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Obama Shifts View Of Executive Power

Publication Date: 
March 30, 2012
The Wall Street Journal
Laura Meckler

Professor Michael McConnell spoke with The Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler about the President’s use of executive power and the importance of checks and balances.

After being buffeted by Republican victories in the 2010 midterm elections, White House aides saw education as ripe for bipartisan cooperation. Both parties wanted to address complaints about the No Child Left Behind law. Congress seemed prepared to act.

But while the White House talked up cooperation in public, in private it was preparing Plan B. In December that year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned top Democrats that if Congress didn't act, the administration would use executive authority to essentially rewrite the law on its own.


"The president is unchecked in a way the other branches are not," said Michael McConnell, a conservative legal theorist at Stanford Law School. "Any unchecked power can be misused, and yes, our checks and balances lead to gridlock, but I think gridlock's better than unchecked power in the hands of one person."