Paul Jacob

When ranking the branches of the federal government, “good, better, best” doesn’t quite cut it. Far better an Olbermannian concoction of worse, worser, worst.

But, by logic, the least obnoxious of a bad lot is, still, the superlative “best.” And of the three branches, there is an obvious candidate for that title.

It’s the judiciary.

It’s certainly not Congress. Our federal legislative branch is not merely unpopular, but universally and ethusiastically despised. In the public mind, the House of Representatives represents corruption and self-dealing and a stubborn stupidity about the basics of real life. But rarely, if ever, the public.

The only positive element to our current Congress is that by consistently refusing to act as the first branch of government, as the framers of the Constitution envisioned, it hardly poses a threat to the other branches. But neither does it check those branches.

Instead, Congress increasingly hands away its power and authority to the executive branch to write thousands of powerful regulations to implement and enforce the tens of thousands of pages of vague legislative mandates and assorted gobbledy-gook. Congress’s legislative and linguistic largesse also creates all sorts of tedious legal issues for the judiciary to sort out, boosting the political clout of judges.

But if not Congress, why not the executive branch, beloved by Nixonians then and now?

The question almost answers itself.

The executive was the branch our founders worried about most. America took the first major break from monarchy; the fear of returning to some form of quasi-monarchy was once very real. That fear doesn’t really exist today, of course, just a lot of uneasiness about how doggone hot we frogs find the water.

The ability of families — falling far short of the genius of the Adamses — to erect political dynasties (Bush pater and fils) or nearly so (Clinton pater and mater) suggests that this fear continues to retain some ground in reality.

The executive branch was designed to defend the country and our Constitution, to enforce the laws passed by Congress, unless held unconstitutional by the judicial branch, and to execute government policy that is determined — save for the presidential veto power — wholly by others.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.