ought to be thinking about here is how in recent history presidents are resorting a lot to executive orders as a way of getting things done without relying upon congress. in many ways, that's not a show of strength, that's a show of weakness. a demonstration you are unable to persuade congress to get them to work with you. here if joe biden were to be able to work with congress to be able to carve legislation, he shares credit, but he also shares responsibility, and with that, perhaps, he gains more influence by having congress invested in what he wants to do. think about -- take us back about a decade or so that we
have legislation which we refer to as the obamacare, the affordable care act. obama never received republican support from it. therefore, what? a decade later we are still looking at a congress vastly split over the merits of the affordable care act. it hangs by a partisan ballot. there's examples of legislation, we have that. we have during the trump era issues about immigration, for example, all dividing along partisan, cleavages, that if presidents were to reach out, were to be able to say you, congress, need to solve this problem and i'll work with you. as a partner not adversary. we would probably get not only only better government but in the process this richer sense of a president being -- having influence in a different way, would enhance the power of the presidency. guest: let's let our viewers take part in this conversation of the we go back to our regular lines for this segment. that means republicans, we want
to hear from you at 202-748-8001 . democrats, your line for this conversation is going to be 202-748-8000. independents, you can call 2302-748-8002. keep in mind you can always text us at 202-748-8003. we are always reading on social media on twitter at c spap wj and on facebook at facebook.com/c-span. david, in your editorial in the hill, you pointed out that there have been more than 14,000 executive orders issued since 1789. and in recent history, president trump has issued 197 executive orders, bill clinton issued 254, george bush, 291, and barack obama, 276. it seems like the executive order is the way for a president to push forward and grab more
power for the presidency. should these be eliminated? guest: it can't be totally eliminated. i tell my students there are two types of executive orders. there are certain executive orders that presidents had inherent under article 2, whether it's as the chief law enforcer or as the head of the executive branch. when presidents issue, those are matters of policy. those are discretionary things. they are -- let's move on our particular aspects of our agenda. those are generally sort of part of the presidency. and they have been there from 1787. the real trend, again mostly since the new deal, is for congress to delegate over to the executive branch, to the president, to administrative agencies increased authority. that's those executive orders issued pursuant to congressional delegation that carry the force
of law and that in many ways presidents are using them as well as those other executive orders as a way of either, getting what they want done if congress won't do what they want, or b, if congress can't act, they are saying we are going to step n think about examples where again, barack obama took action in terms of let's say daca or the dreamers. or on clean energy. issued executive orders that then donald trump came in and undid those executive orders, of which joe biden will come in and probably try to bring those executive orders back in. we are really creating a situation where if we think about our simple model where it's supposed to be, what, congress makes law. presidents sign bills into law and enforces them or administrate straits them, we have lost that basic balance in terms of how our political system should operate. again a better way of containing the power of the presidency and with that of getting policy done
is to say, congress should take back some of those powers, say it's going to act on immigration. it's going to act on energy, etc., etc. and for the president not to let them off the hook and say, all right, i'll do it for you instead. host: is this a partisan issue? is there one party who advocates for a strong presidency and another party that doesn't? or is this just based on the situation that the president finds himself in? guest: i think it's more situational. some people would argue that historically a strong presidency is really an artifact of the democrat. they would say this is all about franklin delano roosevelt, the new deal, or lyndon johnson. remember, we have had very powerful, strong, republican presidents, too. the ronald reagans, teddy roosevelts. we have had abraham lincoln. i would even argue that in many
ways post 9/11 george bush was a very powerful presidency, too. even though people cast it in a partisan lie and say, well, incoming biden is democrat, you just want to weaken him because you are a republican or you want to strengthen him because are you a democrat or something like that, this really ought to be less about partisanship and about, say, what's a good relationship for how we ought to get problems solved? we all know how partisanly stalemated we are in the united states right now. in terms of straight party-line vote, inability of congress to clear legislation to get to the president. partly presidents and their increased power is a reaction to that, but also presidents taking the actions they have in the last let's say 15 to 20 years are essentially letting congress off the took from having to do their job. host: let's let some of our viewers take part in this conversation. we'll start with monroe calling
from clinton, maryland, on the independent line. monroe, good morning. caller: good morning. i'm going to try my best to say as emfatically as i can. thank you, thank you, thank you for everything you have said. i agree with the overwhelming majority of what you said. it almost stole my thunder. a lot of these elected officials are spineless and weak. perfect example, when donald trump got elected, here's a person who never held political office and he waxed the floor of 15 other career politicians. they don't vote on anything. they don't stand for anything. so how can you blame a president whether it be clinton or bush or obama or even trump for taking command and doing their job? i think if anything we need to really talk about term limits. let's talk about term limits, i bet you that will make these career congressmen, senators and representatives, realize my job is not safe. i better actually do something otherwise i'm going to get
kicked out. guest: i think the caller makes a really good point here. whether i agree with term limits is a different story entirely, but there is no question about the fact that what we really need to do here is that, again, we need to get members of congress to be more accountable than they are right now. we no that probably 95% of people who run for re-election in congress get re-elected. once you are in there you're pretty safe. you seldom stand a chance of facing a serious challenge of being out ofed. it's a sense it becomes too -- being ousted. it's a sense it becomes too easy and pass the buck along. i think we are in agreement. a lot of people are in agreement with the base argument we are making. if we are electing a bunch of people to congress, do your job, and then be willing to stand accountable for what you do. at the end of the day we are asking you to what?
legislate. we are asking you to address the major issues of the day whether it's the pandemic, immigration, or energy. or the economy. don't pass the buck to the president. don't let him be the person who does your job. host: we are talking a lot about the increasing power of the president. it seems like our conversation keeps come -- coming back to congress. does it seem like they really instead of reforming the presidency, the argument should be reforming congress? guest: it's a little bit of both. there is no question about it. part of it may be all about do we need to change the incentive structures for how congress legislates and what they do. partly what i talk about in my hill piece there are critical pieces of legislation that in the past, back in the 1970's, that congress adopted to try to bring back powers. for example, there was concern about presidential excess growing out of vietnam about military action. they passed the war powers act.
they were concerned about the fact that presidents were declaring too many emergencies and acting. they passed the national emergencies acting supposedly to reign -- rein it in. the president doing too much in a budgetary way and tried to bring some of that back in. what i'm arguing now is that congress should do its job and do its job in a way that at the same time turns back on the power of the presidency. for example, when there was criticism of donald trump making decisions when he first came in regarding the travel ban, the courts eventually upheld his travel ban and trump versus hawaii by saying that guess what? congress has given the president broad authority to act here. if you don't like that broad authority, change the law. or there's been criticisms about say, that the president has exercised too much authority when it comes to issuing of tariffs or trade wars. well, all of this is by delegated authority by congress.
if congress were to do its job and say, no, we are going to legislate more clearly. we are going to put tighter parameters on the president in terms of doing a variety of things. we wouldn't have some of these controversies out there. you are exactly right. the issue of, let's say, restructuring the presidency ties into what congress being willing to take more responsibility for actions in american politics. host: talk to jim calling from is entral new york on the republican line. jim, good morning. caller: hello. i wanted to bring up the fact that you point out that it's as if the powers are changed. i want to bring of president isenhower in the 1950's. the americans used to do the farm work. then they -- people started
coming over the border. and eisenhower wanted to protect the american workers like trump does. he had something called operation right back where he shipped them out of here. that's a fact. you can look that up on wiki peeda. we've got a real mess in this country with immigration. he's the only one who is really speaking out against it. this whole neighborhood here has become a third world country. we have the highest rate of coronavirus from miles around. it's just flooded. it's killing the middle class around here. the roofers and framers that are building these houses put out of business. guest: i'm not willing to blame america's social ills on immigrants. i think we are a richer society as a result. but where i am willing to have a discussion is to say that what we have seen for probably at least a generation is the
inability of congress and the president to address the issue of immigration. that, yes, we know we have -- i think the estimates are about 12 million, maybe more individuals, without documentation in the united states. we have many children who come here with their parents who came here when their parents were not documented. what i'm getting at here is that because of this sort of divide that we have in our country, we have not been able to come up with what i think needs to be a viable solution for addressing immigration, whatever it may be, that's a different story entirely. this is a consequence of what? presidents acting unilaterally. it's a consequence of what congress delegating to presidents, perhaps, too much authority about immigration issues. instead of us actually, let's say, actually or politically biting the bullet and saying we really need to reach agreement and decide what it is.
if we are concerned about immigration, whether for the reasons you offer or for perhaps other reasons that people might have, we need to solve this as an issue. we also need to solve some other pressing issues in our society about health care, about a whole bunch of other things. right now the -- i would argue the way the balance of power is structured, the way congress has acceded so much to the presidency, we are setting ourselves up for just perpetuating this not only strong presidential rule that can change from president to president in terms of policy, but it also perpetuates the partisanship and gridlock we are seeing in washington. host: we have a comment from one of our social media followers i want to read to you. then ask a question. this social media follower says, it seems like citizens only raise concerns about the enhanced role of the executive branch when their preferred party isn't in power.
it's up to us to put less value on short-term partisan gain and prioritize institutional well-being. democrats will control the house. democrats may control the senate based on the georgia senate runoffs. democrats will control the white house. what can you offer to democrats as a reason to now decide to pull back on the president's power? guest: ok. what i would offer is more stability longer term for public policy and the public policy initiatives you want to achieve. what i mean by that, take us back to something such as the obama era of the presidency. he got his major score, which is the affordable care act, of which then delegated to the executive branch pretty broad discretion on a whole bunch of different issues of which then when donald trump came in under his executive branch turned back and some people might say
undermined some of those things. we can also look at areas such as the environment, workplace safety, a few others where we are almost winning at caprice. the presidents make choices that can change from president to president. if biden wants to achieve, democrats want to achieve, let us say, more stable, lasting foundations for legislation such as health care, such as issues regarding immigration, it would be better if we let congress and the president work together to achieve compromises, to achieve policy objectives that will transcend presidents as opposed to saying, well, let the president do that. then let it slip on what the next -- with the next president. i didn't put it in this op-ed piece but i did it talking to my
students recently. i pointed out, for example, to give you an idea how policy flips, when reagan became president, issued an executive order barring the use of foreign aid for organizations that perform abortions. when clinton came in he reversed that executive order. when george w. bush got elected he reversed that order. when barack obama got elected he reversed that order. when trump came in he reversed that order. i suspect on january 20, joe biden will reverse that order, too. we are looking at over a half dozen presidents. it's basically policy flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flopping back and forth. if democrats want something, and republicans will say this, too, want something that's more person, it is better to do this approach than to simply say rely upon apparent, i say apparent strong presidency that issues executive orders. at the end of the day i would
still argue that relying solely upon executive orders is more an admission of what? of failure than it is an admission of success. host: let's go to cindy who is calling from brodhead, wisconsin, on the independent line. cindy, good morning. caller: good morning. i just wanted to say that as far as i'm concerned, yes, the president should be a little more limited just for the fact that trump is in the process right now of thinking about pardoning all of his family, himself, and he's got lines and lines of people calling to get pardoned. and i think they should be limited to how many people they can pardon and for what instances they are being pardoned. i also as far as congress goes, i do think that they should work a little closer with the president because of the fact that as it stands right now they cannot seem to work together for
the people. all they want to do is fight with each other and have it their way versus what is best for the people. i think that they should all work together. if they can't do that, then they should be gotten out of the system and they should bring someone in who is neutral and thinks of the people themselves and thinks of the country not just what they want. host: a couple of different points here. one i want to -- guest: there are a couple different points here. one is the pardoning power. we do traditionally see presidents after they had their two terms expire or lose issue a lot of pardons, i know there is an incredible amount of concern here about the president and how he's going to use his pardoning power in the next approximately six weeks or eight weeks until january 20. the supreme court in a famous case a long time ago basically
said presidential power at the federal level was almost unlimited. it is probably time for a serious discussion for the supreme court to re-examine that issue because many of us, i teach constitutional law at a law school. i've got a constitutional law text. many of us think the idea that the president can, what, pardon himself, can pardon people close to him and basically say what? i'm going to sanction you to do bad behavior or let you get away with bad behavior. there is something fundamentally wrong with that idea. it doesn't gel with our concept, no person is above the law. that's one issue. the second thing i want to get at here, the listener alludes to a good point, is that we go from november 3 this year to january 20, we are looking at about a three-month period where presidents have an incredible amount of time still to do things.
i think one of the things we should be thinking about is to what extent, and this president's doing it like obama did it the previous president, is using this final transition period to issue a bunch of executive orders to cement in their legacy. to cement in things or maybe some people say to make life difficult for the next president. i think part of my argument is exactly the same thing here. for democrats who want to say that why should we weaken the presidency? well, point to donald trump who is issuing -- going to issue a bunch more executive orders beyond 195 he's done right now as an effort to what? to perhaps either be malicious, some people might say for the next president, or what? simply cement in his policies. that's probably something that we both should -- we all should dislike. independents, democrats, republicans. the idea of presidents as their lame ducks just pushing through
stuff as a way of guaranteeing their legacy and their policy direction for the future. host: talk to amanda calling from cuba, missouri, on the democratic line. amanda, good morning. caller: hi, good morning. i have a couple of questions. one is about trump's mishandleding of the -- mishandling of the coronavirus, and the republicans who have continually pushed that it's not a real thing. they called it a hoax and everything. well, when a captain on a ship to his crew,s harm he has to face the ramifications of it and perhaps be charged with neglect or something like that.
once trump gets out of office, number one, i think he's going to have to be evicted. i don't think he's going to leave. but that's going to be an us show, if you know what i mean. the there any -- anyway psycho fants -- sicko fants who have been following -- sycophants who have been following him. the governors who refuse to accept it as a real thing and now this virus is running rampant, my daughter-in-law, she's in the hospital right now. she's almost 37 weeks pregnant. and she has covid. glass -- e opaque brown glass in her lung. they might end up having to take that baby and her being in the hospital with this covid, they
may have to deliver her early if they get worse. she is actually in the hospital on the covid floor. i think that there needs to be set en people just totally up to harm people, and that's what those in the republican party have done since donald trump thought it was a hoax and spread it to all of his people that it's a hoax, i live in cuba. i go to the grocery store. maybe eight people have a mask on. it kills me. host: go ahead and respond. guest: sure. ok. i'm going to invoke another book, james mcgregor burns, great american his tore-and-did a book on the presidency, called leadership. some people say greatest book ever written on leadership and
arguably one of the two or three best books written on the presidency. i mention this because i think one of the things we'll be you curious to see what future historians write is at least on the issue of the coronavirus this president didn't take the lead. didn't act at the time when we needed to act in terms of responding, and saying this is neutrally as possible here is that the failure to act earlier this year and the failure to come to grips with the reality of the coronavirus, and let's say now, post-election where largely the president has been preoccupied with claims of -- false claims of voter fraud than worrying about the coronavirus has really contributed to a major public health problem in this country. with that the strength politically that the president has had over republicans across this country, which is again a
different topic here, i think has damaged the u.s.'s capacity to be able to respond to the pandemic. and then in a larger global sense, which we forget about here, the fact that we have mishandled the coronavirus the way we have has damaged u.s. credibility internationally. i wish i could give an answer to the question about why some of these republican governors and so forth didn't act more forcefully within their own states. why they didn't take a different course of action. the simple answer is that the political party discipline in this country has become so powerful now. unlike it was 25 or even 30 years ago. and trump has so successfully taken over the republican party that has really prevented them or led them, i should say, not prevented them, led them to taking the positions that they
have had. host: we have talked a lot, so far, about the presidency and congress. but there is a third branch of government that our viewers want to make sure we remember. i'm going to start with a comment from a social media follower i'm going to go to what you said in your op-ed. our social media follower says, don't leave the courts out of this. they have been and are being used to do the job of the congress and of the president. and they have been far too willing to oblige. and you added in to that comment from your op-ed, congress, especially post 9/11, has delegated even more discretion to the president. creating a new imperial presidency, perhaps even more powerful than before. trump exploited this delegated power when he issued his muslim travel ban, the ordering of the border wall, and efforts to scale back environmental legislation. while the courts have trimmed back many of these actions, and the trump administration has one
of the worst records ever when it comes to losing in court, the current supreme court has often looked at the legislative basis of what the president did and upheld his delegated power. what responsibility does the supreme court have in creating what you are calling this imperial presidency? what thud they do differently? guest: they are co-conspirator of this. they are clearly getting involved and making decisions, again, when the other two branches of government are not. there is an old expression that power abhors a vacuum. if there is a vacuum the supreme court is stepping in or being forced to step in to address some issues. that's one thing. two, is that, again, part of what the court has been doing is saying, listen, as we read the congressional statutes, congress has intended, wants the president to be able to do these things at one level the court is saying, our hands are tied. i don't think that's completely correct.
i do think that the court should be taking seriously some doctrines that it's largely ignored. for example, back in the 1930's, there is a famous supreme court case where the supreme court struck down several laws that congress had passed that delegated power to the presidency. and said that congress had exceeded its powers in delegating things or giving over to the president. we haven't seen the supreme court strike down a single piece of legislation in nearly 100 years since then on delegation of power. it's probably time to resuscitate that doctrine and rethink it. i know other constitutional scholars have made that argument. i think it's true. i think at some point what this court needs to say is that, yeah, congress has delegated this over to the president, but should this be the type of wide open delegation, wide open discretion that really is compatible with what we think
our constitutional framework should be? should these not be tasks that at the end of the day congress should perform? i do think that a supreme court needs to think about these types of issues. but one of the concerns, i know some people are going to come back and say, now this is going to happen when biden is president, and that becomes part of the problem here is that you may have a republican dominated supreme court striking down, if they do some of this stuff, striking down powers that are coming with a democratic president. this only speaks to what? speaks to, again, the problems that are -- our national government faces right now where we really have lit, a whole different discussion, where we have let partisanship really infect all the branches of government and distort the way our system is supposed to operate. or we hope it's supposed to operate. host: let's talk to terry, who is calling from rogers,
minnesota, on the republican line. terry, good morning. caller: good morning. listen, david, i first like to comment and say that the ladies that called us republicans sigh foe can'ts and said -- psycho fants and said the virus was a hoax, david you have soon those republican senators. i would say you trained a seal to be nonpartisan on that issue. getting back to my real questions on this issue. now that the executive order was used so successfully, and i think incorrectly with you, that the presidential, level, now we have governors, including our governor, saying things like you can only have this many people on your homes on the holiday. i'm wondering when on earth, where in the constitution allowed the executive order to override the basic principles of some of our bill of rights and constitution? how can any executive say you can't allow -- what if this were
to happen during the aids deal? would the governor or president been able to say, gay people, you can't have sex in your home no more? you are not allowed. if you do we have the power to find you and arrest you? i'm saying that. i think the executive orders ave to be limited and reined in. if something can't get done by congress, maybe they should take up the dee creed of doctors, do no harm. if you can't cure something don't do harm to t all these executive orders have promoted, i think, the hatred between -- more pushed apart the two ideological ideas in this country. every four years to say now it's going to be our way, we don't care what you do. that's what's happened. that's promoted the anger that we see. guest: i tend to agree with you on most of what you said here in
the sense that i think the executive orders really have sort of created, again, the all or nothing situation because the whole purpose of legislation, the whole idea of congress legislating, the president signing or vetoing is force of compromise. we have walked away from that. right now increasingly it is the all or nothing situation. we have seen that also at the state level. i know you are calling from rogers, not too far from where i am located in st. paul, minnesota. we are in state right now like many other states where we have a serious pandemic and in many situations here we have a governor, in our state, another state, issuing a lot of executive orders. there is a partisan divide over those. i, too, wish we could get the governor, who is a democrat, and the republican senate to work out and reach a series of agreements in terms of, let us say, the scope of how we are
going to respond to the pandemic. what should be opened. what should be closed. i totally agree with you. i want could come back -- i want to come back and make one more point. the previous listener did make a pretty good point. we are saying that if we look at the overlay in this country in terms of how the pandemic has been responded to, we see a clear partisan overlay, a clear partisan divide whether it's wearing masks or the responses to the pandemic. we can't deny that. the messenger: -- host: one of the powers that seems to have completely flipped away from congress and now pretty much resides with the presidency is the power to declare war. the president has ability to take unilateral military action when the constitution says that the power to declare war belongs with the congress. what should be done in this area?
guest: congress tried -- first of all we should remember that if you look at article 1 of the constitution, it says congress has the power to declare war, then it lists about seven other powers related to the military. funding, raising an army, etc., etc. the president in article 2 is listed as commander in chief. the classic line is if we are attacked tomorrow, president should be able to respond and address those attacks. almost everybody agrees in that distinction. what we have really seen over time, and especially it came an initial head during vietnam, is presidents using congressional resolutions and not declarations of war to commit us to large military adventures. we saw this with the first george bush with the authorization to use force in kuwait. we saw this with the second george bush after 9/11. bram was using drone attacks --
barack obama was using drone attacks to target people internationally. this president is doing the same thing. we really have seen how once they alou -- a lot of the basic war making functions have shifted over. we tried to correct this in the 1970's with the war powers act. the war powers act relied upon a series of mechanisms that effectively the court has struck down as unconstitutional. and we probably do need, again, to be rethinking this issue of what kind of powers do we want to give to the president. clearly i think everybody says responding to attacks against the united states is a legitimate scope for the president. but beyond that, we need to have both a president bringing congress into decisionmaking for military issues, and congress taking a much more assertive
role in terms of oversight and in terms of being involved in making some of these, let's say, decisions about how we commit ourselves internationally with military force. host: talk to gloria who is calling from upper marlboro, maryland. democratic line. good morning. caller: good morning. god bless you guys. thank god for c-span. there is an element of rationality in your discussion, young man. but you are overlooking where we are by now. mitch mcconnell, that monumental motivational constipation, made a decision at the beginning of barack obama's term to make him a one-term president. and he brought enough of the republicans with him. they forced him to make those sweeping -- whatever you guys
call that thing i'm a lot older than you. instead of having it happen the normal way. and i think one of the worst progressions of this, of course was donald trump, who is both narcissistic and dictatorial. they supported that wholeheartedly. but the thing that made me most horrified at the behavior of a rica is refusing obama supreme court pick nearly 10 months out from the end of his term, and yet denying ruth bader ginsberg the -- and that family, the honor that should have been theirs because of the amazing social justice icon she was and will be, in spite of the republicans' bad behavior, because they were interested in attacking the supreme court -- packing the supreme court.
we've got a lot of work to do. i thank god we are going to have a different administration. but he's going to have to do some things that are unusual to clean up the mess that trumenty dumenty made. have a good day. guest: we could clearly face multiple problems in our society both policy wise and let's say institutionally. policy wise i sit at a desk right now approximately six miles from the place where george floyd died. we have an enormous policy problem about race in america. we've got an incredible gap in this country between the rich and poor. it's greater than we have had since the 1920's. these policy issues need to be addressed, but we also probably can't address many of these fundamental policy issues unless we deal with institutional reform. it's easy for us to sort of say that, well, it's our turn. the other side's at fault.
or to point fingers in lots of different ways. what i'm trying to talk about naive aybe it's a little i'm saying that we need to be thinking about deeper institutional reform primarily with the presidency, but it clearly -- eventually dovetails back to congress and the supreme court. in terms of how we think about how our government operates. i'm not taking us back to the intent of the framers. i'm not taking us back to some image of what america looked like in a horse and buggy era, but to say we need to be thinking about what is the institutional apparatus that we need to have as a nation to be able to address the most number -- fundamental problems in our society so we can get beyond the partisanship. so we can get beyond the all or nothing politics that i think so many of us dislike. host: as we get closer to the top of the hour, i want to ask
you about your worst case scenario. what happens if nothing is done with the powers of the presidency and they continue along the lines that we have seen so far? for example, we are just hearing now from actionos that president trump plans a -- axios that president trump plans a wave of pardons today with some of the names possibly being thrown about, including possibly paul manafort and rand paul suggesting that perhaps edward snowden. what happens if nothing happens with the president and the president continues to keep his current powers and they add more in the future? guest: this becomes exactly on the problem that we need to worry about is do we now create a president that can what? essentially first off bypass ngress and do whatever presumably someday she wants to do. two, think about what you are talking about here in terms of
the pardoning power. what could a future president do? come into office the very first day and say, i don't care what the laws say, i'm going to do what i darn well please and i'm going to issue pardons in advance. we know that pardons can come even before people are indicted or convicted of a crime. now future presidents insulate themselves from accountability. and the only remedy at that point would either be elections or impeachment. for the most part we know impeachment doesn't work as a remedy. we have impeached three presidents but never removed a president. for all intents and purposes that's not effective. it's hard if not impossible to remove a president through a political solution. to a large extent what we are talking about here if we don't change the path is that we are going to increasingly, let us say, increasingly enhance the
power of the presidency and insulate that person from any type of public accountability or public control where they can act with impunity. not to sort of trellis into our chamber of horrors argument here, but one of the things we know from comparative politics studying other governments around the world, that one of the greatest threats to individual liberty across the world are powerful presidencies. powerful chief executives. and that's something that we need to be thinking about and let's say a more comparative perspective. host: there is a little bit of news i'll bring up that just happened being reported by axios. that's acting defense secretary chris miller has ordered a pentagon wide halt to cooperation with the transition f president-elect biden. right now top biden official said he was unaware of the directive and administrative
officials have left open the possibility that cooperation would resume after a holiday pause. according to axios, officials were unsure what prompted miller's actions or whether president trump approved. once again the acting defense secretary has ordered the pentagon to stop cooperating with the transition of president-elect joe biden. see if we can get a couple callers in before the top of the hour. harold from california on the independent line. harold, good morning. caller: i'd like to say that the election was so close for both people, the president and vice president joe biden, president-elect. and the united states has grown so much and congress and senate are so close together. why couldn't we for the next two years put the two presidents both in office, elect and trump, and let them hash it out across the table and stuff and draw
this country back together. i'm talking as a simpleton. i'm not anybody, really. it just seems so clear we need to get these two parties back together because the private sector, private and sector party are basically failing. and they really need to be put back together instead of fighting each other. we need -- host: go ahead and respond. guest: i'm not sure the idea of having a dual presidency is viable. but your broader point is accurate. it would be nice if come whatever the date is, january 20, or whatever, that mitch mcconnell, nancy pelosi, and joe biden sat down and said, how do we move forward? how do we put behind us the partisan divide that we have and figure out more permanent solutions and not just sort of do the by executive order approach? i know we have been most trying to talk about presidency today, but of course the presidency gets us into talking about other
institutions in our society. including parties. i point out to people, my students, for example, that arguably one of the greatest speeches ever was george washington's farewell speech in 1796. where he lamented and feared the rise of political parties that would come to divide america. and either you think he's a crackpot in that speech or he saw something very prescient that we ought to take advice from. and clearly any discussion of congress, the presidency, the supreme court, has to be viewed through the lens of what? how we let partisanship affect the operating of those institutions, and how we judge the operation of those institutions. as i listen to the different where s today, clearly people speak depends where they stand partisanly. that's one of the themes that we need to be thinking about here
is how do we create institutions, if possible, that can overcome that partisanship? are we at a point now where the partisanship is so powerful it's breaking down these basic institutions? host: to daniel who is going from philadelphia, pennsylvania, on the republican line. daniel, good morning. caller: yes, god bless you. i'm disappointed in the supreme this because we do have election is rigged. -- we do have evidence this election is rigged. i want to know why the supreme court didn't take this case? guest: the reason why the supreme court didn't take the case, you are referring to the one brought by texas and many other states. i presume you are referring to. is that there is a basic principle in american law, constitutional law that you have to have what's called standing or having been suffered an
injured to be able to bring a case. but the supreme court said is that texas didn't suffer injury on top of which it said that the constitution clearly delegates to each state the way that they get to run their own elections for president. essentially what the supreme court said to texas and the other states is guess what? it's none of your business what pennsylvania, michigan, wisconsin, what georgia, whatever the states were that were named in the suit. because the constitution gives them the authority -- to resolve these issues. i should also point out that, i can't remember the exact number is, but it's been somewhere between three dozen and 50 lawsuits were brought after the election claiming widespread voter fraud. at the end of the day, the trump campaign and administration was unable to find, or unable to basically document this, even outgoing attorney general barr at the end of the day conceded
and said, what? we don't have evidence of widespread voter fraud. a combination of standing issue that texas basically under the constitution has to keep the nose out of what other states do, and the fact at the end of the day other courts, federal, state, trump appointees to the federal bench have all said, you don't have any evidence. i think that explains in part why the supreme court did what it did. host: see if we can squeeze in one more quick caller. ed calling from pennsylvania on the democratic line. ed, good morning. caller: -- ed, are you there? i think we lost ed. i will ask a question of my own here. we were just talking about the national election for the presidency and the fact that texas didn't have standing because they are connected to -- the elections are run by states.
should there be a national election for the u.s. presidency? guest: if you ask me, i would move towards saying yes because right now the system of the electoral college really creates 50 separate states which -- plus district of columbia, 51 separate elections of where effectively it means only about a half dozen states from a political perspective. a nationwide election for president with nationwide standards on voting, eligibility, and things like that, would encourage what? perhaps presidents to represent the entire country and not just what? a segment or party. host: we'd like to thank david schultz. hamline political science professor for coming on this morning and talking about the rise in executive power. david, thank you so much for your time. >> c-span "washington journal."
we discussed policy issues that impact to. saturday morning, heather taylor, the director of strategic campaign -- discusses hunger and food insecurity in the u.s. amid the pandemic. and real clear education is nathan harden talks about the college free speech -- watch c-span's "washington journal." and be sure to watch authors week, beginning on sunday at 8 a.m. featuring lance morrow. and sellers. and cheryl atkinson -- and sharyl atkisson. and the hill's opinion editor. trump organization executive and former george w. bush staffer mike gonzalez.
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