Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – I want to go to the Dude Maker Hotline and say hello to my dear old friend Andrew C. McCarthy, who, if you didn’t see it yesterday I had posted it in our Pile of Prep and tweeted it out a couple times. I lauded some praise onto Andy’s piece dissenting from his editors and their endorsement or embrace of the Obama administration’s and now the Senate Judiciary Committee’s embrace of warlike activities against Syria. As I told you last hour, Andy’s piece was thoughtful. It’s historical. It takes us back to the days of the founders and what their intent was. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: I want to go to the Dude Maker Hotline and say hello to my dear old friend Andrew C. McCarthy, who, if you didn’t see it yesterday I had posted it in our Pile of Prep and tweeted it out a couple times. I lauded some praise onto Andy’s piece dissenting from his editors and their endorsement or embrace of the Obama administration’s and now the Senate Judiciary Committee’s embrace of warlike activities against Syria. As I told you last hour, Andy’s piece was thoughtful. It’s historical. It takes us back to the days of the founders and what their intent was. Rather than me read it, I’d rather him explain it. Hello, old friend. How are you? Welcome back.
Andy McCarthy: Hey, Mike, how are you? Good to be here.
Mike: Your essay is some of the best work you’ve done.
McCarthy: I can’t thank you enough. You’ve been very kind about it and I appreciate it.
Mike: You’ve merited it. The backstory is a story that I have been telling my listeners here for quite some time. Some of the things that you brought up I hadn’t read. If I had, I had forgotten them. The case that you make here on the constitutional authority, in my mind anyway, it’s just airtight. Let’s start at the beginning. What is it that the editors of National Review said that got the ball rolling as to why you decided you wanted to dissent?
McCarthy: Well, we’ve had disagreements on the magazine. There’s a corporate position on the magazine and then there are a variety of people who’ve dissented from it. I think in terms of what the traditional mission of National Review is, I think we’re actually doing a pretty good job in the sense that we’re having a robust civil debate in which both sides are being pressed to back up their plan and their case. My point, of course, is that I don’t think there’s much of a plan in Syria at all. It’s been pretty incoherent from what I can determine.
I guess what really bothered me was — you point out that this goes back to the history of the founding. What we’re talking about in particular is this idea of the ability of the executive branch, the president, to conduct international affairs, including warfare, unilaterally. I actually come at this from a different perspective. I recall the arguments that we had throughout the Bush years. A lot of those arguments involved the left intentionally conflating two different and important doctrines. One is the unitary executive and the other is separation of power. They’re kind of analogous ideas but they’re very, very importantly different.
The unitary executive was the framers’ idea that all the power of the executive branch should be reposed in one individual, that is to say the president. In other words there was, in the debates over the Constitution, suggestions precisely because the framers were worried about too much power, too much clout in the executive branch, they thought about diluting the power, which is really the theory that strings throughout the Constitution, this idea that the way a free people can safely assign power to government is to divide it up and give the competing actors an incentive and ability to check each other. The idea with respect to the executive branch was that it couldn’t be effective if you did that, because the nature of executive power is such that it needs to be able to act when you need it to act. The framers ultimately decided to repose all of the power in the president. The Constitution explicitly says that all of the executive power is reposed in one President of the United States. We don’t have a set of consuls like the Romans did. We don’t have an assembly, a committee.
My beef with the left during the Bush years and my beef with the editors in the editorial over the last few days is that you can’t conflate the idea that all of the executive power should be in one official, the unitary executive, with separation of powers, which is the idea that the president has to be checked, he just can’t be checked internally in the executive branch. He has to be able to be checked by Congress and to some extent by the court. What I think the left did during the Bush years as attempt to confuse these two doctrines in order to tie down the president in situations where the framers would not have intended the president to be tied down. I think what our editors did, unfortunately, in the editorial was sort of the opposite thing. They used the unitary executive theory to eviscerate the very important separation of powers checks on the president, which are precisely intended to do what I think needs to be done in Syria, which is stop the executive branch from doing something it not only shouldn’t do but doesn’t have authorization, at least at this point, to do.
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