THINGS A PRESIDENT CANNOT DO:
- Reverse any Supreme Court decision
- This includes Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage a constitutional right; Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which reaffirmed a woman’s right to choose first articulated in Roe v. Wade, another Supreme Court case. Grutter v. Bollinger, which instituted affirmative action, the entire body of Civil Rights case law, plus anything related to due process, including the right of minors to due process, your right to an attorney, Miranda rights, inadmissible evidence, etc.
- (Even if Trump appoints the worst possible SC nominee, they still can’t reverse any of these decisions without a really significant case coming before the Court with new facts, and then they have to write an opinion stating how this case is different than that other case…it’s unlikely to happen.)
- Write law or repeal any existing law
- While traditionally, presidents have exerted influence on the legislative agenda (see, Obama’s role in advancing and promoting the Affordable Care Act) they cannot actually write or pass legislation. Bills, joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions, and simple resolutions must be introduced in the House by a Representative.
- Presidents cannot strike down law. Only Congress can repeal laws, and only the Supreme Court can strike them down as unconstitutional.
- Presidential influence is just that—influence.
- (And if—for example—you are hated by 95% of the party you joined last week, and burned all your goddamn bridges by insulting them at various points in your campaign…..they’re unlikely to partner with you in crafting legislation.)
- Make any law or declaration that infringes in any way on the rights of the states
- So in the US, most of the rights are reserved to the states. You name it, it’s a state-run power. Criminal procedure and law? States. Medicare and Medicaid? States. The definition of marriage? States. Insurance, health departments, housing, unemployment benefits, public education, all these are state programs. And the president cannot infringe on those powers given to the states.
- (This is why down-ticket voting is so important, because Mike Pence as governor of Indiana had 800x the power he’s going to have as VP.)
- Declare war.
- This one is the most complicated, because with the advent of our “conflicts” in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. there has been a significant shift in the articulation of the war doctrine, and it is one of the least restricted of the president’s “restricted” powers. But, despite all that, a president still has no power to declare war.
- Unilaterally appoint heads of administrative departments
- Unilaterally make treaties with foreign nations
Essentially, while presidents have a lot of power, it’s mostly unofficial—they can’t make sweeping laws, they can’t overturn existing rights, the most they can do is refuse to enforce them (which is absolutely a threat! and a problem!) but we aren’t electing de facto royalty here.
Thought some of you might appreciate this.
I do have to note, however, that many of these powers are curtailed so long as Congress does not permit the President to do so.
We have a Republican Congress backing up Donald Trump. It will be interesting to see where they apply the brakes, and whether they do so quickly enough.
Another issue to consider is that Presidents are indeed incapable of declaring war, but since before World War 2 they have used US troops to intervene in foreign wars without declaration and frequently without public knowledge. Most of the U.S. was unaware of our involvement in Mogadishu during the Clinton presidency until foreign news networks was broadcasting footage of the corpses of American soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by their heels. Before WW2, Despite isolationist public sentiment, Roosevelt deployed over a hundred American naval vessels to escort British convoys, knowing full well that German submarines would likely engage them and draw the U.S. into the war (it was simply luck that none of them had been sunk before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor).
As for Trump’s repeated inability to grasp nuclear policy, we simply must hope that the JCS has the necessary balls to tell him “No.” despite his temper tantrums, and (if necessary) to die protecting the Football from a wanna-be presidential quarterback throwing a potentially nuclear shitfit.
We have to hope that Trump is surrounded with good advisors who have the courage to tell him when he has his head up his ass, and who support each other so that Trump can’t get rid of anyone useful and intelligent by scapegoating them or dismissing them because they disagree with him.