President Obama and the Framers' Presidency

By Yoo, John C. | Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Winter 2013 | Go to article overview

President Obama and the Framers' Presidency


Yoo, John C., Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy


Legal scholarship on the presidency is moving toward more focus on constitutional design rather than political legitimacy or historical authenticity. But even if we were to design the presidency anew today, we might well keep the form of the original presidency. Many of the problems we have with executive power today likely have less to do with the intentions of the Framers in 1789 and more to do with political expectations for the person who holds the office today. Presidents have increasingly turned their attention and powers toward domestic affairs, where the Framers believed that Presidents would have the least influence, rather than focusing on national security, where the Framers understood the executive to have the greatest.

President Barack Obama's first years in office provide a vivid illustration of the tension between the twenty-first century Presidency and its original constitutional role. His disappointing first years in the Oval Office elicited a widespread rejection of Democratic policies and candidates in the 2010 elections. (1) The electorate was both filled with rage at the powers that be and opposed to specific Administration policies on health care, the economy, immigration, and terrorism. (2) But the explanation goes much deeper than polling. President Obama struggled because he has spent the first half of his term following an approach to the presidency that was inconsistent with its original design.

President Obama's primary focus in his first few years in office has been on domestic policy. He led a sweeping federal overhaul of the health care markets, which are responsible for about 18% of gross domestic product. (3) He and his party sought to bring the economy out of recession with a large domestic spending program and federal intervention in different markets, including taking on large ownership stakes in some of America's largest companies. (4) His administration has used its delegated authority to delay the construction of a Boeing plant in a right-to-work state, (5) to block the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline bringing shale oil from Canada, (6) and to create a new type of legal immigrant status for potentially one million illegal aliens. (7)

President Obama's 2010 State of the Union message nicely summed up his topsy-turvy approach to the presidency. President Obama pressed for a new jobs bill, more domestic spending, and health care nationalization. (8) He attributed his political setbacks not to broad opposition to his domestic ambitions but to "a deficit of trust--deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years." (9) National security amounted to little more than an afterthought. President Obama devoted one paragraph each--out of the approximately 110 paragraphs in the speech--to Iraq, Afghanistan, and terrorism. (10) The historical equivalent would have been if President Lincoln had spent most of his first inaugural address discussing the transcontinental railroad and the Homestead Act, rather than the impending dissolution of the Union.

The electorate received President Obama's agenda with a political version of shock and awe. Public approval of President Obama's job performance dropped like a stone, from 67% in January 2009 (11) to 43% by the end of August 2010. (12) In the public's mind, President Obama sat lower than either of the Bushes or Bill Clinton after their first twelve months in office. (13) President Obama spent his first two years leading Democrats to pass a stimulus bill that did not stop unemployment from hitting double digits, presiding over bailouts of banks and auto companies, passing command-and-control plans for health care and energy use in the nation, and treating terrorism as a problem best handled by the civilian criminal justice system. His health care bill received no Republican votes for passage, (14) and his stimulus and global warming bills received little Republican support. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

President Obama and the Framers' Presidency
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.