The US Presidency: Misconception of Powers

March 7, 2016 OPINION/NEWS


Sami Jamil Jadallah

Like you and many millions in America and around the world, I too am following the saga of the 2016 Presidential election and watching it unfold. Candidates from the two main parties are competing for the hearts and minds, even stupidity and racism of American voters, helped by the hundreds of millions of dollars raised from special interests (stockholders) by presidential candidates.

All candidates, whether Republicans or Democrats, claim they can change America, when the only thing wrong with America is its politics and politicians.

Some candidates are calling to “Make America Whole Again”, others to “Make America Great Again”, with campaign slogans like these: “New American Century”, “New Possibilities, New Leadership”, “Reigniting the Promise of America”,  “A Political Revolution We Believe In” and “Every Day America Needs a Champion and I want to be that Champion”. Big on slogans, little on specifics.

While some candidates are promising tens of millions of jobs (shipping American workers to China), others are calling for a political, social and economic revolution that puts limits on money in elections and politics, limiting the role of Wall Street on our national economy and addressing the inequality of opportunities; with Clinton and Republican candidates emphasizing the use of American military powers.

Candidates are calling for American voters to support them so they can kill and destroy ISIS and all Muslims that stand behind it, others calling for building walls just like the Berlin Wall between the US and Mexico, others for the mass deportations of over 12 million undocumented aliens residing in the US, while someone like Trump is calling to ban Muslims from entering the country. All of them think they have the magic wand to change everything. In fact they do not.

It is the Speaker of the House, not the President, that has the most powerful office in the land. The US Constitution is very clear on that.

While Article II Section I vests executive powers in the President of the United States, Article II is short on enumerating the powers of the presidency, with Article I of the US Constitution giving overwhelming powers to the Legislative Branch.

Article 1 vests the power of the Commander in Chief in the president; even declaring war requiring approval of Congress. Section 2 of Article 1, limits the power of the presidency by vesting Congress, the more powerful role of “advice and consent”. Which means all presidential actions must secure the approval of Congress to take effect, from appointing cabinet ministers, appointing high ranking executives officers, appointing heads of independent commissions and agencies to the appointment of supreme court justices, to negotiating and concluding treaties. All of these actions must have the approval of one or two houses of the Legislative Branch. Ok, the president has the absolute right to “pardon”, but that is about it.

As such it is false marketing and false campaign promises that these presidential candidates, whether Democrats or Republicans, are saying.

Just to name a few of the powers Article 1 vested in Congress to include among others, Sections, 1, 2, & 3 (legislative powers), Sections 4, 5, 6, & 7 (Elections) Section 9 & 10 powers denied to Congress and States. Keep in mind that ‘gerrymandering’ is the most powerful tool Congress has over who gets in and who gets elected, shaping congressional districts to suit incumbents.

Article 1 Section 8 enumerates the many powers granted to the Legislative Branch, included among many are:

Clause 1: power to tax and spend. Certainly the most powerful instruments of government, add to that the 16th Amendment, which empowered Congress to levy income tax. Without tax and authorizations to spend it, the nation could never function. That is why Congress always uses this power as a “big stick” with the president.

More powers are in Clause 2, which vested powers in Congress to “borrow money” in the form of bonds and other instruments and of course created the obligations to repay the debt.

Clause 3 vested all “Commerce Powers” in Congress governing and regulating the movement of people and goods between states and internationally, add to that “communications”.

When it comes to naturalization, it is Clause 4 that governs such a major and contentious issue in this year’s election. Without Congress approval, the US president could not do much, perhaps limited “executive orders“ certainly will be challenged in court. While Clause 9 granted Congress the powers to create courts and reorganize the governments into different department and agencies, Clause 10 gave Congress a complete sweep of powers “necessary and proper clause”.

Very few nations or organizations, let alone the American voters, recognized the powers vested in Congress like Israel and AIPAC. Both in the early 50’s recognized the limited powers of the US presidency and the unlimited powers granted to Congress and members of Congress. AIPAC and Israel understood clearly that the president’s powers and tenure in office are limited, one term, two terms at most while there are NO term limits for members of Congress, that is why AIPAC spends its money on congressional elections and little money on presidential elections. AIPAC is right; it understood the powers and limitations of powers in America. What counts is money, and AIPAC knew it is Congress, not the president, that authorizes foreign aid.

Should Bernie Sanders pursue his vision for a new “revolution” then he and millions of Americans must work on denying re-elections to existing members of Congress, both House and Senate and start the revolution where it counts in the Legislative Branch of government, cleaning Congress first. This is where the power to change lies, not in the presidency.







Sami Jamil Jadallah

Sami is a Palestinian-American immigrated to the US while in high school. He was drafted in the US Army during Vietnam War earning the leadership award from the US Sixth Army Non-Commission Officer Academy.

After honorable discharge, Sami enrolled at Indiana University where he was active in student politics, elected class president, student president and chairman of the Indiana Student Association representing students from all colleges and universities in the State of Indiana.

Sami earned his Bachelor Degree (economics and politics), Master of Public and Environmental Affairs and Doctor of Jurisprudence. After a 2 years stint with a major Wall Street law firm Sami took on the job as general counsel of a major international construction company in Saudi Arabia. As an international legal and business consultant, Sami served as owner representative on major projects such as hotels, conservation foundation, defense, and technology.

In the area of public service, Sami was the founding member of the United Palestinian Appeal, a well known not for profit organization serving the needs of Palestinians refugees with over $100 millions in projects and donations serving 16 years as a trustee.

Sami as founding member and executive director of the New Arab Foundation, a US based Not for Profit Tax Exemp, a think tank (with a mission) and management consulting organization, and is working now on the launching of the Arab Peace Crops inspired by President John F Kennedy’s American Peace Corps.

Sami lives in Fairfax, VA and is married to Dr. Alma Abdul-Hadi Jadallah an international expert in mediations and conflict resolution, they have three children all living and working in Washington DC.


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