Monday, March 02, 2009

Jeff Tulis on presidential constructions of emergency


In response to my previous post comparing how Bush and Obama have both used of (and constructed) emergency as a political strategy, Jeff Tulis (of the University of Texas Government Department) writes:

1. On additional parallels -- both Bush and Obama define the serious crisis as an extrapolation to the future from a less serious current circumstance in the present. Thus, Bush extrapolated from 9/11 a more serious global threat if too little were done quickly and Obama extrapolates a much more serious economic crisis in the future if too little is done quickly. This is interesting because the serious crises in both cases are anticipated, not yet actual, and the actions of each President make it difficult to refute their claims (since the actions affect the future making it difficult to assess the counterfactual regarding what it would have looked like had they not acted).

2. On additional differences -- Obama has not only been more transparent, he has also been more respectful of the legislative role. He has not threatened to institute emergency regulations whether or not Congress authorizes them. He has not claimed he did not need legislative authorization. Indeed, he sought and received not just "authorization" but actual legislation. Had Bush's actions been parallel to this, he would have sought, say, a declaration of war. Or he would, like Truman in the steel seizure, have taken action but indicated at the same time that the Congress was invited to disagree and he would follow Congress's will if they rejected his policy or set a new one. To the extent that Bush did seek Congressional authorization, he presented his partisans with the bill, the wording, almost every detail. Obama, on the other hand, left considerable discretion to the legislature (and has been criticized by his own partisans for not dictating the process).

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