A Minor Office
Column by Paul Hein.
Exclusive to STR
The advertisement headline read: “President increases amount seniors can get from reverse mortgages.”
Imagine the astonishment that the Founding Fathers would experience if they could read that! “What in the world does the president have to do with mortgages, whether forward, reverse, or sideways?” They would be flabbergasted to hear the president referred to as the “most powerful man in the world,” or “the leader of the free world.” And on discovering the state of the world today, they would probably wonder if there was, indeed, a “free world.”
Today the president is a celebrity. Scarcely a day passes without his name appearing in the newspaper, or on the evening news. There is nothing, whether flood, earthquake, epidemic, a political squabble in some obscure country, or the quality of education, or of the air we breathe, or the automobiles we ride in, or the roads on which they travel, that does not concern him. If he demands action from Congress on whatever his current concerns might be and does not obtain it, he simply issues an executive order. Neat and tidy!
But was it intended to be so? The president’s duties are set forth in the Constitution, Article II, Sections 2 and 3. They are few, and for the most part, simple. He shall:
- be commander in chief of the Army and Navy, and of the various state militias when called to serve the United States.
- obtain opinions of the principal officers of the various executive departments, upon any subject relating to their duties.
- grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except impeachments.
- make treaties, with the advice and consent of the Senate.
- appoint ambassadors, Supreme Court judges, and other officers, again with the advice and consent of the Senate.
- fill vacancies that may occur during the recess of the Senate.
- give Congress information of the state of the union, and make such recommendations as he sees fit.
- on extraordinary occasions, convene both houses, or either of them, and adjourn them.
- receive ambassadors and other public ministers.
- take care that the laws be faithfully executed.
- commission all the officers of the United States.
Only a few of these duties might be considered onerous. The job of commander-in-chief is one of them, but the president has advisers to consult about military matters. More importantly, he can reign in the military leaders if they need restraining. And seeing that the laws be faithfully executed is probably his most important job, which, however, if done zealously, would virtually put the government out of business. I refer to the fact the supreme law of the land is said to be the Constitution, and most of our present laws are blatantly unconstitutional, which means they are not laws at all. Far from seeing the Constitution obeyed, our present president is adjusting the rates payable to senior for reverse mortgages! And making treaties is another important task, if making a treaty is called for. (One may wonder if our presidents have ever made a study of the benefits of treaties!)
Other jobs, such as appointing and receiving Ambassadors, are not at all demanding, and granting pardons and reprieves, obtaining opinions from Cabinet members, and filling vacancies can hardly be considered of great importance.
All of the jobs assigned to the president by the Constitution could be accomplished without regular press conferences, a White House press corps, and official White House photographer. There wouldn’t seen to be any reason for the president to have a fleet of aircraft for his use, one of which carries his armored limousine and a supply of gasoline, wherever he goes, as well as, if rumor is correct, a food taster.
How the presidency transmogrified into the office it is today would make an interesting doctoral thesis. Surely the present office is not the one described in the Constitution. For that matter, nothing that our rulers do has much to do with the Constitution. It raises an interesting question: If that document is the basic blueprint for our government, and if our present government disregards it (despite their oath to obey it), is that government legitimate? A more important question: Does anybody care?