Founders wanted a powerful president


GianCarlo Canaparo

Opinion contributor

Published 11: 48 PM EST Nov 27, 2019

The frenzied reaction by some to Attorney General William Barr’s speech on the constitutional scope of executive authority was baffling.

In it, Barr addressed the unitary executive doctrine, which maintains that the executive power is vested solely in the president and can be exercised only under his supervision.

This isn’t a novel ideal. The first line of Article II of the Constitution states: “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” 

And Thomas Jefferson said: “For the prompt, clear, and consistent action so necessary in an Executive, unity of person is necessary.”

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Yet, Barr explained: “Over the past several decades we have seen the steady encroachment on executive authority by the other branches of government” which “has substantially weakened the function of the presidency to the detriment of the nation.”

In his view, the president’s “ability to act in areas in which he has discretion has become smothered by the encroachments of the other branches.”

He’s right. The trend has accelerated with the frenetic opposition to President Donald Trump. Many on the left, including — perhaps especially — those in Congress, have made it their mission to hinder and undermine his government. 

Consider Congress’s unprecedented obstruction of executive branch nominees. Or the “deep state” employees in the executive branch who delay or undermine the president’s agenda. In short, the executive is deluged by what Barr called “a war to cripple, by any means necessary, a duly elected government.”

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The unitary executive is one of the most brilliant innovations in the Constitution. As Barr explained, it “has brought to our republic a dynamism and effectiveness that other democracies have lacked.”

This is true whether the president is a Republican or Democrat. Those who oppose Trump should recognize that, and think twice before they tear down our constitutional structure just to topple the man temporarily on top of it.

GianCarlo Canaparo is a legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

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