The President’s snafu


The snafu around the organization of the president’s office has reached monumental proportions.

It isn’t as though the table of organization isn’t clear. It is rather that the passage of time and use has led to contradictions that are now difficult if not impossible to resolve.

The conflict at the moment is concentrated in the office of the attorney-general.

First of all, the office of the attorney-general was created as the President’s lawyer, to be used by him politically in the way he uses other parts of the Administration. But as more personal counsel to the President has developed, and the activities of the Attorney-general have exploded, it has been seen in some quarters as a source of objective decision-making. It should not have been; it was originally conceived as just another part of the highly political and parochial office of the President.

In fact, the attempt to make the Office of the Attorney-general an independent and objective organization is in effect an attempt to create still a fourth branch of what the Founders laid out, in gross, as the Republic. We already have an independent judiciary in the courts system. And by an accumulation of the power to call legislation by the Congress or the States legislatures “unconstitutional” — something acquired but not written in the formal Constitution — the courts have firmly established what the Founders intended, a carefully balancing if sometimes bitter action among the three branches of government.

It was, indeed, this conception of government at independence and the formation of “the united states” that made this country from its inception unique and a new model for other governments — unsuccessful alas! for the most part — around the world.

Now, we have the “reformers” on “the side of the angels” increasing their drive to make the office of the Attorney General not a crass political function of the Presidency but another imitation of the objectivity of the courts system which already exists at both the federal and the state levels.

It is unlikely that this effort, underway for many decades if not now speeded up, is going to be halted and the office of the Attorney General left to its original concept as the legal adviser to the president. But it does mean that the once tidy little concept of a government of three distinct parts again is being eroded. And it is likely to become an even greater precedent for the independence of various “boards” and “commissions” which have grown so numerous in the federal and even the state governments. However, practical and efficient their activities, these administrative and legislative organizations are increasingly a threat to the founding principle of all government in the new country being directly or at least indirectly authorized by the citizens through their ballots for elected leadership and occasionally mandated law.

This threat is one that should become an increasing concern for those who believe that we are, indeed, constantly “testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure”.

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