The office of the Presidency is a powerful institution that has the ability to act, even without the consent of Congress. It has become common place among the liberal blogosphere to say: “The president has done what he can given the political constraints of the Senate.”
Alas, if only we were living in a pre-Nixon era, before the rise of the Imperial Presidency! Modern presidents can act and often quite decisively without Congressional approval.
Currently the President is not doing all that he can do to denounce anti-Muslim activities and statements within the American society. In fact, it’s sad that the President has done more to forward gay rights than he has to prevent and denounce acts of intimidation and intolerance manifesting against Muslims. (To be perfectly clear, the President has done almost nothing for gay rights; he’s done even less for Muslim-Americans, bumbling as he did into the Muslim center in New York City controversy.)
Here are five things the president can do (without Congress):
Guantanamo: Just close the thing and move the prisoners to proper facilities on American soil. No one is so dangerous that they must needs be held in Cuba. This can be done by the mid-terms.
Habeas Corpus: Moreover, the President can give everyone in Gitmo their day in court. Restoring habeas corpus is an executive decision — as noted by Rehnquist in his All The Laws But One, and the President has chosen not to. The courts have been kicking and screaming about the rights of the incarcerated — an African-American President should be uniquely sensitive to this.
Ending the Wiretapping: This is totally at the hands of the executive, given the re-writes to FISA. The President and the AG could totally shut down the extensive, but hidden, arm of the American police state. The Obama Administration has actually moved in the opposite direction: to consolidate the pervasive gains of the Bush Administration.
A “Big Speech” in a large Mosque: Why religious tolerance is an important value in American society and how religious liberty is one of the central creeds of the American way of life that makes our country work. Why we no longer need live in fear about “extremist Islam” and how we are battling transnational organizations that use military force against civilians, not any take on any given religious worldview. Call on evangelical Christians, who believe that their ways of life are denigrated by a secular world, to stand with other religionists who persecuted for their beliefs.
Civil Rights: Having the AG bring the full force of the law against Anti-Muslium bigotry. A prominent example here. The Bush Administration gutted the Civil Rights division. The Obama Administration could make Civil Rights a priority.