In today’s Sunday Review, Sam Tanenhaus, in a piece called the Hands-Tied Presidency, writes that President Obama’s inability to push forward his preferred policy in Syria is an example of a structural and institutional limitation on the power of the presidency. He further claims that writers have been remarking on the weakness of the presidency in relation to the legislature for many years, citing as an example Woodrow Wilson, who before he became president was an historian and political scientist. This seem a rather odd piece of evidence to support a questionable claim, first because Wilson was writing about government 100 years ago, and especially when only a few weeks ago commentators on both the left and the right were decrying the long reach of the executive on that was revealed — perhaps not the appropriate term — along with the details of the NSA intercept programs.
So here are some things to consider:
1. Is it really true that Congress is stronger or more effective, in its ability to make policy, than the President?
2. If this is the case, isn’t that what the Constitution dictates?
3. Which branch, the executive or legislative, should take the lead in formulating policy? Does it matter if the policy in question is domestic or foreign?
4. Why might it be better to have one branch be preeminent in policy making? Which branch Do you think it should be, and why?