The Madisonian model

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  • wkb1005 Pleasant Grove, UT
    Feb. 22, 2014 2:58 p.m.

    Funny that you should attribute the tag "Imperial Presidency" solely to FDR. It was also widely applied to the Nixon presidency with all of its pomp and regency surrounding various White House events and Nixon's pugnacious arrogance in the face of Watergate.

  • Owen Heber City, UT
    Feb. 18, 2014 1:00 p.m.

    Mr. Richards knows this: By law, the executive branch executes. It decides how to flesh out and best enforce the laws passed by our representatives(it's called rulemaking). The executive fills in the blanks in a 200-page bill so it doesn't have to be 200,000. The executive also represents our interests by refusing to spend resources enforcing archaic laws that have outlived their usefulness. If we, the shareholders, don't like how our board of directors or executives advance our goals and vision, we replace them. Understanding all of this (and the definition of dictator), we didn't replace these executives.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 18, 2014 10:48 a.m.


    Re: "have you forgotten that the American people elected President Obama, not once, but twice"...

    Have you forgotten that people in Congress also won their elections (many by a goodly margins)... and some were elected based on their promise to overturn Obamacare.

    So just because the President was elected.. does not mean the whole country wants everything he wants. That's why we have Congress (to represent each State's priorities, not just the national party's priorities).

    If we decide the President can do whatever he wants because he was elected in a national vote... we may as well have Vladamir Putin sitting in Washington looking down on the little people and doing whatever he wants, spending as much as he wants on the Olympics to improve his image internationally (with no regard to what it costs the little people).

    We have Congress for a REASON.

  • Bored to the point of THIS! Ogden, UT
    Feb. 18, 2014 6:49 a.m.

    Madison is one of the most often "mis-quoted" members of the founding fathers. This 'opinion' article is a great example of that.

    People today try so hard to use the words of the founding fathers to validate their opinions. To truly understand the founding fathers you must apply their words into the context of their era verses that of today.

    Remember: "All men are created equal" did not mean to them what it does to us today!

  • There You Go Again Saint George, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 10:00 p.m.

    George W. Bush issued 161 signing statements affecting over 1,100 provisions of law in 160 Congressional enactments.

    From his inauguration through December 26, 2013, President Obama has issued 25 signing statements affecting 96 specified provisions and making six mentions of unspecified provisions of law in 24 Congressional enactments.

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 9:24 p.m.

    GW Bush used executive orders to delay penalties in the Medicare Part D law. Same as President Obama has done with the ACA. Also examine Bush's "signing statements" where he would sign a bill into law, but attach a statement saying he would construe it to mean what he wanted, not what congress wanted.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 2:05 p.m.

    Roland Kayser,
    Can you name the many times when President Bush used, as you put it, "the Unitary Executive" power? I don't remember it happening a lot, but people keep saying he did it all the time.

    Were they important things?

    Because the important things as I recall (hostilities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Patriot Act, TARP, etc) were all approved by Congress. And his other signature legislation "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" was not approved by Congress, but he didn't just pass it by Presidential fiat. Even though I'm sure he was frustrated Congress didn't pass it.

    I'm sure all Presidents get frustrated with Congress and inaction on their agenda... Obama is not the first President to face this problem. And Republicans are not the only party that has declared they will block anything the President wants (I remember Democrats lead by Pelosi and Reid, making that same pledge during the Bush administration).

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 1:25 p.m.

    ..."free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy, and not confidence, which prescribes limited constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power; that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no farther, our confidence may go"....

    Thomas Jefferson

    "Jealousy" is the opposite, in a way, of envy, thought today we confuse the two words.

    Envy is lusting after something that is not ours. Jealousy is the zealous protection of that which is legally and rightfully ours. The rights of the Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary are to be jealously guarded by each separate power and upheld by every sworn government officer. When any one of these powers oversteps its bounds, all sworn officers of the government have a sacred duty to keep it to its legal limits and to uphold and maintain the balancing powers in their respective constitutional roles. Every sworn officer of the government has sworn to uphold this constitutional system against "all enemies foreign and domestic".

  • gmlewis Houston, TX
    Feb. 17, 2014 12:31 p.m.

    @Roland Kaiser - I keep hearing that Pres. Bush #43 abused the executive order power as much as our current President. I ask sincerely, can someone point out one or more examples where Pres. Bush issued an executive order overturning a recent Congressional decision?

    When Congress rejected the Dream Act, Pres. Obama promptly issued an executive order putting some of its provisions into force. With the ACA. Congress passed a law that was loaded with specifics. Nevertheless, Pres. Obama felt free to override those specifics anytime he wanted, frequently for political purposes. The Senate refused to confirm several of Pres. Obama's appointments, so Pres. Obama invoked the privilege of putting them into power, even when Congress was still in session.

    What is Congress good for if the President can override it at will.

  • J Thompson SPRINGVILLE, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 11:59 a.m.

    How many borrow a page from Mr. Obama's book when they ignore Obama's actions and blame other Presidents for doing something similar? I wonder how many of them have ever used that excuse in traffic court, "Your honor, I felt entitle to speed through a school zone because the driver in front of me was going 30. He wasn't pulled over, so I shouldn't have been pulled over either." We all know that the judge would hammer his gavel as he sentenced us for breaking the law, regardless of what "some other person" did.

    Those who will not be governed by law will be governed by a despot when that despot releaves them of their liberties and puts the boot of government on their necks. Then, too late, they will realize that government of the people, by the people and for the people requires them to speak out against any and all politicians who usurp authority.

    Mr. Obama ignores the law. He ignores the Constitution. He pretends to help the people as he puts burdens on our backs that no one can carry. He flaunts his false "authority".

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 11:55 a.m.

    @ Mike Richards, have you forgotten that the American people elected President Obama, not once, but twice, by a goodly margin both times, to do exactly what he is doing, all under the auspices of the U.S. Constitution? I am beginning to wonder if you more favor anarchy in the name of the Constitution. We have a very well established system of government under the Constitution. If any President goes to far, the matter can be taken to the courts, as has been done on occasion. There is an established process. The fact that the right wing has never brought a credible case to the courts suggests to me that their complaints are nothing but partisan bickering. To suggest that Obama is a dictator (or wants to be) is way over the top. If you will label Reagan and GWB as dictators, I'll accept your position as at least consistent. Failure to extend the same principles across the board, not just to Obama but to those who served before in the other party, who went far, far beyond what Obama has done, suggests petty partisanship, not consistent principles.

  • Ed Grady Idaho Falls, ID
    Feb. 17, 2014 11:47 a.m.

    Hmmm, I wonder if the DN was opining the same stuff when Richard Nixon and his protégé Dick Cheney were slurping up power for the Executive Branch, or is it only troubling when a Democrat does it?

  • Lanny Bountiful, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 11:37 a.m.

    I like your Monday, 2-17-2014 editorial "The Madisonian model" about the abuse of presidential power. But it should be called "The Adams model." Madison's Virginia Plan in 1787 Constitutional Convention said that the executive should be elected by the legislature. In establishing the executive branch, the convention followed the model of the Massachusetts Constitution (according to Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers). The Massachusetts Constitution was one of 12 state constitutions at that time, and was the only one with an executive branch that was elected by the citizens and that had veto power over legislative bills.; the New York constitution was the only other state constitution that had its governor elected by the people, but it did NOT give the governor veto power. John Adams was the main author of the Massachusetts Constitution. Also, excerpts from John Adams' book on constitutions were being published in a Philadelphia newspaper during the 1787 convention. The U.S. Constitution was based on "The Adams model."

  • Ranch Here, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 10:54 a.m.

    With our current "do-nothing" congress, somebody has to make important decisions and do something.

  • louie Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 10:22 a.m.

    When it comes to governance do we really think Congress, with its lowest approval rating in recent history is a responsible partner in this endeavor. The circumstances are obviously ripe for Executive Orders. The Article cites other presidents that pushed the limits of their authority, but yet a consensus of historians have rated Lincoln and the FDR as great, suggesting their action was essential to the country.

  • J Thompson SPRINGVILLE, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 9:47 a.m.

    There are those who have the false impression that the people directly elect the President. That is complete nonsense. Article II, Section 1, states:

    "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress".

    We elect "electors" who represent the mind and will of the people of the State of Utah. Those electors, if true to their obligation, vote as a block for the candidate favored by a majority of the citizens of Utah. The STATE is represented to the world by the President of the United States. The PEOPLE of Utah are represented by their Representatives in Congress. The STATE is also given equal status to all other States to ratify judges and treaties. All States have equal representation in the Senate. Until ratified by the Senate, treaties are meaningless and Federal Judges cannot take office.

    A little reading of the Constitution would blow away the smoke behind which Obama hides.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Feb. 17, 2014 9:22 a.m.


    So, you believe as Obama does, that he has authority to do whatever he wants to do, just as Napoleon. Obama told the world that he would rule the United States by executive order. That's a fact. He told the world that he would override Congress's inaction. That's a fact. Who gave him that authority? It does not exist in the Constitution. He swore an oath to uphold the Constitution. Is he doing that when he thumbs his nose at the limits that YOU and I placed on him? Is HE the government or are we, the People, the government of the United States who hire temporary workers, including Mr. Obama to do those duties that WE have assigned to them?

    I'm afraid that if you believe that Obama has the right and the authority to do what he told us he would do, then you are the one who lacks credibility. The Constitution does not support him or you. It's time to align ourselves with the law that protects us from power hungry politicians who flaunt their disdain for the will of the people and the Supreme Law of the Land.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 9:19 a.m.

    The president is the only person in our national government that is elected by and represents all the people of America. State governments and the people elected by them do not represent people, thus Congress is made up of people representing special interest groups.

    The welfare of the American people depends on the character and ability of the president to counter the efforts of the special groups. He/she is the only one having the opportunity to represent the people.

  • pleblian salt lake city, utah
    Feb. 17, 2014 9:19 a.m.

    is this the same editorial board who two months ago so thoroughly chastised and bemoaned the separate judicial authority and duty invested in Federal District Judge Shelby? Who criticized him for following the law as he understood it?

    Who, because they, the editorial board, disagreed with the Judge's ruling under the Fourteenth Amendment, saw fit to publically misrepresent his decision as "activism"?

  • Kings Court Alpine, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 9:09 a.m.

    It is too bad our state legislators don't believe in this strict separation of powers. What are they trying to do now? They are wanting to make judges attend a seminar on state vs. federal rights with a curriculum written by Republicans. Once a political party (whether Democrat or Republican) becomes a force in and of itself, freedom dies. That is what we are seeing on a federal, state, and local level.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 8:57 a.m.

    Just some follwo-up comments:

    Mike, I know you revere the Constitution (even though your interpretation does not match 200 years of court decisions), but to say the President "does not accept the Constitution as binding him to listed duties...sees himself as a Napoleon, Emperor of the World..., etc., just undermines your credibility. What nonsense.

    To "BYU9293", the Executive is charged with carrying out the will of Congress. Congress does not, and never has, provided every detail in carrying out the law. Congress expects the Executive to interpret and fill in the gaps. There is no way any law can be so detailed. Conservatives complain about the large size of certain bills, then comnplain when the bills are shorter and have to be interpreted by the Executive. This is what leads me, in part, to conclude that most arguments are partisan rants and would not apply to a GOP President.

  • BYU9293 Clinton, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 8:31 a.m.

    It is interesting that several commentators have suggested that Obama is only doing what past Republican presidents have done so it is okay. Such a fallacious excuse, others have done it so it is all right. So, because others have committed murder, if I murder it should be okay? Ridiculous. Right is right and what others have done does not change what is right. Also, many of the past presidents have taken greater authority in wartime, or similar, circumstances, which is not the case now. By trying to excuse Obama under that theory it will only lead to more power being taken later by other presidents under the same theory. I hope and pray that at some point we get a president who is moral and does what is right regardless of what past presidents did. We need this same thing to apply to our US Supreme court, who has been legislating for well over 50 years.

  • glendenbg Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 8:26 a.m.

    I highly recommend Sanford Levinson's Our Undemocratic Constitution as tonic to this editorial's well-intentioned but lopsided view of the separation of powers.

    It's worth noting that in the decades since World War Two, few democratic nations have adopted our model of separation of powers and have instead opted for a parliamentary system in which the head of government and the head of state are separate offices and in which the head of government is a largely ceremonial role with few real powers.

    Separation of powers, lauded in this editorial, is designed to thwart rather than empower the majority from governing by creating multiple veto points in the process. The result is that less popular initiatives (i.e. the Affordable Care Act) pass while more popular initiativs (i.e. a single payer or government option for health care) do not pass. The outcome is a government often unable to implement popular policies, one in which a minority is able to thwart the popular will and hide behind process.

  • LovelyDeseret Gilbert, AZ
    Feb. 17, 2014 8:07 a.m.

    This is how a democracy dies. Not by the people having too much power but instead the government lulling us into complacency by convincing us that the government needs more and more power each time there is a crisis. Then instead of preventing crisis's the government needs to facilitate them in order to get their agenda moved forward.

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 7:55 a.m.

    There is a way for us to curtail executive power, but we will never use it. Republicans need to restrain Republican presidents and Democrats need to do the same. The current GOP is complaining about President Obama's overreach, but they almost universally supported the Bush administration's assertion of "the Unitary Executive" theory, which put significantly more power in the hands of the president.

    The were a few wise Republicans who warned Bush not to assume any powers he didn't want a Democratic successor to have, but Bush thought he knew better.

    BTW I'm not suggesting that Democrats are any better at this.

  • I know it. I Live it. I Love it. Provo, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 7:31 a.m.

    Madison aside, the U.S. Constitution was designed with one primary purpose... to protect we the people from those who seek more power than any one man or few should have.

    When we consider the monarchy being escaped, and the separation of powers put in place to protect us... upon re-evaluating our current status, no one would do well to argue that power is as distributed now as it was in the start.


    Is there a need for a federal government? Yes, for currency, protecting our borders, etc. Also, to protect us via the inalienable rights all human beings need to live a life of free conscience.

    I ask, where does the fed/state balance now rest? As long as you can call something "a right" it circumvents all judgement of whether it's really a right or not and is proclaimed and defended as such.


    I hereby DECLARE, I have a right to $1Billion and to be liked by everyone!
    Random fact: the U.N. recently declared that "internet access" is a basic human right.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Feb. 17, 2014 7:31 a.m.

    We've had some great Presidents, some not-so-great Presidents, and some scoundrels. The one thing that they all had in common is that all of them are limited in their authority by the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land. Article I, Section 1 give all legislative authority to Congress. The men and women in Congress represent the mind and will of the people and of the States which are part of this federation.

    Congress represents the mind and the will of the people within the limits placed upon the Federal Government by the Constitution. Congress has 17 areas of authority. Anything outside those seventeen areas is to be left to the States or to the People.

    The President represents the mind and will of Congress. His duty, according to Article II, Section 2, allows almost no "latitude to do as he pleases. He executes the laws passed by Congress.

    Obama does not accept the Constitution as binding him to listed duties. He sees himself as a Napoleon, Emperor of the World, able to write law without regard to law or of the people who granted him limited authority to represent the mind and will of Congress.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 7:00 a.m.

    This is an area where I have first hand experience in the actual application of separation of powers. The ironic thing is that Republicans (Washington insiders) in the past 40 years or 50 years have followed the course of a strong executive. During the Clinton years, I encouraged GOP Members of Congress, including Senator Bennett, to resist a Presidential action and exercise more Legislative authority on an issue and they declined. The matter went to litigation and a Republican controlled Court of Appeals sided with the Executive. The fact that Republicans are acting "concerned" about President Obama using executive orders is ironic at best, but probably worse in terms of hypocrisy. It is a concern of political convenience. Nothing more. All executive orders are based on existing legal authority granted by Congress. It is not new law by the President. The buzz of the right wing on this issue is either based on lack of information or political mischief. I suspect the latter for those leading the opposition. This editorial is naive partisanship.

  • Bob K portland, OR
    Feb. 17, 2014 12:54 a.m.

    It ought to be much more troubling that the republican House set a goal of discrediting the President, and has failed to pass much legislation, while stirring up devisiveness.

    Ought not the DN, as a representative of the church of Jesus Christ, promote honesty, fairness, truth, and the spirit of getting along with our fellow men?