With the completely unconstitutional imposition of the DREAM Act and, now, the absurd claim of Executive Privilege regarding the “Fast and Furious” scandal, a lot of conservatives and libertarians are furious with President Obama over his assumption of rather autocratic powers. But I ask everyone to pause for a moment – one has to consider just what sort of government the United States has. To do this, I think it best to refer to an outside observer of proven sympathy for the United States, Winston Churchill:
…The rigid Constitution of the United States, the gigantic scale and strength of its party machinery, the fixed terms for which public officers and representatives are chosen, invest the President with a greater measure of autocratic power that was possessed before the war by the Head of any great State…
Churchill was referring, in that instance, to Woodrow Wilson. Keep in mind the time frame Churchill was using – this was the day of Nicholas II of Russia, Wilhelm II of Germany and Franz Josef of Austria. And yet Churchill was asserting that these three men had, in practice, less autocratic power than was held by Woodrow Wilson. And, he was right. Churchill correctly perceived a truth about the the United States which to this day escapes nearly everyone: the President of the United States, while his term lasts, possesses an immense amount of autocratic power. Boiled down, in our President we have an elected king – limited in real terms only by three things:
1. His term of office.
2. His inability to appropriate funds without Congressional approval.
3. The risk of impeachment.
Lincoln understood this – stating that he would maintain the contest with the South until he died or his term ended. When in 1864 Lincoln looked to be the loser of the Presidential election he was yet determined to win victory between election day and the end of his term (which in those days ended in March, not January). And he could have done it – Congress could have cut off funds for additional military power, but the military power he already had was sufficient and no power in the United States government could have prevented him from ordering Grant to continue, election results be darned.
The real lesson in Obama’s abuse of power is this: always have a great deal of care whom is elected President. Because you’ve got him for four years and while you can limit the amount of money he spends, you can’t really limit what he does with the money he is allowed to spend. Jokingly, someone has written a list of 10 things Romney can do after he takes office in the manner of Obama’s DREAM Act – among them, cease enforcement of various environmental laws and of any tax rate above 18%. It was put out as a joke, but it is also a reality. Suppose Romney did tell the IRS not to prosecute anyone who failed to pay more than 18% of their income as taxes – what could anyone do? Impeach him? Impeachment has only come up three times in American history: with Andrew Johnson it was a GOP witch hunt against a War Democrat; with Nixon it was a Democrat witch hunt against someone they didn’t like; with Clinton we actually had a genuinely impeachable offense but Democrats ensured that it wouldn’t go anywhere. Impeach Obama? It would require the votes of 20 Senate Democrats to do it – short of committing rape or murder live, on television, do you think that there is anything Obama can do which would move 20 Senate Democrats to vote to convict? Get real!
We elect a king every four years and then allow that king one more shot at an additional four years. In office, he is mostly limited by his own conscience and sense of right and wrong. A President who simply does not care about the law (or, as in Obama’s case, understand what a law is) is highly dangerous – as we can see with Obama. For more than two centuries we have been extraordinarily lucky – even with a cad like Clinton or a twisted man like Nixon, there was still a sense of respect for the Constitution and a desire to live up to great predecessors – looming over all was the figure of Washington, who defined what a President is and offered a model for all who came after if they cared at all about the United States. Trouble is, if we get someone who doesn’t care about the United States – who, in a real sense, has nothing but contempt for Washington and the edifice he raised – then we’re in a bad way.
Now there are some practical steps we can take – from re-asserting Congressional power to declare war, to putting more strings on what is done with appropriated money, to insisting that no US ground troops are deployed outside the United States except during time of declared war. These and other measures can hem in a President a bit and ensure that he seeks Congressional cooperation before doing something. But, fundamentally, unless we want to re-write our Constitution in to a parliamentary abomination (ie, where the head of government is the leader of the House of Representatives and the President is a mere figurehead), then we simply have to ensure that when we elect a person to the Presidency that we are sure he or she is fit for the job. King Obama is the first man we’ve elected who is entirely unfit by temperment, training and education for the Presidency – and it shows in the way he is (deliberately or not is immaterial) wrecking the manner of American government.
So, rather than whine about what Obama has done, let us set to work with a will to oust him on November 6th and then lay the lesson to heart: never be fooled again.