Checks and Balances

random_pickle

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I go onto the internet and read articles on current politics once in awhile. I admit, it's a guilty pleasure of mine. There is something disturbing I noticed though. There have been a lot of comments stating "Obama is a socialist pig! He's trying to takeover America!" or "Obama is a dictator! He should be impeached!"

What astounds me about this is that even though Obama is the leader of the USA, it would be impossible for him to "takeover" or become a dictator thanks to checks and balances between the three branches of government. Saying such statements makes no sense at all.

So I thought about it, and came up with a frightening conclusion: if they actually believe that the president is capable of becoming a tyrant, then they don't know about checks and balances. That concept is one of the most basic facts about our government; it should be the most well known.

Thoughts?
 

The Hunter

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US politics were made to be as difficult as possible to understand to stop idiots from participating and fucking everything up like that. Looks like it backfired. Hard.

Anyone who really thinks Obama has any power to do anything more than lifting a pencil without the house or senate's approval needs to go back to 1st grade.
 

champthom

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random_pickle said:
So I thought about it, and came up with a frightening conclusion: if they actually believe that the president is capable of becoming a tyrant, then they don't know about checks and balances. That concept is one of the most basic facts about our government; it should be the most well known.

Thoughts?

Let me play Devil's Advocate here - in most countries, there's a theoretical checks and balances. The problem is that they're all in on it. That is, in theory, the German Reichstag of Nazi Germany could have been a check on Hitler, but effectively it became a rubber stamp for his policies. I was reading the other day about an incident in Venezuela where a judge lifted a punishment on a anti-Chavez advocate and said judge was arrested for some phony charge like "disrupting the peace and harmony of society" and Chavez accuses her of being a CIA agent among other things.

Here's the thing - the legislature benefits from a dictator, they get to live a cushy life as long as they tow the party line. If there's a dissent element, they could just be arrested - after all, the executive has the power over law enforcement effectively. Also, ever hear of executive orders? The president can pretty much do whatever he wants when he makes one - FDR used an executive order to intern Japanese-Americans during WII.

If someone wants to be a tyrant, checks and balances won't do shit.
 

Holdek

Down to where? All that is down is only the floor.
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champthom said:
random_pickle said:
So I thought about it, and came up with a frightening conclusion: if they actually believe that the president is capable of becoming a tyrant, then they don't know about checks and balances. That concept is one of the most basic facts about our government; it should be the most well known.

Thoughts?

Let me play Devil's Advocate here - in most countries, there's a theoretical checks and balances. The problem is that they're all in on it. That is, in theory, the German Reichstag of Nazi Germany could have been a check on Hitler, but effectively it became a rubber stamp for his policies. I was reading the other day about an incident in Venezuela where a judge lifted a punishment on a anti-Chavez advocate and said judge was arrested for some phony charge like "disrupting the peace and harmony of society" and Chavez accuses her of being a CIA agent among other things.

Here's the thing - the legislature benefits from a dictator, they get to live a cushy life as long as they tow the party line. If there's a dissent element, they could just be arrested - after all, the executive has the power over law enforcement effectively. Also, ever hear of executive orders? The president can pretty much do whatever he wants when he makes one - FDR used an executive order to intern Japanese-Americans during WII.

If someone wants to be a tyrant, checks and balances won't do shit.

Yeah, but Congressmen and Senators are actually immune from arrest when Congress is in session, and evidence against corrupt Congressmen has been thrown out because it was obtained by executive branch officials (i.e. FBI) during session, for this very reason. Also, executive actions are still vulnerable to judicial review, as the internment case was.

I think the US is unique among many nations in that it still employes a strong division of powers, unlike, say, in countries where there is no written constitution, or judicial review of laws, or where the executive and legislative branches are one in the same.
 

Alec Benson Leary

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US Presidents tend to have the most power during huge wars or crisis, or whatever event that inspires feelings of vengeful patriotism in Americans.
Good thing America is now embroiled in a 15-year long war and shows no sign it will ever end, and also not ending it is the only thing rich and powerful republicans and democrats alike have no problem with.
 

AnOminous

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Yeah, but Congressmen and Senators are actually immune from arrest when Congress is in session, and evidence against corrupt Congressmen has been thrown out because it was obtained by executive branch officials (i.e. FBI) during session, for this very reason. Also, executive actions are still vulnerable to judicial review, as the internment case was.

This isn't quite true. Congresscritters can be and have been arrested for ordinary crimes, and Congressional offices raided pursuant to FBI search warrants (William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson who is now serving a lengthy prison sentence for corruption). The Article I Speech and Debate Clause protects from arrest or prosecution for statements and legislative actions, as well as from obstructing travel to disrupt Congress itself. It doesn't make a House Rep or Senator a sort of super-citizen immune to normal legal process.
 

Holdek

Down to where? All that is down is only the floor.
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This isn't quite true. Congresscritters can be and have been arrested for ordinary crimes, and Congressional offices raided pursuant to FBI search warrants (William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson who is now serving a lengthy prison sentence for corruption). The Article I Speech and Debate Clause protects from arrest or prosecution for statements and legislative actions, as well as from obstructing travel to disrupt Congress itself. It doesn't make a House Rep or Senator a sort of super-citizen immune to normal legal process.
With that guy, I don't know if he was actually arrested when Congress was in session or recess (would be interesting to know). Also there was a pretty big fight over the seized evidence, with people who weren't his allies making the case on Constitutional grounds, and he was eventually given it back so that he could withhold stuff that was privileged to his office.
 

AnOminous

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With that guy, I don't know if he was actually arrested when Congress was in session or recess (would be interesting to know). Also there was a pretty big fight over the seized evidence, with people who weren't his allies making the case on Constitutional grounds, and he was eventually given it back so that he could withhold stuff that was privileged to his office.

His actual Congressional offices were raided. During the course of the proceedings, Congress, including Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican, was more or less united in asserting this was a violation of separation of powers. The raid was eventually challenged and upheld at the trial court level. They put off the rest of the trial until Dollar Bill lost the election, though, and only then went ahead with the prosecution. However, the prosecution did use the evidence from the search.

The conviction got appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which denied cert., so the highest court to decide the specific issue was the 4th Circuit. It's still pretty likely that even Congressional offices can be raided by the feds with a valid search warrant.

This is much less protection than the President has, who is effectively immune for official acts absent impeachment, and can quite likely only be criminally prosecuted when out of office.
 

Holdek

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The raid was eventually challenged and upheld at the trial court level. They put off the rest of the trial until Dollar Bill lost the election, though, and only then went ahead with the prosecution. However, the prosecution did use the evidence from the search.

The conviction got appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which denied cert., so the highest court to decide the specific issue was the 4th Circuit. It's still pretty likely that even Congressional offices can be raided by the feds with a valid search warrant.
Yes but the appellate court reversed the decision over the evidence seized in the raid and the Supreme Court denied review. They ruled he was allowed to have some degree of control over what evidence could be handed over to the FBI for investigation.

In terms of his arrest and prosecution, I know he challenged his indictment but they didn't end up prosecuting him until something like the very day after his congressional term ended, so he probably didn't have much standing to challenge it at that point anyway. The fact that he was defeated in the election probably avoided some Constitutional challenges having to be addressed. I don't know. My hesitation on that is because I knew a guy who was assaulted by a senator on a public sidewalk, and it was captured on video, but when he called the Capitol Police to file a complaint they basically said they couldn't do anything if the Congress was in session. Now maybe they were just giving him the run-around. I didn't follow up to see whatever happened.
 
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AnOminous

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The fact that he was defeated in the election probably avoided some Constitutional challenges having to be addressed.

You centered in on the important issue, which is what actually happens in reality.

That's literally why they delayed the legal proceedings. It's called constitutional avoidance. Courts, given a choice between deciding a constitutional issue and some other issue, will almost invariably avoid the constitutional issue.

Nobody wants to deal with that!