No President Has “Total Power” over States’ Plans to Reopen

According to this article from Business Insider, “the governors of California, Washington, and Oregon said they were working together on a West Coast plan to safely reopen those states, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a multistate coalition to coordinate on ways to reopen the region’s economy as the spread of the virus becomes more manageable.”

This is a positive sign that the virus is abating and people will be going back to work. It is also positive to see that state executives are working together and coordinating plans. After all, public health matters are left to the reserved power of the states. The federal government has very few powers that touch on these matters, as I explained in a previous post.

But enter the bull in the china shop. President Trump at his press briefing stated: “When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that’s the way it’s got to be.” Trump claimed, “I’d rather have [the states] make decisions, but I have absolute right to make the decisions if I want to. The relationships we have with the states and governors is very good.”

While the mainstream media and Democrats are pearl-clutching (see also here) at the President’s latest claim, they seem to forget that they have been egging him on to “do something” by invoking the Defense Production Act, issuing guidelines and directives, etc. Now, they are all of a sudden constitutionalists.

Trump’s claim of federal authority is just downright wrong and is one of the more absurd claims he has made, but the Left’s new-found love affair with the Tenth Amendment is just as absurd.

Hopefully a presidential aide will take the President aside and give him the skinny on delegated and reserved powers, and Trump will stop mouthing foolishness about total power. But in a way it is difficult to blame Trump for this statement. Democrats and Republicans have governed for decades as if the federal government has uncontrollable power. Trump is just putting into words what he has seen by their actions for most of his adult life.

Nonetheless, maybe David Theroux will be so kind as to send the President a copy of Reclaiming the American Revolution. The Donald needs to bone up on first principles.

William J. Watkins, Jr. is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books, Crossroads for Liberty, Reclaiming the American Revolution, and Patent Trolls.
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