“Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool.”
–Clinton presidential aide Paul Begala, July 1998
“All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress
of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of
Representatives.” –Article 1, U.S. Constitution, 1789
The greatest fear of the Founding Fathers was the establishment of a
strong central government and an ambitious, power-hungry political
leader at the center of that government. They had had their fill of
kings and dictators. They believed the best assurance against
centralized authority was a loose association of sovereign states, which
maintained most governmental power at the local level.
President Clinton’s glib announcement that he will issue a barrage of
executive orders to further his legislative agenda while bypassing
Congress is the ultimate fulfillment of those fears. More chilling yet
is the timing of the ominous announcement. It comes less than two months
after Clinton issued, while on foreign soil, Executive Order 13083,
which annihilates the principles of federalism that have guided the
nation for the last 200 years.
The 10th Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United
States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are
reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” Under EO 13083,
Clinton has effectively tacked on to that clear, forthright, inspired,
unambiguous statement a list of exceptions. He has done it
single-handedly, with the stroke of a pen. And, no Mr. Begala, there is
nothing cool about totalitarianism.
Say what you will about him, Bill Clinton is a bright and educated
man. His actions and his words are carefully considered. He knows what
he is doing. That’s what makes this trend so frightening. Where does he
want to take the nation? How far from its founding principles are we to
stray? Is America about to transform itself from a nation governed by
laws to a nation ruled by men?
How far we’ve come from the days of statesmen like James Madison, who
believed “That all power is originally vested in, and consequently
derived from, the people. That government is instituted and ought to be
exercised for the benefit of the people; which consists in the enjoyment
of life and liberty and the right of acquiring property, and generally
of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. That the people have an
indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform or change
their government whenever it be found adverse or inadequate to the
purpose of its institution.”
Note that Madison said “the people” — not the government — have a
right to change their government. Bill Clinton has taken on this mission
as his own God-given responsibility. He is acting like a strongman, an
ayatollah, a czar, a potentate, a Fuhrer.
Even before Clinton abused his office so egregiously, the United
States was in grave danger of concentrating too much power in Washington
and too much power in the Oval Office. Clinton, ever the opportunist,
has taken full advantage of Americans’ ignorance of their constitutional
heritage and usurped much of the remaining congressional legislative
Potentially, the worst abuse of all is the executive order. For 30
years, Americans have lived under the shadow of executive orders that
could — as Mr. Begala inelegantly stated it — with “the stroke of a
pen,” turn America into just another fascist dictatorship. Fortunately,
America has been blessed with leaders — some good, some bad — who have
restrained themselves from signing away our freedoms.
Without congressional approval, the president has the power to
relocate whole populations of Americans, the power to shut down the free
press, to force a national registration of all people. There doesn’t
need to be a war to justify such an action — just a crisis, be it
domestic or foreign, violent or merely economic.
I count at least a dozen executive orders, today standing as the law
of the land, which would suspend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights
in their entirety with such a stroke of the pen. Such power should not
be in the hands of any one man — particularly one as ambitious, driven
and morally contemptible as Bill Clinton.
Oh, what a delicate thread from which our liberty is suspended.