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Is our Constitution Adequate for the 21st Century?

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AllentownJake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 05:39 PM
Original message
Is our Constitution Adequate for the 21st Century?
Edited on Thu May-21-09 05:39 PM by AllentownJake
I was doing some thinking on my hour and half long commute home from work about the Bush/Cheney years. One of the things I asked myself is how did this happen. I personally believe it is because we have allowed too much power to reside in one branch of government. Things have changed since 1787. The federal government was not the vast bureaucracy that it is today and the executive branch was not as responsible for so many things.

There were two cabinet positions that I thought might protect the country from another Bush/Cheney if they were split off from the executive branch and the entire nation voted on their office holders. I got the idea from thinking about my own state and how the Governor doesn't get to appoint the office holders.

I think the Attorney General and Secretary of the Treasury should be elected. Using the same mechanism that is used to elect the President of the United States and I believe those election should be held in off Presidential cycles. I seriously doubt that most of the Attorney General's or Sec. of Treasury we've had over the past 25 years could win a popular election across the entire United States. It would also leave both office holders not accountable to the President only the American People. I believe if these officials had to report directly to the American People we would have far more accountability from both offices.

I doubt it would be ever possible, as the White House and the party in power at the White House would fight any proposal regardless of which party was in charge. However, stripping these away from the Presidency I think would go along way to ensure better government. Besides, two popularly elected national figures would keep a President in check politically.
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Sherman A1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 05:40 PM
Response to Original message
1. I believe that the Constitution is just fine
Getting folks to adhere to it is sometimes a bit of a challenge.
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AllentownJake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 05:41 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. It was just a thought
Congress did a heck of a job brownie job in the accountability department.
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Sherman A1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 05:48 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. Agreed
but if we look back in time Congress being basically one large committee has a problem moving things forward. It's the nature of the beast and it was intended to be that way. I am all for investigations and criminal charges (if they are warranted and I believe they are) against the whole lot of the former Administration, but Congress is a political body and bends to the whims of politics. Things never move in perfect sync and the Constitution intended it to be hard to do things because they didn't trust the nature of man. The system is hardly perfect, but I'll take it the way it is for all it's warts.


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jberryhill Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 05:43 PM
Response to Original message
3. On the DoJ

We have a recurring structural problem with the DoJ because the executive branch has become complex, we keep running into the same issue with conflict of interest relative to potential illegality within the executive.

There are approaches to addressing this without a Constitutional amendment.

The main problem is that the Independent Prosecutor law expired in toto, rather than assessing its strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps continuing it in a modified form.

Short of giving Congress its own mini-DoJ, there is a prosecutorial gap which weakens the check on ensuring the executive's duty to faithfully execute the laws.
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AllentownJake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 05:49 PM
Response to Reply #3
5. My thinking is if it was split of entirely
You'd have a nationally elected leader there directing prosecutions who can't be fired by the President. The person would be accountable for re-election or possibly might have a desire to run for President themselves. Therefore the person would probably not be beholden to the President even if the President was in his own party because it might screw up the person's own re-election chances. Being nationally elected would elevate the person in stature as well.
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jberryhill Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 05:55 PM
Response to Reply #5
11. The office then develops its own prerogatives....

"Being nationally elected would elevate the person in stature as well."

Yes... the official president-pesterer, who was elected on his promised antagonism toward whomever is president.

The Special Prosecutor law made more sense - having Congress authorize issue specific investigation and prosecutions with a defined scope provides a balance, without having a permanent office with unlimited ability to tie up the executive branch.
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AllentownJake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 06:00 PM
Response to Reply #11
14. The Republicans killed the Special Prosecuter law
Quite well. Use it for nonsense so the Democrats would hate it as well.

Going back to a special prosecutor would be easier politically. You'd have to convince the democrats that it wouldn't be used the way it was in the Clinton years again though.
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jberryhill Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 06:07 PM
Response to Reply #14
16. It was allowed to expire, not killed.
Edited on Thu May-21-09 06:11 PM by jberryhill
It would work a lot better than having a permanent one with a roving commission, I can assure you of that.
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Hippo_Tron Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 05:49 PM
Response to Original message
6. That would just create an entirely new set of political issues
Edited on Thu May-21-09 05:50 PM by Hippo_Tron
If the Attorney General was of a different party than the President, they would almost certainly use that office to frivolously investigate the President the way Kenneth Starr did.

And if the Treasury Department were controlled by someone of a different party than the President there is no way this country could have a coherent economic policy.

If you really wanted a mechanism for an independent Attorney General I would say that it should have to be appointed by the President for a fixed term (4 or 6 years) and must be confirmed by 2/3rds of the Senate. Since no partly generally will control 2/3rds of the Senate it will tend to be someone non-partisan. But honestly I don't think that's necessary. There's nothing wrong with the AG serving at the pleasure of the President. Congress just needs to re-assert itself.
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AllentownJake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 05:52 PM
Response to Reply #6
8. The person has to win re-election or might want to run for President
Kenneth Starr never had to run for anything after he was done his hit job on Bill Clinton.

Going after someone who won an election by the same people you won an election from is going to be something that is politically dangerous.
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Hippo_Tron Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 05:56 PM
Response to Reply #8
13. Elected or not, they still have an incentive to take them down politically
If the President has to run for re-election and you want to run against them then you have an incentive to investigate them and find anything you can on them.
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jberryhill Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 06:07 PM
Response to Reply #13
17. Incentive? They would have a duty! /nt
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Hippo_Tron Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 06:10 PM
Response to Reply #17
18. If they actually broke the law yes
If they got a blow job from an intern, no. Either way, the Attorney General would investigate it if he thought he could score political points by doing so.
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cali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 05:51 PM
Response to Original message
7. that could be a recipe for disaster
can you imagine a charismatic wingnut running Justice with a dem president? No thanks.
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AllentownJake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 05:53 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. He'd have to be elected
Edited on Thu May-21-09 05:53 PM by AllentownJake
If there is a charismatic wing nut that can win a national race for Attorney General, the same charismatic wing nut could probably become President.

Again this is just a thought on how to control the Imperial Presidency.
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jberryhill Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 06:14 PM
Response to Reply #9
19. I'd prefer someone with actual legal expertise and knowledge

to a politician for this position.

I actually did a paper on this years ago in law school, for the writing requirement for Joe Biden's class. Historically, the prosecutorial function was not rolled into the executive function, and was indeed an independent office in many states early on. Experience with that type of system demonstrated that rolling it into the executive solves more problems than it causes, but it does cause a conflict in addressing illegality in the executive.

I argued for maintaining the special prosecutor law with some minor revisions. Biden gave it an A+
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AllentownJake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 06:25 PM
Response to Reply #19
21. Well if Joe gave you an A+
Edited on Thu May-21-09 06:26 PM by AllentownJake
Than I'll take your word for it.

Maybe you should re-send him your paper with a hint to put it on the President's desk.

I LOVE JOE BIDEN!
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Phoebe Loosinhouse Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 05:54 PM
Response to Original message
10. This Unitary executive crap needs to be crushed once and for all
but that's not in the Constitution to begin with. In fact it subverts EVERYTHING the Constitutionis about regarding 3 equal branches, checks and balances, etc.

If the Framers wanted a Unitary Executive, they would have written it that way!!!!!
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AllentownJake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 05:55 PM
Response to Reply #10
12. Congress has yielded its power to the Executive
The only solution I can think of is creating another national office elected by the majority of the people. It would have less power than the Presidency but it would be another check on Presidential Power.
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Hippo_Tron Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 06:03 PM
Response to Reply #10
15. It's not the unitary executive in itself that is the problem, it's the extreme interpretation of it
The President has the authority to instruct the various agencies and departments of the executive branch, except for those that were designed by law to be independent of the President. The problem is that Bush decided he could re-write Congress' laws with respect to the structure of the executive branch. The constitution is clear that the President is the chief executive but it is also clear that he has to exercise his authority within the law.
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Jennicut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 06:15 PM
Response to Original message
20. Tricky Dick :When the President does it, that means it is not illegal
That was what Bush thought. And he got away with it so far. Also, we can substitute the VP in here as well.
The Rethugs abused the consitution to make the imperial presidency and vice presidency.
Congress was left powerless.
The real question is what checks can you put on the presidency?
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midnight armadillo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-21-09 09:47 PM
Response to Original message
22. Probably not
There is no rational reason to assume it should scale in effectiveness from 2.5 million colonists on the eastern seaboard to 330 million people across a continent today. Congress in particular is enormously corrupt partly because it is so unrepresentative with too many constituents for too few representatives.

Look at California - they seem to be looking at re-working their Constitution to reflect modern political and social realities. Eventually the US will find itself in a similar state of utter disarray.
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