The President and His Executive Orders

Thomas Hobbes, author of The Leviathan

A common misconception in American politics, often unknowingly  perpetuated by the media, is the idea that executive action is the same thing as executive order. In fact, when a President issues an executive action it is effectively the President calling on Congress to do something, but it holds no legal authority and has no binding nature. On the other hand, executive orders “are legally binding and published in the Federal Register, though they also can be reversed by the courts and Congress.” The ability to differentiate between the two forms of Presidential decree is extremely important if one wishes to understand the battle underway in Washington between President Obama and newly formed GOP majority Congress. Only weeks following the midterm elections, politicians have already entered into partisan gridlock on the issue of immigration reform. The Obama administration has vowed to move forward with executive order on the topic, which includes plans to extend deferred action (which basically prevents deportation) to illegal immigrants which would allow millions to become permanent residents of the U.S. The news of the President’s plans have evoked major criticism and backlash from the GOP. Critics have highlighted what they see as the President by-passing Congress in an unconstitutional attempt to legislate his own agenda. As the President faces off with Congress, it occurred to me that Thomas Hobbes’s concept of the all powerful sovereign has somehow indirectly found its way into contemporary American political debate.  Continue reading The President and His Executive Orders

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Wash Those Hands!

Politician with dirty hands
Barack Obama carrying out killing of Bin Ladin. Photo by Paul Windle via The Atlantic
Barack Obama carrying out killing of Bin Ladin. Photo by Paul Windle via The Atlantic

There are people in today’s society that believe in “Dirty Hands”. By this I mean that when somebody does something ethically wrong and then does something “right” to completely make up for it. For example, in the play “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth commits a murder and convinces Macbeth to kill King Duncan. At the time she was not phased by it but towards the end of the play she envisions her hands all bloody and “dirty” because of the murder. It doesn’t merely happen to this extent in the world we are in now but it comes up in all ways.

Lets start with Machiavelli. He talks a lot about Princes and how they should carry themselves. Many talks in discussion brought us to the fact that a “good” prince should be noble/ generous, aware of their surroundings and it is better to be feared than loved. Him saying that it is better to be feared than loved is an interesting point. More people will be kept in line and listen to their leader if they fear him or her. If they love the leader they will easily be able to manipulate that particular person. After doing some reading and research on Machiavelli, I found a quote that he had said about a prince and how they “must learn how not to be good”. He kind of contradicts himself by saying that because shouldn’t a prince be noble and generous? Anyway, by not being good the prince must do something immoral in a way. This could be lying, or doing something against his people. The dirty hands method comes into play now.

Dirty hands has something to do with doing the “right” thing to do but it being morally wrong. This happens in politics all of the time. After reading “Machiavelli Was Right” by Michael Ignatieff, he explains what happened when we (the US) took out osama bin ladin (not capitalized for a reason) . The president was deciding whether to pull the trigger (pun intended) or not on the mission to take out bin ladin. Morally killing a person is not the best thing to do but it was for the good of the country. If he didn’t proceed with it, he would probably be taken from office but since he did go through with it, he was able to keep himself “alive” and gained the trust from his people.

Machiavelli made a point that a prince must learn how not to be good. This includes doing things that may not be the best thing morally but to get the best outcome for yourself or the people it is affecting. As seen with President Obama, he did what was good for the country but was killing a person right? All of this is opinionated and is why “dirty hands” is a controversial topic. Do you believe in the doings of “dirty hands”?

Ladies and Gentlemen, The UN Is Burning

Every year around the end of September, world leaders arrive in New York, NY to attend the United Nations General Assembly week and speak before the assembly on issues which affect their nation. This year over 140 leaders have arrived, and while many address the general assembly, only a handful received major media attention, especially if they spoke about the Middle East.

The United Nations building in Manhattan

This is because as in years past the Middle East continues to be a volatile region filled with instability and violence. Over the course the summer the world was given a new chapter in the decades old book of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the emergence of ISIS on the world stage as they increase their territorial expansion with a tyrannical fist and a blood soaked blade. With these topics stealing the show at the podium of the general assembly, special focus must be paid to the speeches of President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Each of these world leaders gave speeches motivated by what I like to call Thucydides “Big Three”: Fear, Honor, Interest.

Continue reading Ladies and Gentlemen, The UN Is Burning