Separation of Powers’ Fair Weather Fans

The following is a slightly modified form of this article. The only modifications made were substituting “Trump” in place of “Obama,” modifying specific details to make them context appropriate, and deleting extraneous material (extraneous as to this object lesson, anyway).

The Trump administration has all but declared war against what are, in its view, a bunch of dangerous religious zealots who threaten Americans’ most cherished fundamental rights. But enough about Muslims. The president is also ramping up a campaign against ISIS, the Islamist fanatics who butcher un-believers and cut off the heads of Western journalists….

It’s nice to see liberals re-discover the concept of limited presidential authority, which they apparently mislaid six years ago. Up to now, when conservatives griped about the president’s use of executive orders, presidential signing statements, bureaucratic edicts and similar decrees, liberals responded by telling them, as The New Republic did…, “The Presidency Comes With Executive Power. Deal With It.” (A slightly different take from this one from 2006: “Bush’s Leviathan State.”) Some have been practically begging him to rewrite immigration policy by executive fiat.

[T]hese days nobody seems more enamored of executives acting on their own than the nation’s chief executive….President Trump has embraced executive powers—domestic eavesdropping, unilateral military action—….He also has championed the greatest expansion of government power in a generation…—and would…severely attenuate religious freedom, if he and his supporters had had their way.

Now he is escalating a war…without consulting Congress, and liberals are alarmed. The alarm is entirely appropriate—but also a bit late. The time to oppose the expansion of executive authority is when it’s being used for causes you otherwise support—because you can’t take it back later, when it’s used for causes you don’t.

The expansion of executive power is one of the most portentous, worrisome, and bipartisan trends, and it threatens the basic values of our constitutional form of government. If only both sides had enough foresight to consider that what they applaud when “their guy” is in office, they rail against and regret when the “other guy” is there. How about we just restore separation of powers and avoid this nauseating problem?

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