With impeachment as the backdrop, Bill Clinton crowed about the conduct of the White House during his unprecedented period of turmoil. He proudly proclaimed, "We saved the Constitution."
Leave it to the president to declare that a heap of manure is really a storehouse of jewels. A certain segment of the population and nearly all of the mainstream media will believe, or pretend to believe, that is exactly what they see.
The utter tragedy is that, when the sun finally sets on this presidency, subsequent presidents, legislators, judges, and other leaders of the nation will have their work cut out for them in trying to restore the basic integrity of the Constitution.
Obscured by the sheer number of scandals that have sprung up like weeds during Clinton's tenure lies a misapplication of the very office of the presidency. It is the blatant misuse of executive orders that may end up leaving the deepest scar.
Through an improper application of the Antiquities Act of 1906, President Clinton changed over 4,000,000 acres of Western lands into federal monuments. Bill Clinton also gave himself the power to seize ten rivers each year, along with adjacent lands of indeterminate size, and to appoint so-called river czars to be paid roughly $100,000 a year.
Consistent with his colossal view of presidential authority, Clinton has used executive orders in an attempt to bypass the constitutional requirement that all treaties must be ratified by a 2/3 vote of the Senate prior to implementation. And in one of his most audacious acts, Clinton tried to erase the 10th Amendment of the Constitution with a stroke of his pen.
One of Bill Clinton's latest executive orders simply removes English as the official language of the country. Executive Order 13166 mandates that all federal agencies accommodate non-English speaking persons.
Obviously, in a nation with over 300 languages, this executive order is destined to create enormous problems when it comes to administration and implementation. It will also, most likely, undermine the assimilation of new citizens into the American culture while it promotes a convoluted version of multiculturalism. The cost of this "meaningful access" is massive. However, the administration has conveniently timed the signing of this directive so that payment will be deferred until after Mr. Clinton leaves office. The public has to wonder, what is he going to do for an encore?
These incidents serve to highlight an extremely important issue. On numerous occasions, Bill Clinton has told the public that he fully intends to use the extent of his power until the very last day and the very last hour that he is in office. White House staffers, such as John Podesta, have repeatedly indicated that the president intends to make use of his executive order power to bypass Congress.
This is called legislation without representation. It is called government by decree. It is the substance of monarchies. It is not the American way.
The rhetoric, along with analysis of prior practice, should be taken as a vigorous warning by the American people and their representatives. There is a clear and present danger that a flurry of executive orders might be unleashed after the election, particularly if Al Gore fails to win. Political and legal experts agree that Clinton's incentive to issue executive orders and directives to cement his much sought after legacy would be very strong under this scenario.
One major point of contention between Al Gore and George W. Bush involves the proposed exploration for oil in Alaska. Oil industry officials have speculated that Clinton might add to his executive orders record by declaring the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a national monument.
But there are other arenas in which he could encroach. He might impress his signature and will upon health care, second amendment rights, personal privacy, the electoral process, military readiness, international obligations, or a whole host of other pivotal issues. Then again, he may utilize what has been labeled a Presidential Decision Directive under his administration; that is, an executive order that is kept secret from the people, press, and even the Congress because it is ostensibly classified for national security.
Generally, Al Gore remained silent regarding these instances of usurpation of power. Gore has expressed admiration for Clinton's accomplishments in office and recently indicated a desire to use executive order power to expedite policy himself, if given the opportunity. Vice-presidential nominee Dick Cheney, on the other hand, has suggested that a Bush administration might consider correcting some of the violations that have transpired through executive order.
Proper use of executive authority is a crucial element that Americans must consider when entering the polling booth. Candidates should be questioned specifically about their perspectives on executive orders. The abuse we have witnessed over the last eight years constitutes nothing less than a destructive force against our nation's doctrine of separation of powers. We cannot allow this menacing habit to be prolonged any further.