The End of the Imperial Presidency – The Atlantic

Posted: May 4, 2020 at 8:45 am


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Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan described how she felt when taking part in an early conference call with fellow governors, during which the White House signaled that state leaders would need to find safety and medical equipment on their own. I realized wed have to set up, in our state emergency-operations center, a procurement office that was going to compete with the world, Whitmer told us. That was a sobering moment.

Read: Trumps plan to save his presidency

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said yesterday that Trumps approach shows his commitment to federalism. But he may just want to redirect blame for a rolling catastrophe that could cost him reelection. Hed rather have the governors impose quarantines than him, because he feels theyre then responsible for any economic problems that arise, Saikrishna Prakash, a University of Virginia law professor and the author of the book The Living Presidency, told us.

Save for a brief post-Watergate pause, presidents in the modern era have steadily amassed power within the executive branch. Franklin D. Roosevelts New Deal, Dwight Eisenhowers federal highway system, Ronald Reagans push for education standards that would later morph into the Common Coreall of these chipped away at states authority. Barack Obamas Affordable Care Act extended the federal governments reach by helping states fund the expansion of Medicaid programs. Amid the pandemic, Trump has sounded as if hes prepared to push a presidents prerogatives even further, claiming at one point last month that his authority as president is total.

But in terms of actions, he has basically stuck to things that are clearly within the federal jurisdiction, said Christopher DeMuth, a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute who worked in both the Richard Nixon and Reagan administrations. Hes used some emergency authorities, and hes let governors and mayors take the lead. This is a sharp departure from the record in recent national emergencies. After the September 11 terrorist attacks and the 2008 financial crisis, presidential power expanded. New executive agencies grew out of the wreckage, buttressing a model in which the executive was king, he told us.

Trumps approach is the worst of both worlds, Bobby Chesney, a constitutional-law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told us. Hes using the rhetoric of an authoritarian without any of the China-style payout in terms of taking charge of the actual problem. Rhetorically, at least, hes asserting almost preposterous levels of authority. Fortunately, hes not following through. Hes all hat and no cattle.

A natural role for the president would be to lead the worldwide hunt for medical supplies, leveraging the governments vast purchasing power. Trumps reluctance to serve as what he calls a shipping clerk has left some governors incredulous. Its absolutely maddening, Governor Jay Inslee, a Washington Democrat, told us. Its like being in World War II and not getting the federal government to manufacture boots Its very difficult to understand. I liken it to Franklin Delano Roosevelt saying, Okay, Connecticut, you build the battleship and Ill be there at the launch and break the bottle.

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The End of the Imperial Presidency - The Atlantic

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May 4th, 2020 at 8:45 am