David Brooks: What America needs now is a stronger presidency with “unified authority”

posted at 1:54 pm on December 13, 2013 by Allahpundit

Besides Ross Douthat, is there anyone left on the New York Times op-ed page who doesn’t support benign dictatorship in the name of reducing congressional gridlock? Brooks evidently does. Tom Friedman, who’s been drooling on himself for years over China’s can-do model of government, certainly does. I don’t know if Timothy Egan’s ever squarely addressed the issue but a guy who thinks O’s big problem is that his speeches aren’t flowery enough must be open to persuasion.

As for Dowd, we’re one charming Hollywood romcom about a president with kingly powers away from total commitment.

This is a good moment to advocate greater executive branch power because we’ve just seen a monumental example of executive branch incompetence: the botched Obamacare rollout. It’s important to advocate greater executive branch power in a chastened mood. It’s not that the executive branch is trustworthy; it’s just that we’re better off when the presidency is strong than we are when the rentier groups are strong, or when Congress, which is now completely captured by the rentier groups, is strong.

Here are the advantages. First, it is possible to mobilize the executive branch to come to policy conclusion on something like immigration reform. It’s nearly impossible for Congress to lead us to a conclusion about anything. Second, executive branch officials are more sheltered from the interest groups than Congressional officials. Third, executive branch officials usually have more specialized knowledge than staffers on Capitol Hill and longer historical memories. Fourth, Congressional deliberations, to the extent they exist at all, are rooted in rigid political frameworks. Some agencies, especially places like the Office of Management and Budget, are reasonably removed from excessive partisanship. Fifth, executive branch officials, if they were liberated from rigid Congressional strictures, would have more discretion to respond to their screw-ups, like the Obamacare implementation. Finally, the nation can take it out on a president’s party when a president’s laws don’t work. That doesn’t happen in Congressional elections, where most have safe seats…

We don’t need bigger government. We need more unified authority. Take power away from the rentier groups who dominate the process. Allow people in those authorities to exercise discretion. Find a president who can both rally a majority, and execute a policy process.

I’m … not sure that we’re necessarily better off when the presidency is strong than when special interests are strong. That depends on two things — first, how much stronger we’re willing to make the former in the name of weakening the latter, and two, whether the president himself is highly susceptible to being influenced by what Brooks calls “rentier groups.” Jay Cost wrote about that last year in his piece on the Democrats’ “clientelist” model of governance:

The problem, though, is that once the door was opened to this brand of clientelism, it could never again be closed. Over the decades, the Democrats have added scores of clients to their operation: trade and industrial unions, African Americans, environmentalists, feminists, government unions, consumer rights advocates, big business, and big city bosses and their lieutenants. All of them are with the Democratic party in part because of the special benefits it promises them when in office, and all have a major say in how the party behaves in government. With more and more clients who needed constant tending, it became harder and harder for subsequent Democratic leaders to focus on the public good. Thus, in the years since FDR’s tenure, the Democratic agenda has looked less like republican liberalism and more like clientele liberalism—big government activism not for the sake of the whole country, but for the sake of the voters whom the Democrats privilege.

And under the Obama administration, clientele liberalism has achieved a kind of apotheosis. The stimulus, the health care bill, cap and trade, and the financial reform package were all designed with heavy input from the party’s clients, and ultimately each reflects their priorities, so much so that any kind of national purpose the legislation might have served was totally undermined.

This isn’t really an “Obama problem.” It’s a bipartisan problem, although more pronounced under Democrats — which, ironically, is the one party of the two that the NYT op-ed section would doubtless prefer to have the “unified authority” that Brooks images. If it were true that the executive was relatively insulated from special interests, that would at least be the makings of an argument for more executive authority. But it’s not true. And it’s a terrible argument even if it was. It’s a rare rentier group that’s so powerful and malevolent that holding it in check is worth gifting new powers to an already increasingly powerful presidency. (Watch Jonathan Turley on that if you haven’t already.) But it’s also typical of the “banal authoritarianism of do-something punditry,” of which Brooks is a leading practitioner, that the idea of gridlock horrifies him more than extending the imbalance of power among the three branches. If only we acquiesced in Obama’s power grabs more than we already do — and we already do, almost entirely! — he might enact immigration reform himself. Which is important because if we’re stuck waiting for John Boehner and the House to do it, we might be waiting … what? Another four, maybe five months? Seems to me if you’re worried about special interests capturing government, you’re better off empowering Congress so that those interests hold each other in check to some extent than you are empowering a single government official who’ll end up serving the particular interests that have captured him.

Say what you want about bad lefty initiatives like McCain/Feingold that seek to rein in “rentier groups,” at least they try to handcuff the groups themselves rather than eliminate some of the few remaining constitutional limits on the presidency. Irony of ironies, 30 members of the House are announcing a resolution today that would direct the leadership to sue Obama for his various unconstitutional ObamaCare power grabs. That’s less than seven percent of all Representatives who are interested in challenging the president on separation of powers. And Brooks thinks the problem is that O doesn’t have enough “unified authority.”

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Strange how we never heard about this when the Dems were blocking everything the GOP was doing.

WisCon on December 14, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Somehow I doubt he’d feel the same with a POTUS such a Ted Cruz….

ladyingray on December 14, 2013 at 5:43 PM

Sure, like giving Bush or the next president that power as well.
Brooks is such an idiot, what he says would not even come out of the behind of a sane person.
Remember his comments about obama’s pants?

huntingmoose on December 14, 2013 at 6:42 PM

So Brooks support giving unlimited power to someone we now have learned tells lies, deceits, is egomaniac narsist, does not pay attention to details even if it is his signature law.
But someone who is hard working, honest, managed a state into a surplus, had the media try to destroy with unbelievable effort and lies and smear campaigns…… according to Brooks she is toooooo stupid?
The person with unlimited stupidity on display is Brooks. Even if he tries to deceit us, he is doing a pretty poor job , like Obama who cannot even write a book we we recently also learned from Bill Ayers.

huntingmoose on December 14, 2013 at 6:48 PM

Somehow I doubt he’d feel the same with a POTUS such a Ted Cruz….

ladyingray on December 14, 2013 at 5:43 PM

If Ted Cruz was trying to get a huge amnesty for non-white foreigners to flood white America but was being blocked by the legislature, if Ted Cruz was pushing more huge bailouts and give-aways for Wall Street, and if Ted Cruz was pushing for a bigger police state with the President ordering drone strikes on any non-liberal at any time at the President’s sole discretion, then David Brooks might see the good side of a Cruz dictatorship.

Basically that’s the agenda; who does it and whether it gets done all at once or piecemeal is secondary.

David Blue on December 14, 2013 at 7:24 PM

It’s not necessarily a bad thing for Congress to do nothing about a problem. “Something” is not always better than “nothing.” Just remember the old axiom that there is no problem facing America that Congress can’t make worse and you will see that in many situations nothing is much the preferred policy. Was it better that Congress did “something” (anything) about the flaws in the American health care system than if it did nothing and so stopped Obamacare? In this situation, wasn’t a policy of “doing nothing” being demanded by the general public and wasn’t that the right policy or at least the much better policy?

Fred 2 on December 15, 2013 at 12:59 AM

It’s not necessarily a bad thing for Congress to do nothing about a problem.

Fred 2 on December 15, 2013 at 12:59 AM

Particularly if the problem is bogus, like global warming.

David Blue on December 15, 2013 at 2:03 AM

When anyone in great power demands something it’s a pretty sure bet they have no idea what’s necessary to accomplish the task. A boss or a dictator. An intelligent President will surround himself with knowledgable people. Our current President surrounded himself with friends. Why we do not have a bunch of economists to come up with a budget astounds me but the Congress thinks they are the experts. Armchair quarter backs, all of them.

mixplix on December 15, 2013 at 6:43 AM

This is a good moment to advocate greater executive branch power because we’ve just seen a monumental example of executive branch incompetence: the botched Obamacare rollout.

Too clever by at least half. IOW, stupid and illogical.

Faux-intellectuals, politicians, political pundits, con artists, and flim-flam men often attempt to make the illogical seem logical, or the obvious something other than what it is, each for their own reasons

farsighted on December 15, 2013 at 9:44 AM

If it were true that the executive was relatively insulated from special interests, that would at least be the makings of an argument for more executive authority.

Oh, and BTW, Adolph made essentially the same argument.

farsighted on December 15, 2013 at 10:00 AM

David Brooks is the guy that wrote an entire column on how he is a conservative because he is a conservative communitarian.

Conservative communitarian is duck-speak for COMMUNIST.

Kevin R on December 15, 2013 at 5:42 PM

A friend just got a cost of living notice from the Social Security Administration with a surprising paragraph just below the section titled “How do I access my Social Security online services?”

Benefits for Same Sex Couples
Due to a Supreme Court decision, we are now able to pay benefits to some same-sex couples. We encourage people who think they may be eligible to apply now. Learn more at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/same-sexcouples

I thought the defense of marriage act still applied in federal law. Maybe it does. Law does not hold back Obama. In any case, this is right off the Dream Actor Amnesty play. Obama declares a law. Obama uses the government to trawl for beneficiaries. Press ignores

Anyone hear via the MSM that same sex couples could now claim social security spousal benefits.

Obama makes law. Obama breaks law. No need for you to know. Not certain why the NYT is needed, in the new system. They are, redundant

entagor on December 15, 2013 at 8:34 PM

I’m … not sure that we’re necessarily better off when the presidency is strong than when special interests are strong.

Oh, boy, Allah, did you step into it this time!

The President is beholden to a whole raft of special interests, and when a President asserts any form of strength, those special interests are sure to benefit.

Remember solyndra? Fiskar? The UAW and GM?

The average (or below average) President prefers to coddle his special interests over doing what’s right for the American people.

Obamacare suffers from this. Who were the inside track venders and contractors who got to construct the exchanges? Whose ox didn’t get gored in the fiasco?

Green Energy suffers from this. Too big to fail suffers from this.

A better argument against a stronger Presidency cannot be found.

In fact, I would argue that a triumvirate — in which the President is three people whose majority vote is required for anything to become law or any action to be taken — would certainly be a better executive than the one we have. Our Founders took great pains to not have either of the other two branches be a single person — I often wonder why they didn’t do the same for the Presidency.

unclesmrgol on December 15, 2013 at 8:37 PM

I’m pretty sure that what the NYT needs is a supposedly right of center columnist with fascist tendencies, to go with their definitely left of center columnists with fascist tendencies.

applebutter on December 15, 2013 at 9:44 PM

America is at its’ best when the congress is on vacation and Obama is in Hawaii. Sorry Hawaii but someone has to do the dirty jobs.

Herb on December 16, 2013 at 8:02 AM

The10th Amendment was included for a reason. Some thought it wouldn’t be necessary bcs it was a GIVEN that the states retained their authority to govern themselves. But many thoughtful people realized the potential for abuse & included to help clarify that the Fed should never become a central authority over the individual states.
But seeing as how people fail so miserably these days at reading comprehension, it wouldn’t matter if each Founding Father were brought back to pontificate on exactly what they meant, the people of today are so self centered and downright stupid and ignorant that they’d never get a word of it.
Indeed, most of the Founders were infinitely more educated and intelligent than the leaders of today.

Badger40 on December 16, 2013 at 9:00 AM

I don’t remember Brooks, who is a liberal in conservative clothing, saying this is 2003-4. All this boils down to is there is a LARGE group of private/public sector people and organizations that want the “beast” to keep growing. They fear if it is stagnant, we’ll realize we don’t need it. For example the Congressmen in charge of watching over the NSA get money from the companies that make technology for the NSA. It is corrupt- period.

And there is no easy answer for any one person or small group to find to solve it. In fact, it can be argued there is no answer short of an entire reset of the government like something out of the Hunger Games.


archer52 on December 16, 2013 at 11:33 AM

Truly, David Brooks can not possibly become any more nauseating. On the other hand, with a little reflection, I can easily see this f***ing worm becoming even more nauseating.

DrZin on December 16, 2013 at 5:41 PM

Bring back Hugo Chavez, or the next best thing. The nuts are getting restless. By now they figured Obama would have acted, really acted, none of this piffle about taking over and destroying a great nations immense and excellent health care system. No, the real thing, bringing the country and it’s miserable little people o it’s knees, with luck groveling on their bellies.
Don’t despair liberals[?], Obama and the Democrats have three more years. And if the Dems fail in the 2014 elections you must know Obama will come to the rescue. Someone must destroy America.
The inner Nazi always peeps out.

arand on December 17, 2013 at 11:44 AM

It’s a good idea to be tolerant of perfectly-creased pant legs.

The Schaef on December 18, 2013 at 9:21 AM

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