Thursday, October 18, 2012

The US Constitution and the President

In case you have not noticed, it is time to elect a new President for the US.  It is hard to imagine that this is news to anyone since the campaigning has been going on almost since the last election.  But I wonder how many of us really know what the job of the President of the US is?  From listening to campaign promises and the debates, it would be easy to get the impression that they are some kind of demigod, able single-handedly to accomplish great feats such as: reducing taxes while also reducing the national debt; putting everyone back to work; bring peace to the world; solving world hunger; putting an end to disease; keeping America #1 in the world.

So I decided to take a look at the US constitution, a document that I am ashamed to admit I have not read in many a year.  Article II of the constitution concerns the President.  Most of it is relatively uninteresting, but there are a couple of clauses in Section 3 that are worth noting and commenting on concerning the job of President.

Article. II.
Section. 3.
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.


Make Recommendations to Congress


He shall ... recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.

Congress has the responsibility to enact laws.  But the President has the responsibility to make recommendations to Congress concerning new laws.  What this tells me is that our presidential candidates, rather than telling us what policies they are going to implement, should really be telling us what agenda they will be attempting to get Congress to enact.  It is the role of the Congress to pass laws, impose taxes, approve expenditures of money.  The President may recommend, but it is Congress that determines what course we will take as a nation.

So it seems proper to me that our candidates have an agenda.  Let me know what you will be recommending to Congress, and pushing for enactment, should you get elected.  Don't make promises to me about the number of jobs you will create, or what you will do with taxes or the economy: that is not the job of the President, at least how I read the Constitution: it is the job of Congress.  If they are unable to convince Congress to support the agenda they were elected to "recommend to Congress", we should not blame them for failing to keep their "promises"; although we might fault them for their inability to persuade   We should probably hold Congress responsible for not doing what we wanted; as reflected in our chouice of President.

Faithful Execution of the Law


He shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.

The second interesting clause, at least for me, is that the President is responsible for the faithful execution of laws that have been enacted by Congress.  Even if he disagrees with them.  Even if they are contrary to his campaign promises.

If I do not like the policies enacted by the Congress and executed by the President, then my outrage should be directed toward the Congress rather than the President.  If he is faithfully executing the laws duly enacted by the Congress then he is simply doing his job.  We might not like it, but what choice does he have?

If the President acts in ways that are contrary to the Constitution or duly enacted laws then he should be removed.  If he fails to promote the agenda he was elected under, then we have reason to complain about him; he was elected under false premises.  But how can we fault him if he does his best to guide Congress to enact his agenda (that we approved when we elected him) and they fail to act on that.

And yes, I am aware that the President himself does not directly execute all those laws.  But he is the head of the Executive Branch of the government that does have that responsibility.  He is responsible to see that the branch of government he is leading is properly doing its job.



The President of the US is indeed in a powerful position with a lot of responsibility.  But he is not a demigod; only a man (or woman someday).  Realize that he cannot enact his policies into law: that is the role of the Congress.  And do not fault him if he carries out the laws enacted by Congress: that is his job.

Evaluate the vision that the candidates have for the US (I only wish it was easier to discover), and vote for the one whose vision most closely mirrors yours.  And then also vote for congressional representatives who will also support that vision, regardless their party affiliation.

And regardless who is elected, remember to pray for them.

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