The Constitution as a Limit on Executive Power

by Bob Barr

Testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, July 25, 2008

Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of this Committee, on which I was privileged to serve throughout my eight years as a Member of the House of Representatives, it is an honor to appear today to speak on the importance of the separation of powers in the federal government as a tool for protecting the people’s liberties. Many vital issues confront our nation, but few are more important than repairing and maintaining the constitutional bulwarks that guarantee individual liberty and limit government power.

Mr. Chairman, today I appear as a private citizen, and also as a former Member of this Committee and as a once-again practicing attorney. I am also honored to be serving as the presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party.

It is axiomatic that no matter how much power government has, it always wants more. While the executive branch under George W. Bush has taken this truism to new heights, it is not unique in its quest for power. Unfortunately, the other branches of government have failed to do enough to maintain the constitutional balance. Particularly disturbing has been Congress’ recent reluctance, in the face of aggressive executive branch claims, to make the laws and ensure that the laws are properly applied. This failure has inhibited the operation of the separation of powers, necessary to provide the checks and balances which undergird our system of constitutional liberty.

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Not my Commander in Chief

Cross-Posted from DailyKos.com with permission of the author, Crashing Vor

Watching Keith [Olbermann] just now, I heard him mention Antonin “Nino” Scalia’s dissenting opinion from today’s ruling in regards habeas corpus rights for detainees.

The lowlight of Justice Scalia’s opinion was the paragraph:

“The game of bait-and-switch that today’s opinion plays upon the Nation’s Commander in Chief will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.”

While others will surely spend countless hours and buckets of ink and pixels debating the merits or madness of the second sentence, I’ve a bone to pick with the first.

Scalia has, over the years, demonstrated a profound lack of understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the role of the Supreme Court. His devotion to the concept of “originalism” selectively ignores the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, key components of the document as “originally” ratified. The codicil to the majority opinion in Bush v. Gore, in which the nation’s ultimate appeals court, where all legal precedent is finally decided, declares that the judgment in that case is not, in fact, legal precedent.

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The Presidency: Executive or Imperial Branch?

by Ivan Eland

More memos recently have surfaced that were written early in the Bush administration by John C. Yoo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — the man who gave us the administration’s horrifyingly narrow definition of torture. As difficult as it is to believe, the recently released memos are even scarier than the original torture memo.

Yoo boldly asserts that the president’s power during wartime is nearly unlimited. For example, he argues that Congress has no right to pass laws governing the interrogations of enemy combatants and the commander-in-chief can ignore such laws if passed, and can, without constraint, seize oceangoing ships.

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The Root of the Problem

Reports from the UK are talking about a British General lambasting US policy failures in Iraq. From the Guardian:

The bitter transatlantic row over Iraq intensified as another key British general lambasted the US for bungling the aftermath of the invasion.

Major General Tim Cross, the most senior UK officer involved in the post-war planning, said Washington’s policy had been “fatally flawed”. He also insisted he had raised serious concerns about the possibility of the country sliding into chaos with Donald Rumsfeld – but the then-US defence secretary “dismissed” the warnings.

Once again, the personalities and the media are concerned with the symptoms of our problems in Iraq – rather than the cause.

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Understanding Limited Government

Kevin Gutzman’s new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution, might be the best available overview of the principles of limited government as espoused by the Tenth Amendment.

After reading this book, you’ll see quite clearly that the original constitution has very little in common with how this government is run today (if you haven’t noticed already!) The 10th Amendment has been pushed aside and the federal government runs rampant – exercising powers that the founders would never have dreamed of giving to any politician.

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