Friday, May 20, 2005
The Imperial Presidency: An Empty Suit
Horse's Ass has become a daily read for me (time to rearrange the blogpool). From a link on Goldy's page to another, I found an article at Chronicles Magazine. This publication has a number of conservative authors but they don't all agree with the current neocon hypnosis. Clyde Wilson is but one example:
We have entered into the stage of imperial decadence in which a clueless inheritor of the throne is a tool of his courtiers, though, like all courtiers, they must occasionally endure an outbreak of petulant self-assertion or manage a tangent of eccentricity by their lord.[Emphasis mine]
...In a blog discussion on the Chronicles website a while back, I was rather severely taken to task by an anonymous correspondent for slighting the accomplishments of President Reagan. For this writer Reagan represents the most valued “presidential legacy” of his lifetime. Set aside that Reagan’s legacy includes a failure to deliver on every promise he made in regard to the internal affairs of the Union. Why do we need a “presidential legacy” to make us feel good? Why should a democratic people have any regard for a president’s legacy other than whether or not he had faithfully executed the laws of the country? My reply was that at this time in our national life it is vitally necessary to desacralize the government by giving up the sentimentality of “presidential legacies.”
How did we get to this state of emperor worship—the need to identify with “our” president, as if he were the father of our one big happy family? It would seem that for millions of Americans now, to criticize “our president” is to commit treason against what they imagine to be a family. Well, the President is not “my president.” He is a rather mediocre and troublesome man who has acheived temporary (let us hope) power through a corrupt and irrational process that required of him neither an admirable character nor proven services to the country. The President is most certainly not “my commander-in-chief.” He is merely during his term of office head of the Armed Forces established by law—that is, he has the responsibility for directing their operations. He is not commander-in-chief of the United States. Constitutionally considered he is not even commander-in-chief of the federal government, which was supposed to be a government of divided powers.
... Beginning certainly with Kennedy, though with intimations at least as early as Teddy Roosevelt, the presidency was absorbed into the corrupt American culture of celebrity. The president is no longer a hero/patriot but a celebrity. When the country was under the most devastating foreign attack in its history, Commander-in-Chief Bush was performing his celebrity routine for elementary school children. The masses today would likely run screaming in fear if confronted with a real hero/patriot as a leader.
Millions of Americans are now unable to make an elementary distinction between society and government. This means that the state apparatus is no longer the servant of society, but that society is merely raw material for the emperor and his retainers.
Powerful stuff, this. And when coupled with the article to which Goldy linked, it makes for a powerful statement about the American electorate.
Yes, the electorate. We are to blame. You and I.
We put these people - from Bush to Frist to DeLay and all their retinue - into office. We believe the vile and bilious B.S. of Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage/Weiner, O'Reilly, Prager and Wilbur. We keep returning to the lies and delusional rantings found at Free Republic, Little Green Footballs, and Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiller. We accept without question the "institutions", the non-profit (except for it's high-profile directors, executives and consultants that play the revolving-door game with government) "think tanks" that produce lies that are translated into talking points that are repeated endlessly and eventually believed. Personal attacks have supplanted logic and debate. We believe what they say, though suppressed common sense tries to be heard behind the noise.
And we wonder why the federal government doesn't address our pressing needs, but instead tries to figure out how to screw the other side.
You and I are to blame. You and I.