CARTER'S TRUE LEGACY
By Mike Blair
Exclusive to The SPOTLIGHT
Washington, DC -- While many frown when they think of the high interest
rates, U.S. hostages held abroad and foreign policy giveaways associated
with the Carter administration, former President Jimmy Carter's true
may be even more shocking than imagined.
Carter seemingly ran an end run around a law passed in the wake of
Watergate and signed before Carter took office, which limited White House
powers, when he formed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA was based on Richard Nixon's Executive Order (EO) 11490.
The legislation contained nearly 200,000 words on 32 pages. It
pertained to every executive order ever issued unless specifically
When Carter took office, EO 11490 was incorporated into a new order
allowing a president to assume dictatorial powers during any self-
proclaimed "emergency" situation; these powers will remain with
until specifically revoked by Congress.
Some senators thought they had successfully squashed the chief
executive's "national emergency" powers more than 10 years ago,
bipartisan congressional committee pushed the National Emergencies Act
Until September 14, 1976, the nation's chief executive officer was
empowered by more than 470 special statues to "seize property,
control the means of production, seize commodities, institute martial law,
seize and control all transportation and communication, regulate the
operation of private enterprise, restrict travel and, in a host of other
ways, control the lives of Americans," then-Sen. Frank Church
said in the _Congressional Record_.
The National Emergencies Act, which took effect in 1978, was supposed
to prevent the nation from turning into a potential dictatorship.
Presidents had used their "emergency" powers at least four times
previous 45 years.
The president held this little-known sway over citizens through
executive orders, which he could write into law in a moment's notice. No
group, neither elected officials, business leaders, nor private citizens,
had the power to void these laws.
Franklin Roosevelt invoked a national emergency in 1933 to deal with
the banking crisis, and Harry Truman responded to the Korean War with an
emergency act in 1950.
Richard Nixon declared a pair of crises. In March 1970 he declared a
national emergency to deal with the post office strike. The Nixon White
House was at it again 16 months later when it implemented currency
restriction in August of 1971 in order to control foreign trade.
Then, in 1976, after two years of public hearings and committee
meetings, a bipartisan special congressional Committee on Emergency Powers
pushed legislation to wrestle power from the White House.
The National Emergencies Act became law on September 14, 1978,.
Senators used the second anniversary of their law to pat each other on the
back -- through the _Congressional Record_ -- and to attempt to establish
Congress's role in national security.
"The Congress must never again trade away its responsibilities in
name of national emergency," Church said. "Let that be one of
learned from the investigation completed, the passage of the National
Emergencies Act and the termination today of emergency powers."
Church's warning fell on deaf ears. Less than one year later,
President Jimmy Carter ordered into being an entire apparatus --
unprecedented in American history -- designed to seize and exercise all
political, economic and military power in the United States.
Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush or any future president could
establish himself as total dictator.
Carter did this with an executive order -- EO 12148.
An executive order has never been defined by Congress. The validity
of such directives has been questioned many times, but there has never
a decision made by the courts or Congress on how far-reaching executive
orders may be.
Through existing executive orders it is possible for one person to
ignore the Constitution, Congress and the will of the American people. A
complete dictatorship can be imposed under the veil of law.
A declaration by the president of the existence of a "national
emergency" has always stopped short of martial law, although the
has that prerogative. Undoubtedly it would be exercised in the event of an
attack on the United States.
An attempt was made to incorporate all the "national
into one law under Nixon. However, in the wake of the Watergate scandal,
he was unable to pull off the presidential coup.
Carter, a Trilateralist, did.
Reproduced with permission from a special supplement to _The
May 25, 1992. This text may be freely reproduced provided acknowledgement
to The Spotlight appears, including this address:
300 Independence Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20003