Archive for February 17th, 2007

A Litmus Test

February 17, 2007

I have something political to blog about, after all: my proposed litmus test for 2008 presidential contenders. Here it is. Every candidate for the presidency (and the vice-presidency, once we get to that point) should be forced to state for the record their view of the constitutional power of the executive branch.

Is there such a thing as a “unitary executive” power? Can the president simply sign legislation and ignore the parts he doesn’t like? If so, how is that different from a line-item veto, the unconstitutionality of which has been established? What are the limits on the president’s commander-in-chief authority? Are they different in wartime? What is the proper role of the vice-presidency, and what limits on its authority exist? To what extent is either office constitutionally empowered to act in absolute secrecy?

Since journalists are timid about putting any pointed questions to politicians these days, much less a string of them, a briefer way of asking these questions would be: Do you share the views of the Bush administration?

Anyone who answers in anything but a decided, unqualified, emphatic negative is unfit to hold any office in the executive branch.

It’ll be interesting to see if anyone asks any of the candidates about this. Maybe some of them will volunteer their positions without being asked. Maybe even make a campaign issue of it. I doubt it, though. Politicians don’t like to limit the powers of the office they’re seeking — GOP candidates for Congress during a Republican administration being the only exception. (The modern Republican congressman is something the founding fathers never imagined possible.)