Presidents carry immense power. Anything that they do cannot be termed as illegal. They barely give up on power and their executive orders do not expire at the end of their presidential term. Every successful candidate who issued the first executive order has tried to expand the power and reach of the presidency. The constitution offers very limited powers to the president for serving as chief of military forces, for making treaties, granting pardons, for veto legislation as well as for appointing ambassadors. However, during the recent years, the American presidents have anointed themselves for torturing prisoners, for waging war, for stripping the citizens of their rights, for unilaterally killing Americans, for detaining citizens and for erecting their own shadow, secretive government.
The powers vested in the hands of one president get passed on to the heir and it does not really make a difference whether it is Clinton or Trump who would get to occupy the Oval office. The powers accumulated by the successor through the negligence of courts and Congress add up to a toolbox of trepidation which empowers the president to act as a dictator who does not have any accountability and consider oneself above the law. The presidential powers are acquired through the use of memorandums, decrees, policymaking orders, security directives and edicts. These can be activated by any sitting president that has powered the predecessors to operate beyond the reach of constitution and above law.
- The power to kill
President Obama claimed to adhere to rule of law and promised transparency in the process when he took oath for the first time. He however has become the first president to claim the authority to order the killing of an American citizen without any involvement of the judiciary, public accountability or real oversight.
- The power to wage a war
Ever since George W Bush was offered the authorization by the congress for using military process during 9/11, the country has been involved in an endless state of war without making any official declaration. Barack Obama pledged to end the wars. However, he only ended up extending them. He has now become a president who has been at war longer than any president of America. He will leave a legacy behind of being the only American President in history for serving two terms with nation at war. He has been successful in establishing an ear of unbridled war without carrying out any checks.
- The power to torture
Obama has strongly criticized the torture tactic employed by Bush’s administration. The government under Obama refused to hold accountability for being a part of torture and rendition programs. The authorization of tactics still remains a part of the domain of America’s president. They have the authority to revive or stick to it.
- The power to spy on the citizens
President Bush had secretly offered authority to the National Security Agency to carry out surveillance of emails and calls of Americans. The administration claimed that the constitution offers inherent powers to the President when it comes to protection of national security. This tradition has been continued by Obama.
- The power to detain citizens indefinitely
An executive order was used by President Franklin D Roosevelt during 1942 which required all Japanese Americans to be held in internment camps. This was declared to be constitutional by the U.S. Supreme court. This has not been overturned hinting that illegal detentions can happen again anytime. The National Defense Authorization Act passed during 2012 has a provision that offer permission to military forces for detaining individuals including American citizens without any trial.
- The power to strip the constitutional rights of the citizens
The Bush administrations claimed that it would imprison the citizens and strip them of their constitutional rights by terming them as enemy combatants. The Obama administration has defended the global and unilateral right to detain anyone who is suspected of being a part of terrorist activities.
- The power to rewrite the laws secretly
Secret orders, secret budgets and secret courts have come into existence during presidential administrations. For instance, the Presidential Policy Directive 10 is a secret order issued by President Obama for thwarting cybercrimes. Only little information was released to the press. A request for further details was denied by the authorities stating that it would pose grave damage to the national security.
- Power to transform police into military extensions
This practice began during 1960s for waging war against drugs where police forces were transformed into military extensions. Every president since them has added to the authority as well as tactics. This was accelerated during Obama administration with distribution of military equipment and weapons.
It does not really matter who the president would be. In the end, all politicians start singing a different tune. Damage to the system has already been done. The use of power by one President paves a way for the execution and expansion of the power for the use by presidents in the future. Extraordinary directives and orders are added to the list of every successive president turning them more into a dictator. This has rendered the constitution void as there is no real system in place that has any tab on the activities. There is a need to recalibrate the balance of power. This implies putting an end to the use of proclamations, memorandums, and legislative signing statements.