The rush to quell fears that the president’s latest executive order is a vast overreach of authority seems to have grabbed hold of both left and right pundits by the teeth. Clamoring in desperation to sound “reasonable” and “fair” their justification for the president’s move sounds a lot like, “well it’s always been done this way so it must be okay.”
To fully understand the National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order signed by President Obama late Friday afternoon, we must first examine its origin.
The first Defense Production Act was signed in 1950 by President Harry S. Truman, a Democrat with ties to the communist Soviet Union and oft accused of corruption and harboring Soviet spies within his administration. The purpose of the act created at the start of the Korean War was to:
“ensure the availability of the nation’s industrial resources to meet the national security needs of the United States by granting the President powers to ensure the supply and timely delivery of products, materials, and services to military and civilian agencies.
The DPA codifies a robust legal authority given the President to force industry to give priority to national security production and is the statutory underpinning of governmental review of foreign investment in U.S. companies”
Truman, believing in a Wilsonian progressivism, would later attempt to nationalize several industries. Accusations aside, Truman had a history of promoting a socialist-leaning ideology which was evident in many decisions he made from the Oval Office.
Called himself a “Wilsonian Internationalist” and supported the United Nations
Advocated the Marshall Plan – whereby the United States establishes and pays for the reconstruction of Europe after World War II; gave the United States partial control over the economies of foreign nations
Created & implemented the Truman Doctrine, policy of “containment” – to provide monetary and/or military assistance to any democratic nation threatened by totalitarianism; essentially created interventionist foreign policy for the United States
Made a strong push for Nationalized Health Insurance
Lead the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act which ultimately expanded the National Labor Relations Board
Led UN forces against North Korea just after naming then retired General George Marshall (of the Marshall Plan) as his Secretary of Defense
In 1952, just 2 years after signing the Defense Production Act, Truman attempted to nationalize several US Steel Mills. As part of his argument in favor of the controversial move, Truman cited the DPA of 1950. The Supreme Court ruled the president’s attempts unconstitutional.
Knowing the political philosophy and background of Harry Truman, arguably one of the most corrupt and potentially socialist presidents in US history, puts a slightly different spin on the “reasonable” and “fair” arguments in defense of President Obama’s updated version of the act.
Enter the new Executive Order.
The most notable change is the inclusion of the term “in peacetime” whereas the original and its subsequent reauthorizations were for emergency preparedness only.
Just as the original act gave sweeping authority to the president to control civilian business, energy production and distribution, food and other resources, the Executive Order signed by President Obama expands on that authority to unprecedented levels. The order grants the individual cabinet secretaries massive amounts of executive power and the authority to delegate its responsibilities to other agencies.
So while political pundits attempt to appear “reasonable” and “fair” to the president for his latest powergrab because “lots of presidents have done this kind of thing before,” I will ask, “if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” Just because one president institutes bad policy doesn’t make it relevant or helpful today.
In other words, 2 wrongs don’t make a right.