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Re: Hillary vs. History


Previous Entry Re: Hillary vs. History Oct. 14th, 2007 @ 10:50 am Next Entry
Considering the amount of reaction and detail in the responses to this post, I think I'll just reply to all of them at once... so here goes. :)

sierra_nevada posted a lot of valuable information, and the validity of what was said can probably not be very well disputed (he has this annoying tendency to be right most of the time ;)). However, in response to all of the examples and history, I have this to say.

The US government operates in an intentionally tenuous balance between explicit trust and distrust. That is, Congress creates laws and trusts (to a certain degree) that the President will execute those laws. Yet, the checks-and-balances concept implies that Congress alone, acting on behalf of The People" has the primary power to call the actions of the presidency into question. From my perspective this design means that when the President presents information as cause for action, Congress decides on a superficial level, with assumption that the information being presented is true, whether that action is in it's own (aka, The People's) best interests. Later Congress has all kinds of powers to call the actions, information, or justifications into question... but those things take time and are inherently reactive.

In nearly all of the examples presented (and granted, I haven't thoroughly researched this per se), this was the process that was followed... as designed... and this is the case with the invasion of Iraq. The President said "this is the case," Congress said "Based on this, go forth and conquer," and when Congress learned it wasn't the case, Congress began calling things into question.

I'm not saying the executive branch is perfect... the design of the US Government attempts to directly recognize this... but the reality is that the time that it takes to be certain of something inhibits the ability to act quickly, and this is also exactly what the design of the government is designed to do.

...and it's to this end that I respect Hillary. At the time, with the information presented, she did what she thought was right. These are the kinds of things you HAVE to do in government and in life. There may be a lot of things to apologize for... for outcomes... for subsequent inaction... for not learning the mistake... but I'll give credit for not apologizing for making the right decision at the time.

I'm not saying that we should inherently trust the office of the president. I'm not saying that congress isn't responsible for ensuring the president is acting properly. I'm saying that in the Iraq example and in all of the other examples provided, the presidency is only called into question by congress when congress has a reason to, which implies that Congress is always going to be operating in a reactive state. To hold Congress (and Hillary) accountable for what it should have known despite what it was being told by the President is in contradiction of the design of the government.
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Date:October 15th, 2007 02:50 am (UTC)
Thank you. I try.

One minor nit: you forgot the Judiciary, our third branch of government. The only place they don't (generally) play is foreign policy, with the exception of treaty conflicts with the Constitution.

But they definitely get to question/overrule the President's actions, e.g. Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. The trick is gaining standing to sue.

Fundamentally, I believe the "founding fathers" understood human nature pretty well, and tried as best they could to guard against its excesses, but the system only works when people give a damn. The politics of the USA over the last decade or so has been driven/poisoned by fear, which has been stoked by all the politicians as a means to power. They debase themselves when they do this, but we debase ourselves by allowing them to succeed.

What ever happened to, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"? Or "America's best days are yet to come"?

Until we (as a body politic) regain that optimism and confidence, things are going to continue to suck, and there's absolutely no guarantee that we won't get a Democratic equivalent of George Bush.
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Date:October 15th, 2007 03:10 am (UTC)
I didn't forget the judiciary... I just didn't consider that branch relevant to this conversation. The judiciary is even more reactive than congress in that the only way it can act is if someone else presents a case for it to react to (as noted by your "standing to sue" item). Plus, Hillary isn't being appointed to the Supreme Court... so our relevance ends there.

As I re-read your comment, I feel it's more of a general statement than a direct response to my post... and that's okay, but it means I won't try to bring it full circle and keep the debate going.

By which I mean to say that I generally agree with your comment. :)
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