The Paradoxes of the American Presidency

By Thomas E. Cronin; Michael A. Genovese | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
The President and Congress

All the public business in Congress now connects itself with intrigues, and there is great danger that the whole government will degenerate into a struggle of cabals.

John Quincy Adams, Diary, January 1819

(Congress is) functioning the way the Founding Fathers intended--not very well. They understood that if you move too quickly, our democracy will be less responsible to the majority. . . . Exhaustion and exasperation are frequently the handmaidens of legislative decision. . . . I don't think it's the function of Congress to function well. It should drag its heels on the way to decision.

Congressman Barber B. Conable Jr., Time, October 22, 1984

Our republic, we know, was designed to be slowmoving and deliberative. Our founding fathers were convinced that power had to be entrusted to someone, but that no-one could be entirely trusted with power. They devised a brilliant system of checks and balances to prevent the tyranny of the many by the few. They constructed a perfect triangle of allocated and checked power. . . . There could be no rash action, no rush to judgment, no legislative mob rule, no unrestrained chief executive.

The difficulty with this diffusion of power in today's cyberspace age is that everyone is in check, but no-one is in charge.

Sen. William S. Cohen, (R-Maine) (later secretary of defense), Washington Post National Weekly Edition, January 28- February 4, 1996, p. 29

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