Former president Ford warned yesterday that the self-aggrandizing tendencies of the courts and Congress are making the "imperial presidency . . . an imperiled presidency."
Caught between an "assertive Congress" and "a surge of judical power," the president finds himself "hobbled" in the conduct of foreign policy and facing a "deterioration of . . . authority on the domestic front," Ford said.
His comments-more philosophical than political-came in a luncheon address at the Washington Hilton Hotel to the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy research group.
"President Carter has recognized, rightly in my judgement, that the regulatory agencies of the government should join in this important effort," he said "But many of them, such as OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] and EPA [Environment Protection Agency], feel that is is improper for the president to bring pressure to bear upon their decisions."
"We must remind those agencies," Ford said, "that they are not, in fact, a separate and distinct fourth branch go the government. They are still an integral part of the executive branch...and they must act accordingly."
In his comments on the courts, Ford said, "the judiciary intrudes into governmental and private institutions and effects the lives of our citizens in ways undreamt of even 25 years ago...In some areas, entire school systems, prisions and mental institutions...have been brought under the jurisdiction of federal judges."
He blamed the trend on both the "judicial avtivism" of some judges and the tendency of "special-interest groups to organize class-action suits and other forms of litigation in the hope that what they have failed to win at the ballot box, they may achieve through a referendum among the members of the bench."
Ford said he was heartened by indications that "the current Supreme Court appreciates the dangers that could lie ahead and looks skeptically upon the further expansion of judicial power."
But he said he saw signs of similar restraint in Congress. Ford was particularly critical of the increasing use of the "legislative veto," which requires congressional approval of administrative decisions, and of the War Powers Act, giving Congress a veto power on the deployment of U.S. forces abroad.
Both, he said, represent "arbitraty restrictions on the exercise of legitimate executive powers and...a serious weakening of the presidency itself."
The former president also said the Central Intelligence Agency had been so hampered by recent restrictions "that apparently our best sources of intelligence out of Iran are public newspaper stories."