Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A little history, courtesy of Google

I just saw a story in the paper headlined: "Bush tells Congress to act on legislative agenda." The lead read: "On his way out of the country, President Bush stopped long enough Monday to tell Congress what to do while he was away: pass legislation he wants on matters of trade, housing and terrorist surveillance" (my emphasis).

The tone and intent of Bush's actions are both familiar and obvious: he is the one calling the shots. Like a parent telling a child what to do, Bush thinks he can tell Congress--the legislative branch which is guaranteed by our Constitution to have an equal amount of power as the president or the judicial branch--what bills to pass, what laws to make. We all know how intelligent and capable Chimpy is when it comes to the best course of action for this country, right? And we've seen our Congress stand up to Bush time and time again, right?

Has any other president ever been so bold in his assertion of power over Congress as Chimpy has? I decided to google the words "president tells Congress" to find out. Obviously, the results were all Chimpy-related, all recent. He's been telling Congress what to do since he got into office, basically. So I googled "Reagan tells Congress;" after all, Chimpy claims to idolize moRon Reagan.
Here's what I got:

"President Reagan today warned Congress against passing protectionist trade legislation and insisted that the United States would seek to 'meet the competition head on.'
Renewing his attack on protectionism as Congress prepares to take up a trade bill later this month, the President, in his weekly radio speech, criticized what he said was 'heavy-handed legislation to deal with our trade problem.''' New York Times, 9/6/87

First off, note the change the in tone; the media certainly treated Reagan's "warnings" to Congress with softer language. Then I read the passage again, and I realized I was seeing the very seeds of our "globalization" of business, all here in two sentences. According to Saint Reagan, it's "protectionism" to pass laws that keep jobs and money here in the US. I guess it's better for everyone if businesses can ship US jobs overseas to lower their costs, and thus put us in the shithole we're in now -- oh, and make a few republican-friendly businessmen very rich for a very long time.

This was a little more than I was bargaining for; I wanted to get back to my original goal so I googled "Carter tells Congress." No hits, at least not for anything like Carter telling anybody what to do.

"Nixon tells Congress"--surely I'd find some Chimpy-like statements here! I mean, this guy was trying to be king long before Chimpy made it so trendy! Again, however, nothing. Nixon tells of China, and all other sorts of disjointed uses of those three words, but Nixon didn't tell anybody what to do, at least not according to the media.

However, I did find this interesting tidbit:

"Faced with what he considered a profligate Congress, Richard Nixon transformed an occasional practice of former Presidents into a tactic of confrontation. Claiming he had a presidential right of impoundment, Nixon simply refused to spend at least $16 billion appropriated by Congress for a variety of projects. In 1973 the Supreme Court, aware that it might soon face more serious tests of presidential power, ducked the issue. Last week, with those problems behind them, the Justices turned to an impoundment-related suit and by a 9-to-0 vote delivered one more resounding no to the Nixon doctrine of Executive power" (my emphasis). New York Times, 3/3/75

As Archie and Edith Bunker used to sing, "those were the days" indeed! Nixon's tactic of refusing to obey Congress sure sounds familiar, but the Supreme Court basically slapped him back down, something that has not happened since that same institution gave the presidency to Chimpy back in 2000.

By now, my mind was getting blown by the contrasts, as well as by the other things I was finding out. I was alive during all these presidents' terms, but I was a kid for Nixon and Ford and Carter. I was in high school and college during Reagan, and only then did I realize that republicans didn't give a shit about people like me or my family or my friends. Ketchup is as close as poor hispanic kids like me will ever get to a vegetable, right, Saint Reagan?

I then googled the forgotten president, "Ford tells Congress," and got a timeline from the Presidential library web site for Gerald Ford.

"In his final State of the Union Address, Ford tells Congress and the American People, 'I can report that the state of the union is good. There is room for improvement, as always, but today we have a more perfect Union than when my stewardship began.'" 1/12/77

Not really what I was looking for; again--Ford didn't try to tell Congress what to do. He did, however, do one thing that interested me:

"Ford urges financial restraint and a financial review for New York City during its budget crisis. Ford refuses to support Federal help for New York at this time. He proposes bankruptcy legislation to ensure the City undergoes an orderly default process. On November 26, 1975, after he believes city leaders have begun to adequately address the crisis, he authorizes Congress to extend the City a line of credit." 10/29/75

I'm sure New Yorkers like DCap and FranIAm will remember this, but I was in fifth grade then so I didn't. But just imagine: refusing to bail out a broke institution until they show some initiative on their own! Such fiscal responsibility is absent in Chimpy's reign.
Would that republicans these days were so loathe to just throw money around and do massive bailouts.

I also found this on the same site:

"In what the press dubs the 'Halloween Massacre,' President Ford orders a reorganization of his cabinet. He names Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary, Elliot Richardson as Commerce Secretary, George Bush as CIA Director, and Richard Cheney as White House Chief of Staff. Henry Kissinger remains Secretary of State; however, he turns over his duties as National Security Advisor to Brent Scowcroft." 11/74/75

The irony makes me cringe: Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney, Scowcroft -- the architects of today's biggest disasters. And of all people to put them into power, a clumsy and ineffectual seat-warmer of a president.

Some days, researching just makes me sad.


Randal Graves said...

Oh, Gerald Ford, that potsmoking lefty commie pinko!

I'm not sure what my favorite media word choice is, but "scold" is up there: Bush scolds Congress on x, y or z.

It's amazing how insecure and desperate for attention the talking hairpieces and childish scribblers have become over the last decade.

Dusty said...

Great read! This was so good..thank you for posting it :)

Those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it..hence..another depression?

Gawd..I hope to hell not.

FranIAm said...

I wish I could remember where I read it or heard it- but Ford planted the very seeds that this extraordinary presidential powers have grown from.

Apparently (i will try to google later) he was so upset over what happened to Nixon, that it was his intent to create more presidential power. And he had such an apt pupil in the Dark Lord Cheney.

This is a fantastic post Delia- well researched and well presented.

dguzman said...

Randal--yes, that's another one, "scold" -- because he's such a good daddy! Just as not-Jenna and Jenna, the girls gone wild.

Dusty--thanks, and welcome to IAOD! I can't believe anyone would vote for such an incurious and admittedly sub-par student of history. The one thing I really like about Obama is that he is a constitutional law lecturer. He should know a lot about what's going on, and I hope he addresses the problem for the good of the country, should he be elected.

Fran--thank you. I think I've heard that about Ford, that he took the whole punishment of Nixon personally and felt bad for him. The guy was a crook and a megalomaniac, but Ford felt sorry for him. What an idiot.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Research made the baby Jesus cry.

Anonymous said...

DGuz - A few things. You and I must have been born the same year because I was in 5th Grade too when Ford told the City to so fuck itself. The thing for me back then was worry because both my parents were civil servants in the city's employ and their jobs were in jeopardy.

Another thing...I had an uncle with the last name Guzman (Hector). They lived in Brooklyn. Didn't know him very well, but he was married to my dad's sister.

Finally, I've been remiss in not adding you to my blogroll. You've only commented on my site like a gajillion times and put me on your BR. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?

TomCat said...

Excellent post DG. Hopefully Bush will be the first and last US Fuhrer.