The big story of the day is that the Obama administration has been using executive power to act unilaterally without the approval of Congress. It’s based on this New York Times story by Charlie Savage:

As a senator and presidential candidate, [Obama] had criticized George W. Bush for  flouting the role of Congress. And during his first two years in the White House, when Democrats controlled Congress, Mr. Obama largely worked through the legislative process to achieve his domestic policy goals.

But increasingly in recent months, the administration has been seeking ways to act without Congress.

The first several paragraphs of the article all portray Obama as making something of a reversal; of now doing what he accused Bush of doing. Eventually, in the ninth paragraph, we get the details:

[F]or the most part, Mr. Obama’s increased unilateralism in domestic policy has relied on a different form of executive power than the sort that had led to heated debates during his predecessor’s administration: Mr. Bush’s frequent assertion of a right to override statutes on matters like surveillance and torture.

“Obama’s not saying he has the right to defy a Congressional statute,” said Richard H. Pildes, a New York University law professor. “But if the legislative path is blocked and he otherwise has the legal authority to issue an executive order on an issue, they are clearly much more willing to do that now than two years ago.”

That’s sort of a major difference. It’s one thing to use the Executive’s legally-granted powers aggressively, it’s another to go around the laws of the Legislative branch–“through the dark side”, as the fellow once said. But that’s not really the impression the casual reader, or the reader of headlines, is likely to get.

 I leave it to others to be witty about this. For now, I’ll just say that I’d like it if he would explain why the hell he didn’t get Donald Rumsfeld out right after the Abu Ghraib scandal. If you want my opinion, that is the single most disastrous decision of his administration.

Any questions you’d like to hear him answer? (But know that he won’t.)

Frank Rich writes: “And so leadership on financial reform, as with health care, has been delegated to bipartisan Congressional negotiators poised to neuter it.”

He writes this like he wishes President Obama would take control of the legislative process, and he seems to be faulting him for not doing so.

Maybe Cheney had a point about executive power, eh?

“A restoration, if you will, of the power and authority of the president.”–Dick Cheney, on actions taken in the Bush administration. (Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/18/books/review/Bazelon-t.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print)  

Progressives, or Liberals, if you prefer, are shocked at the failure of Pelosi and Reid to pass a health-care bill sooner–before the election of Scott Brown all but destroyed the bill’s chances. Some of them are blaming the President. They don’t really expect Congress to be able to do this; they realize they need a strong leader to make Congress pass the thing. 

The reason I mentioned Cheney is that the Progressives went on and on in absolute terror and revulsion at his philosophy of executive power. They also claimed that the many disasters that were a hallmark of the Bush years were a result of his ideas. But I have always wondered–even when I quit supporting the Bush administration–if Cheney was right–if Congress was simply ineffective by nature, and  a strong executive is needed. 

The Obama administration, contrary to what you might hear, has taken a far less extreme position on executive power, and what has it bought them?