POLITICS FEBRUARY 20, 2006
I THINK THERE IS SERIOUS CONFUSION as to what the theory of the "unitary executive" entails ("Against Alito," January 30). Justice Antonin Scalia's famous dissent in Morrison v. Olson is an example of one interpretation of the theory, which holds that executive power lies with the president, and that no "person whose actions are not fully with the supervision and control" of the president can seize it. The issue in Morrison was the law that provided for the appointment of an independent counsel. More specifically, the Court faced the question of whether, via a statute, Congress can create an executive office that is not under the direct control of the president. Scalia was vindicated on this subject when Congress refused to renew the statute after the Clinton- Lewinsky fiasco and allegations of overreaching by Kenneth Starr. This is what Samuel Alito was likely referring to when he stated that "all federal executive power is vested by the Constitution in the president." Insofar as some may think that the "unitary executive" theory as Alito invoked it stands for the proposition that the president is above constitutionally enacted laws, they are certainly in the minority.
The first line of Article II of the U.S. Constitution states, "The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America." Does "the executive power" mean "all" of the executive power or just "some"? Compare that with the more limiting language of Article I: "All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States." There is a difference, and it appears the Founding Fathers knew how to go about limiting powers when they wanted to do so. There was nothing misleading or evasive about Judge Alito's answers about the "unitary executive."
Los Angeles, California
IF WE CAN'T STOP REACTIONARY judges from being appointed to the nation's highest court, we should lobby for a constitutional amendment to end lifetime tenure on federal courts, including the Supreme Court. The tenure of federal judges should be based on what New York's highest state court does. There, judges are appointed to 14-year terms, and they may be reappointed to their posts. Our nation can't afford to make a lifetime mistake.
Greenburgh, New York
CANADIANS ARE NOT ANTI-AMERICAN; we are temperamentally antiideological ("Martin Short," January 30). Why do you think we kept electing the Liberal Party? People say the Liberals will do anything to retain power. That's a misunderstanding that comes close to the truth. What they are is a party that approaches government pragmatically. They are willing to try what they think will work, regardless of whether the idea arose on the left or the right. The problem in the United States is that it is stuck with extremely ideological leadership. Don't expect us to look at you with envy. You've twice elected an awful government that has led you into a terrible mess, both financially and geopolitically. When you come back to your senses and elect a government that wants to work with the rest of the world, Canadians will still be here waiting for you. Until then, please don't blame us because we insist on telling you that you have gone down the wrong road.
Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada
MISSING FROM CLAY RISEN'S ARTICLE is a discussion of the possibility that part of the "degree mill" problem may be an excessive reliance on formal academic credentials in evaluating the qualifications of job applicants ("Degree Burns," January 23). It is naive to attach such great importance to dubious pieces of paper in making employment decisions for high-level professional positions in government, industry, medicine, et cetera. It's as if nasa were to hire a new director based principally on an impressive-looking diploma from the Fly-by-Night Online School of Rocket Science--with extra credit awarded for attending fireworks demonstrations--and then questioned this decision only after numerous failed shuttle launches and lost Mars probes suggested something was amiss. Risen implies that what we need is a federal accreditation oversight agency, which would presumably accredit the numerous private accreditation bodies, which themselves accredit schools. Perhaps a better idea would be for employers to pay less attention to formal credentials and more attention to determining applicants' qualifications through a careful process of interviews, auditions, tests, and background checks.
DAVID J. SLATE
This article appeared in the February 20, 2006 issue of the magazine.