Presidential Candidates, Silent on Presidential Power

Jan 24, 2016 · 85 comments
George (Ia)
And Cruz says he will undo everything the president has done. How? With Executive Order!
Ken (St. Louis)
We can't cast a well-informed vote without knowing anything about the candidates' views on core issues such as the limits of presidential power.

But none of the Republican candidates want us to cast well-informed votes.

They want us to vote on the basis of lies, propaganda, and nasty emotions like hatred, fear, and greed.
scientella (Palo Alto)
RUN BLOOMBERG RUN....PLEASE!!! and run as a democrat
Larry (The Fifth Circle)
I don't much care for him as a candidate, but it reflects well on Rand Paul that he at least responded. He has been strong and consistent on issues like separation of powers, privacy, and other important rights and I like those aspects of his platform and campaign; but he hasn't done as much to address even more pressing issues like the economy, foreign policy, and defense. And his quixotic campaign to 'audit the Fed' bugs me.
PaulB (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Standing back from the partisan divide over executive action, the trend over the past 30-40 years clearly points to a bolstering of executive power at the expense of an increasingly dysfunctional Congress. The fact is, power is increasingly accruing to the White House, and diminishing down Pennsylvania Ave. Partly, that's because Republicans are dedicated to reducing the reach of government. Conversely, Presidents want to accomplish change and progress, and are thus drawn to the vaguely written powers accorded to the Executive Branch.

The U.S. is in a transition from an executive-legislative governing model (with the judiciary playing a growing rule-making role) to an executive dominant role. That helps explain why Presidential elections are more and more singular political events, separate from federal and state elections, and increasingly
unchained from the fundamental three equal branches of government envisioned by the Founding Fathers.
Robert Cohen (Atlanta-Athens GA area)
Ought the POTUS always be frank/honest/candid? Yes/no/perhaps.

President Eisenhower's notorious ambiguity rather than language precision was actually an important aspect of his presidency.

That fogginess was an open joke, yet it was his deliberate style.

The candidates--other than Senator Paul--are not so eagerly penning selves down.

President Obama's infamous line drawn in the sand about chemical weapons did regrettably exactly that, and it seemingly hurts him to this day.

Ike was perhaps coy/sophisticated about promising/threatening.

Perhaps it is wiser here in our real world of changing complexities/subtleties not to always shoot perfectly straight
Dotconnector (New York)
The genie is out of the bottle, and it won't be going back in again.

Now that Congress has rolled over time and again on its pre-eminent prerogative, war powers, endless intervention by executive fiat has become precedent. Which is why abuses such as massive secret warrantless electronic surveillance of innocent American citizens have come into being, as well.

One of the good reasons to keep fresh batteries in your smoke detectors is that the Constitution has begun to burn.
David Gregory (Deep Red South)
The margins of Presidential Power are somewhat fluid. George W Bush & his underlings did things in the aftermath of 9-11 that were plainly illegal, but Congress chose not to make an issue of it. After the 2006 elections when Democrats regained Congress, Nancy Pelosi decided not to prosecute or investigate numerous legitimate complaints of Bush Administration conduct. That shows that legally defined power & enforcement are two very different things.

I am not a lawyer, but contend Congressional riders in budget bills constraining the President's and Executive Branch Authority are illegal & may violate the separation of powers. I would like to see a challenge to this practice which has been widely abused. A prime example is denying the National Institutes of Health the ability to study death by firearm as a public health issue. The Executive should be able to use the NIH budget as they see fit without Congressional interference and the voters can then hold the President accountable.

As a voter it would be nice to see this information, but doubt how accurate it would be. President Obama promised no more bad trade deals, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership is as bad as any that have come before. He promised labor a seat at the table- which they were denied during negotiations even as lobbyists were actively involved for business interests. Translation- politicians lie, so answering how they understand limits on executive authority would not necessarily be very accurate.
Jim Waddell (Columbus, OH)
I'm guessing that all the presidential candidates of both parties - with the possible exception of Rand Paul - are secretly hoping President Obama's authority to pick and chose which laws to enforce and which to ignore is upheld by the Supreme Court. Ever since the 1930's we have been concentrating more and more authority in the Executive Branch, and no one who expects to be President wants that trend reversed.

But we as American citizens should want that trend reversed. Of course the corollary is that Congress needs to assert its authority more, which it doesn't seem inclined to do, regardless of which party controls the Legislative branch.
Adrian O (State College, PA)
The one who warned against overstating leadership powers was king Knuth, aka Canute. He made the point that sea levels are NOT subject to royal orders.

However, in 2008 then candidate Obama promised to slow down the sea rise during his administration.

“This [his administration] was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow, and our planet began to heal.” he said.

Now we shall see whether there are limits to executive power, since the seas have been rising at the same rate for 200 years at least, likely since the time of president Washington.

Just to be stopped now by executive order. At a huge cost, one may add.
GMHK (Connecticut)
Unlike candidate Obama and then president Obama who swore up and down that he would never abuse Executive Order.
David Henry (Walden)
Abuse is in the eye of the beholder. A Palin voter would always single out Obama when other presidents have in fact issued more Executive Orders
GMHK (Connecticut)
@David Henry - you are wrong about Palin, I have no use for her. Obama specifically campaigned on and then stated several times as president, that he would not be invoking executive privilege. Even in his mad rush for deferred action on immigration he stated that he did not have the constitutional authority to do so. He did so.
L’OsservatoreA (Fair Verona)
It is NEVER ever about the number of Executive Orders. One Prez might sign sixty about some bridge or old building but when the next one signs one allowing convicted criminal aliens to just be driven into the next state and released, many women and children are endangered.

Mr. Obama has allowed literally thousands of convicted criminal aliens released who SHOULD have been imprisoned or sent home.
Mr. Obama has gotten people killed sticking to his warped ideology, and this loudly announced 200 families-return program represents ONE DAY's worth of border-crossers.
AACNY (New York)
Why should republican candidates help Obama out by interfering in an issue that he owns? They'd just divert attention from it.

As for the next democratic president using the same playbook as Obama, why would any president do that?? Would they want to fail? Anybody would be a better dealmaker than this president. Even the socialist would be able to cut more deals.
Chris (Las Vegas)
Lol, what? He owns it? Take a look at this chart, although you are probably too partisan to see it and admit it.
AACNY (New York)

I'm familiar with that article and have included the link here myself. Here are the points germaine to charges against Obama:

"If it’s unprecedented, it’s because of the scope of the executive action, not the executive action itself. For decades, executive orders have been a fairly common tool for U.S. presidents. We looked at data from the American Presidency Project and found that the use of executive orders peaked in the era of the New Deal (FDR set the record) and has been on the decline since. "

And this:

"Of the executive orders since 1956 that addressed immigration, the most wide-reaching was President George H.W. Bush’s Family Fairness plan. As Danny Vinik said at the New Republic, conservatives are noting that Bush’s action expanded upon congressional intent, but Obama’s would be in defiance of it."
Seldoc (Rhode Island)
This is not a partisan issue. President Obama is not running for President in 2016. The Republican candidates are. They, along with the Democratic candidates, owe the public an answer to the question. All Americans not matter their party should agree with that.
Jeff Barge (New York)
There are so many, many things I would like them to keep mum about. Why'd they go ahead and do this one? No, I mean, seriously.
Leigh (Qc)
Republicans have loudly disputed every action taken by President Obama since his first inauguration. His only choice, therefore, was to either defer to a gang of naysayers, or to do his very best to fulfill his oath of office. Fortunately he chose the latter, and his country, and the whole world, is all the better for it.
L’OsservatoreA (Fair Verona)
I wish Leigh had been here in 1989 when the Dems running the Congress swore that they'd destroy Poppy Bush's plans. They repeatedly closed don the government until even the Clintons looked better.
Confussed (Tennessee)
Expansion of executive power is not real popular so they really do not want to promote it in a campaign- you never remember President Obama touting anything about it but once he was in he made it a priority.

Not real sure but Sanders surely wants it for socialist agenda only, Trump would like the power, Cruz would love to screw his past congressional colleagues and Hillary loves power but is not likely to be viable soon with the pending charges for mishandling of classified information. Not real sure how Bloomberg will act when he gets spending but surely like the idea of executive action to take away guns from everyone except his families security detail.
L’OsservatoreA (Fair Verona)
No, there is NO indicator that Cruz is angry like that or would sabotage the country to wreak revenge. He's too smooth for some people and I think the GOP structure fears him.
Lady Scorpio (Mother Earth)
I wasn't aware that Bloomberg had formally announced his candidacy. I thought he was only considering it. Yet, you mention him in your comment. Could you please clarify?

1-24-16@4:08 am est
George Mandanis (San Rafael, CA)
No response to the NYT survey by most of the presidential candidates is not surprising. Definitely answering what-if questions, if there are no compelling reasons for doing so, denies them the flexibility they may desperately need in the future. Their usual dodge: "No hypothetical questions, please."
Richard Conn Henry (Baltimore)
The real powers of a President is to not sign passed legislation; to nominate Supreme Court Justices; and, unfortunately, it seems, to drag us into wars.
Louis V. Lombardo (Bethesda, MD)
Presidential power is great. But the financial shackles of big money are stronger on presidents and most candidates.
TJ2000 (Nona)
Rand Paul the only one to answer. Everyone should read his responses; they're amazing. Especially loved this one.

ii. Are military deployments involving airstrikes, but not ground
forces in sustained offensive operations, the sort of “hostilities”
regulated by the War Powers Resolution’s 60-day limit for congressionally unauthorized combat?

ANSWER: The military belongs to the citizens of the United States,
not the president of the United States. Unless repelling an imminent
threat, any initiation of hostilities by offensive attacks must be authorized by the representatives of the people in the House and Senate
of the United States.
AACNY (New York)
There's something to be said about those who don't aspire to be kings and realize government has its proper place.

On the bright side, the next president may actually be able to work with Congress and likely won't be using executive powers to undo its legislation.
ejzim (21620)
They all plan to use this executive power, if they get the opportunity, so it just wouldn't do to criticize its use now, and give the opposition any ammunition. It's just like the filibuster issue, that the parties want to abolish only when the opposition uses it.
serban (Miller Place)
Most of those aspiring to be President do not want to see a reduction of the power of the Presidency so it is not surprising that they will not comment on what they believe the limits should be. It is up to Congress to pass laws that can limit the Presidents ability to do what Congress does not approve of. And it is up to Congress to bring suit to the Supreme Court if the President refuses to enforce them. The final word in case of conflict resides in the SUC. A President defies a SUC ruling at risk of being impeached, on the other hand the SUC may rule the law unconstitutional so the President can continue to ignore.
njglea (Seattle)
Why didn't candidates respond? Because every single thing President Obama did/does to try to improve OUR lives was/is assaulted in OUR courts in attempts to get the cases to what is supposed to be OUR Supreme Court of the United States. We could trust SCOTUS to have a social conscience in the past. Not now. Who knows what the five member male corporate catholic majority will decide? One thing we do know - when Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton is the President of the United States the ALEC/Koch Brothers/Sheldon Adelson/Wall Street/u.s. chamber of commerce/radical religious right/nra/major media cartel will sue OUR governments over every little thing with the money they do not pay in taxes - and WE get to pay for it with OUR hard-earned taxpayer money. There is no better reason to vote only for socially conscious democrats and independents on November 8 and in every election before and after.
pnut (Austin)
When there is a Republican president, Congress delivers ready-made legislation for his functioning writing hand.

On the other hand, Democratic presidents have to deal with engineered Constitutional crises, where they are put in the impossible situation of exceeding executive authority (breach of constitutional mandate) in order to fulfill their constitutional mandate - the perfect lose-lose.

In either case, all current Presidential candidates will be infinitely more hamstrung than they think, and their simplistic solutions fall far short of the fundamental changes our system currently requires.

Campaign finance reform is our last hope of restoring function, and it's probably too late at this point, considering it'll take a Constitutional Amendment to get it done. If you thought special interests fought nasty to destroy healthcare reform... All major political special interests would be the losers in campaign finance reform, and they'll throw everything they've got (a significant portion of the national economy) at torpedoing it.
Don Shipp, (Homestead Florida)
The Republicans are wrong to criticize Obama on his immigration executive orders."The National government has significant power to regulate immigration" from Justice Kennedy's majority opinion in Arizona v U.S.The key nuance in Obama's immigration policy executive orders and the reason they are Constitutional is that he merely "delays" implementation of deportation. If his orders effected a change in the actual statute, that would require Congressional approval.Starting with Eisenhower, Presidents have delayed implementation of deportations for a variety of reasons. The SCOTUS has given the executive almost plenary power in the enforcement "process"of immigration, not statute construction.
Charles (USA)
"The National government has significant power to regulate immigration"

The President is not the whole of the National government, unless you subscribe, as Mr. Obama does, to the Bushism of the "Unitary Executive".

"Starting with Eisenhower, Presidents have delayed implementation of deportation"

Eisenhower teamed with Democratic Senator William Fulbright and General Joseph Swing to devise "Operation Wetback" (the term was not an epithet at the time - even Cesar Chavez used it) which deported 1.5 million illegal immigrants.
Aaron (Ladera Ranch, CA)
It's always the "pithy" stuff that eludes the Presidential campaign. Hats off to Rand Paul for answering the call- The non responses from everyone else just reinforce the fact that this is a media driven campaign and [again] the big ticket items are: Terrorism, Immigration, Abortion, and Guns. Start talking about the constitutionality of Presidential proclamations regarding human rights, individual liberty and due process then 3/4 of nation either falls asleep or says, "Yeah right that too- Now let's get back to the important stuff like: Terrorism, Immigration, Abortion, and Guns!" I swear to God we are so dumb it makes me sick!
Long Island Dave (Long Island)
Let's face it, the four top runners are full of it. So full of it.
L’OsservatoreA (Fair Verona)
Our writer starts off by mentioning Mr. Trump wanting to waterboard people if necessary, and THEN starts off the next sentences mentioning the law.

Silly Charles! Presidents no longer have to follow the law – haven’t you watched the lawless icon you put in the White House?

Mr. Obama took one look at laws passed by Congresses that he disagreed with and immediately announced that they would never be enforced – and the entire Democratic Party applauded.

I fully expect the Democrats to once again applaud Trump waterboarding – or even going so far as to torture – anyone he wishes to. We all KNOW Democrats would never be hypocrites!
Russ (Portland, OR)
And the Republicans aren't hypocrites by repeatedly accusing Obama of abusing his power? Of becoming a "dictator?" Face it, it's all in the eye of the beholder.
Brian Hussey (Minneapolis, mn)
Russ, they r all hypocrites. It's just that simple. Term limits including the judicial branch is the only way out of this connundrum.
AACNY (New York)
Obama's excessive use of executive power is related to his failures as an executive. He's skewed everything because he really wasn't up to the job and couldn't work within the system.
Grove (Santa Barbara, Ca)
I am not surprised.
They are narcissists who want money and power.
The country and it's people won't get any consideration.
These people are dangerous.
David H. Eisenberg (Smithtown, NY)
When Bush was president and his supporters were giddy about the unitary executive I asked them how they will feel when Hillary Clinton was president (possibly, I was only off by 8 years - we'll see). And now I ask Obama supporters how they will feel when it is President Trump. Most of them don't think they have an answer, but there is one. The answer is that they are fine with it when it is their guy and against it when it is the other team's guy (or gal). That's partisanship.
michjas (Phoenix)
The extent of executive power is a Constitutional matter basic to our system of government. Article II of the Constitution is wholly dedicated to defining what the President can and cannot do. The separation of powers among the executive, the legislature and the judiciary is fundamental to our system of government. Unfortunately, when the issue arises, both liberals and conservatives argue that the President has all the power necessary to do what they want done and no power to do what they oppose. Nobody seems to care about constitutional limits. They only care about enacting their agenda. Partisan politics is not what the separation of powers is about. If it were, we would elect a benevolent dictator.
jim (virginia)
If congress refuses to negotiate and compromise (in other words, ceases to function) - than what other kind of power is left besides executive power?
Brian Hussey (Minneapolis, mn)
Jim, it's up to the President to bring all parties to the table. It's never 100% the fault of congress or vive versa, the President. In this day of hateful politics, leadership at the executive branch is a must have. Our current President was to inexperienced to lead; I mean really he never had a job that required mgmt and leadership skills. It was OJT for Obama. It really doesn't matter what the republicans said when Obama was elected. Fighting him at every step of the way was so predictable. The President could have operated above the fray, at least work at bringing people together. Now the libs r saying, elect HRC as she is so experienced. Amazing hypocrisy. I'd like both parties to. Ominste someone who will at least try to work with the other side. Kerry and/ or Biden fit the bill on the dem side. Perhaps Trump or Bush on the Rep side. At the end of the day the President must find a way to work with Congress. Use of executive orders is a slippery slope to follow.
Bill Benton (SF CA)
Being unwilling to discuss limits on power amounts to being unwilling to accept limits on presidential power. In reality, it means that the plutocrats who hold the strings do not want their power limited. They want to be able to torture, jail and suppress as part of their take no prisoners attitude. Only Sanders is a puzzle.

The US Constitution limits the power of the president in many ways. The whole philosophy of American government is limited power. We need to limit the power of the president and of those whose financial support controls the president.

And that in turn means that we, along with Thomas Jefferson, need to limit inheritance. We fought a Revolution in 1776 to rid ourselves of a hereditary ruling class. We should not allow another one to rise as a consequence of their bribing politicians and paying zero inheritance taxes. Limit inheritance to one million dollars and jail any member of congress who takes anything from anyone.

More ideas at Comedy Party Platform on YouTube (2 min 9 sec). Send a buck to Bernie Sanders, invite me to speak to your group - thanks!
michjas (Phoenix)
Too many of us are willing to accept an abuse of Presidential power for a cause we favor. That would be fine coming from a benign dictator. In a democracy, abuses of presidential power for whatever purpose are potential grounds for impeachment. The ends do not justify the means.
michjas (Phoenix)
When judging executive orders, their contemporaneous popularity is not the issue. Public opinion, in retrospect, can be as wrong as wrong can be. Take Japanese interment, for example.
YorkME (kittery ME)
More interesting is the sound of crickets on this situation in the media.

Particularly now that Mitch McConnell is trying to fast track an Authorization of Military Force for the President.

One allowing unrestricted warfare....has HAS NO EXPIRATION.

This is terrifying. Our democracy is being dismantled one "little" bill at a time now.....

we have unrestricted spying on US citizens by NSA ...unrestricted campaign cash and bribes to legislators and now, our President will have unrestricted power to wage war wherever.....

regardless of what we the people may think.

Thank you NYT for your bravery in what is actually going on...

Of course, maybe you are doing the best you can under the circumstances --- its clear as you survey the media landscape, we lost our free press a long time ago.
Lady Scorpio (Mother Earth)
Unrestricted warfare w/no expiration?? Dear God, please tell me you're joking.

1-24-16@4:15 am est
OldBoatMan (Rochester, MN)
The President assumes the office with an oath that he or she "will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Article Two of the Constitution requires the President to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." The executive power vested in the President necessarily empowers the President to interpret the meaning of the words in a statute and to decide when, where and how any particular law is executed. The Congress and the President may disagree on the meaning of a particular law and when, where and how that law ought to be enforced. The Constitution vests power and discretion in the President. Such conflicts are political questions that are finally settled by impeachment or by voters.

The Republicans now in power in Congress are jealous of the powers vested in a Democratic President. Mr. Savage's questionnaire is merely the equivalent of a "no new taxes" pledge that will be ignored by any presidential candidate worthy of the office.
Richard Green (San Francisco)
The GOP's current stance on Presidential Power seems to be "Republican overreach -- GOOD, Obama anything -- BAD." The rhetoric seems to suggest that the only part of the Constitution that really matters is the Second Amendment. Oh, yeah, they seem to like that three-fifths thing, but would never say so. As far as they know, the Constitution is just an old ship moored in Boston.
John Smith (Cherry Hill NJ)
DISCLOSURE During a presidential campaign, how much information should candidates disclose? I believe in a cautious approach. Voters would undoubtedly be rattled by the honest answer, that such decisions are taken on a case-by-case basis. The factors that push the problem beyond an executive action are unpredictable. For example, as the Commander in Chief, the president has far more latitude to order actions to protect the nation's security than when formulating an executive order, which must comply with peacetime laws. If, for example, Obama thought it to be to defend the nation, then his order to bomb Libya and inform Congress after the fact was correct. The GOP candidates have not made such distinctions, much to their discredit. I have more trust in a former law professor and attorney than in candidates with no formal legal training. Presidential actions to solve problems are not taken to get votes, but rather in the best interest of the US. Determining what is in the best interest of a nation of over 318 million people requires great courage, as it is a thankless job. In the case of illegal immigrant parents with a US born child, there may be some latitude in determining whether they must be summarily deported, as that would deprive the child, a valid US citizen, of the rights it automatically is entitled to. Permitting biological parents to remain to care for their infant child is very important. It would require the wisdom of Solomon to decide.
Bruce Michel (Dayton OH)
I am just as concerned about the way the candidates talk about actions they would take that are well within the Constitution. Such as reforming the tax system or bank behavior. As if they can do that without persuading Congress to pass a law. The press rarely emphasizes that point. The candidates hope the voter will also just accept the bombast. In particular, the Democratic candidates need to make it clear to their voters that a major change in the makeup of the Congress will be required.

I have some agreement with a recent Jonah Goldberg opinion that the House should regain primacy, as our founders intended. But I just don't see how the recent record of the House (or Senate) can persuade anyone that this would not be a very dangerous course. We expect our executive to be a "can-do" person, so these issues at the margins of the Constitution will continue.
James Lee (Arlington, Texas)
Article II of the Constitution is about two printed pages long. The framers devoted only about one quarter of that space to a description of the duties and powers of the president.

The powers exercised by the president, in other words, originate in the interpretation of that brief outline. The charter names the president the commander in chief of the military, for example, but what practical powers does that position include? Does he (or she) simply appoint the field commanders, or can he determine strategy? Can he dispatch troops into battle on his own initiative, or does he have to await a declaration of war by Congress?

Although the framers clearly wanted the president to occupy a more elevated position than that of the "glorified clerk" created by the Articles of Confederation, they surely would express astonishment at the powers currently exercised by the chief executive. Since those powers have arisen from the assertion of authority by particular presidents, what candidate would want to prevent further enhancement of the office by committing the error Mr. Obama lived to regret?

This is not about a thirst for dictatorship. It involves the inherent difficulty of determining the limits on the power of an office the Founding Fathers defined so vaguely. Strong presidents tend to push against the restraints, to achieve their policy goals. Congress and the SC have the responsibility to ensure she doesn't go too far.
Gail L Johnson (Ewing, NJ)
With all due respect, the Congress is defined in Article I. Moreover, Section 2 of Article I has been totally ignored since House membership was frozen at 435 in 1929. It was a great usurpation of the power of We, the People. The system by which we are governed was radically altered without amending the Constitution. The politicians did not have the guts or the decency to take this radical change to the people, and the people rolled over and in effect said, "Never mind."
Prof.Jai Prakash Sharma (Jaipur, India.)
The Presidential candidates are avoiding this question as neither they are confident of their own victory nor are sure about the mood of Congress.
Richard Luettgen (New Jersey)
It’s probably pretty safe to say that ANY president would be jealous of whatever power he or she could arrogate while also avoiding impeachment. Not to lambaste our current president too strenuously on this issue for his many such arrogations, but the truth is that a creeping assumption of presidential power has been afoot since LBJ. It’s been 80 years since FDR, in the depths of The Great Depression, heard the calls of Americans to assume dictatorial powers and chose not to – could be the last time a president showed that much wisdom. Even at that, he assumed pretty broad powers not imposed since Lincoln’s time.

The unwillingness of candidates to consider this question – and their unwillingness to engage in related surveys – is quite consistent with the dumbing-down of the primary process, particularly on the right, that has been caused by the entry of Donald Trump. Mr. Trump is an authoritarian and, as such, is hardly likely to value the question of appropriate separation of powers; and an electorate that supports his authoritarianism is unlikely to regard the question as pressing, either. There’s also an element of this with the campaigns of both Bernie and Hillary.

But I disagree that a president with excellent political skills would have the same problems with even an opposed Congress as Mr. Obama has had; and consequently might not need to resort to arrogations of power as much as a capacity to forge compromises that he or she finds at least minimally acceptable.
James Lee (Arlington, Texas)
Richard, no one has ever denied that FDR possessed rare political skills, but when his court-packing scheme (admittedly a major political error) cost him the support of southern Democrats, he faced an alliance of those Dems and the GOP that crippled his second term, effectively ending the New Deal. Obama admittedly lacks the patience and temperament to mobilize political coalitions the way LBJ did. Against the implacable opposition of a narrow-minded politician like McConnell, however, even a Lincoln would not have succeeded.
Richard Luettgen (New Jersey)

The New Deal was alive and kicking AFTER 20 Jan. of 1937 (the first time we inaugurated a U.S. president on that date, having done so on 4 March prior to that year). In that year the first Social Security payment was made and the first tax supporting it was collected; the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the Civil Aeronautics Act were signed in 1938, as was our first federal minimum wage. The New Deal, in terms of new legislation, is generally regarded as having ended after 1938, largely caused by the recession of 1937-1938, in turn possibly caused by FDR's dramatic increases of taxes, notably the income tax.

Lincoln didn't "overcome" implacable legislative opposition, he simply dictated policy as wartime exigencies. McConnell, had he lived and been politically active in Lincoln's time, would have been isolated politically and a pretext might have been found for him to be jailed.
Mike C (New York)
This is particularly troubling given the expansive reading of executive prerogative by the Cheney administration and the Obama administration. It is also troubling due to the flagrant disregard of Americans' First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights by the NSA and the FISA courts.

Props to Senator Paul for standing up for the Constitution. It is one of the only admirable aspects of any in that clown car of Republican candidates.
L’OsservatoreA (Fair Verona)
You can't have it both ways, Mike. Your friends all giggled when your icon of leadership said that laws like DOMA would never be enforced. And wait 'til your next Dem president announces ''guidance'' from the central state regarding where you can live and how far you get to drive as we all fight global warming (and freedom.)
John (Turlock, CA)
Views on presidential power are very important; Trump believes he has the power to prevent people from saying "happy holidays." (All in the interest of a smaller government, of course.)

The only way to get candidates to talk about policy is to ignore them if they do not. The "mainstream" media is already disliked by large swaths of Americans so why not insist on only serious won't lose any readers or viewers. I realize it would mean making Collins and Dowd work as the gossip columnists that they are and to no longer have horse-race coverage that requires neither insight nor understanding. Imagine a front page story about the election that is no more than a list of the questions candidates refuse to answer.
Lee Harrison (Albany)
Charlie -- thank you very much for your attempt at a survey, and I concur with your conclusions. I think unfortunately we are in a time where any president from either party will "go big" to the limit on executive authority ... and perhaps it is best that there is no prevarication telling us otherwise.

After 911 GWB went far beyond anything one might imagine a Republican/Libertarian might do in abrogating the constitution rights of citizens, violating the Geneva conventions, and establishing an internal spying apparatus monitoring the public -- and basically everybody went along with it.

People were so scared of "terrorism" that it was anything goes. Obama came along afterwards I I thought he would dismantle most of it -- no way. One this issue Obama has been GWB #2.

And the howling demands and crazy responses to the San Bernardino killings make it unfortunately clear: the public wants a president who exercises totalitarian power in abrogation of the constitution -- "terrorism" allows nearly unchecked excess -- and it is absolutely clear what will happen to an administration that doesn't use this if there is anything else like it ... and there will be.

With this as a backdrop, arguing about the presidential power to impose some pollution control, etc. is utterly piffling.
L’OsservatoreA (Fair Verona)
Once you willing step away from free people living their lives as they wish, your every step towards the government having more control over the ''little people'' takes you closer and closer to Stalin terrorizing an entire nation and murdering millions of his own people.
Keith (TN)
I'm disappointed only Paul responded as this is an important topic. I think our election results would much better represent the will of the people if we centered the campaign around written policy proposals instead of verbal spin like it is now. Maybe we could have a national poll to select 10 issues and then require each candidate to draft a written policy proposal for all of them.
Glen (Texas)
I worry less about presidential war powers overreach from a Democrat in office than I do about a Republican shredding Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, church/state separation (the little that remains intact, that is); dismantling the EPA, FDA, CDC, the national parks system, marriage and voting rights, public schools, scientific research grants; forcing women into unwanted or life-threatening (to the woman) childbirth and turning America into walled-in, ally-less militaristic ghetto.

I'm talking to you Ted Cruz. And you, Donald Trump.
michjas (Phoenix)
In short, a leftist dictator does not much worry you.
Glen (Texas)
As much as Cruz or Trump? As opposed to a rightist dictator?

Not at all.
slim1921 (Charlotte, NC)

I'm with Glen on this one. And, uh, Obama is only a dictator in the Fox Noise minds. Switch channels.
HN (<br/>)
Maybe I have selective hearing, but it does seem that the GOP is more vociferous in its complaints about executive power by a Democratic president than the Dems are about a GOP president.
Tuvw Xyz (Evanston, Illinois)
Mr. Savage's idea of his survey deserves full praise.
All ascending on the throne of the Union want to exercise as much power as possible. This is an integral characteristic of any head of state, whether elected or acquired his position by force.

One might want to reinstitute public flogging, red-iron branding, and executions. Another may want to have these things done out of sight. One think is though clear: any government in any more or less democratic and free country has "some specks of down appear on its nose", as the fox who rampaged through a chicken coop in Krylov's fable "The Fox and the Marmot" (
A.L. Huest (San Francisco)
It's pretty simple. Republicans like executive authority when their is a Republican in the White House and hate it when there's a Democrat 'occupying' the White House. End of story...
Brian Hussey (Minneapolis, mn)
Just substitute Democrats where u have republicans and then reread your post.End of story. U love Obama's use of executive power but what if a Republican was in the White House? Would u feel the same way? Overuse of exec power is a slippery slope.
Charles (USA)
It isn't surprising to find out that only Senator Paul takes the Constitutional responsibilities and limitations on presidential power seriously enough to respond.
Gerard (PA)
Also - some of the President's "reach" will be tested in the Supreme Court in the near future. Perhaps the candidates are waiting to learn the answers themselves.
Jim Hansen (Salt Lake City, UT)
Mr. Savage: Ms. Clinton's recorded statement in the hyperlinked reference of this article suggested no such thing. On the contrary, she was very specific that executive action would be "within the law" verbally emphasizing that condition. She also pointed out a possible avenue to accomplish this by emphasizing the law's provision for administrative hearings provided therein within the executive authority but which immigrants can presently avail only with great difficulty. To equate this with The Donald's boast to employ torture in violation of law is vexing journalistic license!
AACNY (New York)
Sure, we all know how Clinton interprets "within the law".
Good piece, thanks. Alas, we don't know where we're going, but we do know the candidates don't want to tell us clearly enough.
Bhaskar (Dallas, TX)
Presidential candidate Trump silent on ... anything at all?
Today, he revealed his take on the Presidential (and Congressional) power when he hinted that he was open to changes to the Bill of Rights - yes, that's right, our Constitution - to stop Muslim immigration and strengthen our national security.
Socrates (Downtown Verona, NJ)
Presidential power is an important subject, particularly given the reality of a Republican-dominated Congress that has been officially privatized by the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Rupert Murdoch and the very lovely Walton (Walmart) family.

But we do know what role model of executive power Republicans like - the Vladimir Putin model - the model that is currently collapsing the one-dimensional Russian economy with oil and gas resource extraction, oligarchic corruption on an Olympic scale, fake democracy, impulsive nationalistic wars to distract the masses from daily life, and most importantly, the tough-talking-macho-bravado cowboy oligarch style of leading your nation over a giant cliff of manmade misery.

George W. Bush once famously looked into Putin's eyes...and fell truly, madly, deeply in love.

The Republican bromance with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is real...and it's spectacular !

As for the Democrats, they do not appear to be head over heels in love with the Russian czar....and that's good enough for me.
michjas (Phoenix)
Maybe you forgot that, in 2012, Romney had bad things to say about Putin and Obama mocked him for that. Do facts matter to you?
Brian Hussey (Minneapolis, mn)
Good catch michjas. Dint Candy Crowley rescue Obama during that debate?
AACNY (New York)
"The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

- President Obama

He has the gift of sounding so right even when he's wrong.