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To permit President Obama, or any president, to execute American citizens without judicial review and outside the theater of war gives him the power of judge, jury, and executioner without any check or balance. Such an action is clearly an abuse of presidential power.

During the years of the New Deal, when the power of the president expanded dramatically, Republicans, who were in the opposition, objected to the growth of such power as a threat to freedom. Later, when Republicans held the power of the presidency, they, too, expanded executive power; and the Democrats, now in opposition, objected. This has been characterized as argument from circumstance, not principle. If you hold power, you expand it. No one in power has an incentive to cede back the power that has been assumed.


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Even at the beginning of the Republic, perceptive men such as John Calhoun predicted that government would inevitably grow. Those in power would advocate a “broad” use of power, and those out of power would always argue for a “narrow” use of power; and no one would turn back government authority once it has been embraced.

Calhoun was all too prophetic when he wrote the following in “A Disquisition on Government”:

“… Being the party in possession of government, they will… be in favor of the powers granted by the Constitution and opposed to the restrictions intended to limit them. As the major and dominant parties, they will have no need of these restrictions for their protection…. The minor or weaker party, on the contrary, would take the opposite direction and regard them as essential to their protection against the dominant party…. But where there are no means by which they could compel the major party to observe the restrictions, the only resort left them would be a strict construction of the Constitution…. To this the major party would oppose a liberal construction… one which would give the words of the grant the broadest meaning of which they were susceptible.”

Calhoun continued:

“It would then be construction against construction, the one to contract and the other to enlarge the powers of the government to the utmost. But of what possible avail could the strict construction of the minor party be, against the liberal interpretation of the major party, when the one and the other be deprived of all means of enforcing its construction? In a contest so unequal, the result would not be doubtful. The party in favor of the restrictions would ultimately be annulled, and the government be converted into one of unlimited powers.”

Our history shows that Calhoun’s analysis is true. The Republicans opposed big government when the Democrats were in power, but spoke of concepts such as “executive privilege” when their own party held positions of authority. The Democrats have done exactly the same thing. Now, we see President Obama doing all the things he found objectionable when President Bush did them — and moving executive power beyond even what the Bush administration was prepared to do. The growth of government power has been a steady process, regardless of which party was in office.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.



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