Reason Magazine had a great article in it a few issues ago. “The Cult of the Presidency Who can we blame for the radical expansion of executive power? Look no further than you and me.” You should read the whole thing, but I wanna mention a few parts here.
“I ain’t running for preacher,” Republican presidential candidate Phil Gramm snarled to religious right activists in 1995 when they urged him to run a campaign stressing moral themes. Several months later, despite Gramm’s fund raising prowess, the Texas conservative finished a desultory fifth place in the Iowa caucuses and quickly dropped out of the race. Since then, few candidates have made Gramm’s mistake. Serious contenders for the office recognize that the role and scope of the modern presidency cannot be so narrowly confined. Today’s candidates are running enthusiastically for national preacher—and much else besides.
In the revival tent atmosphere of Barack Obama’s campaign, the preferred hosanna of hope is “Yes we can!” We can, the Democratic front-runner promises, not only create “a new kind of politics” but “transform this country,” “change the world,” and even “create a Kingdom right here on earth.” With the presidency, all things are possible.
How true this is, and it shows what is wrong with our whole concept of “The President”. People expect him to be a preacher, a source of inspiration, a miracle worker. They assign superhuman power to the President. Uncountable numbers of people think for example that the President “controls the economy.” This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. “The economy” is comprised of the actions of every person and business entity in the U.S. and the input/output of every country in which we engage in some form of economic trade with. The President does not control this. Only a stupid person could hold such an idea in her head.
The chief executive of the United States is no longer a mere constitutional officer charged with faithful execution of the laws. He is a soul nourisher, a hope giver, a living American talisman against hurricanes, terrorism, economic downturns, and spiritual malaise. He—or she—is the one who answers the phone at 3 a.m. to keep our children safe from harm. The modern president is America’s shrink, a social worker, our very own national talk show host. He’s also the Supreme Warlord of the Earth.
Yup, there it is. And who made the President into this? You dumb-asses. That’s who. You constant need to be taken care of, provided for, coddled, babied. You constant whining for someone to change your underwear for you and wipe your ass. That’s how we got here.
A little-remembered vignette from the 1992 presidential race underscores how far we’ve traveled from the Framers’ unassuming “chief magistrate”—and how infantile our politics have become along the way. The scene was the campaign’s second televised debate, held in Richmond, Virginia; the format, a horrid Oprah-style arrangement in which a hand-picked audience of allegedly normal Americans got to lob questions at the candidates, who were perched on stools, trying to look warm and approachable. Up from the crowd popped a ponytailed social worker named Denton Walthall, who demanded to know what George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and H. Ross Perot were going to do for us.“The focus of my work as a domestic mediator is meeting the needs of the children that I work with…and not the wants of their parents,” Walthall said. “And I ask the three of you, how can we, as symbolically the children of the future president, expect the three of you to meet our needs, the needs in housing and in crime and you name it.”
One wonders how some of the more irascible presidents of old would have reacted at the sight of a grown man burbling about childish necessities to the prospective national father. Yet under the hot lights of the 1992 campaign, Ross Perot said he’d cross his heart and take Walthall’s pledge to meet America’s infantile needs, whatever those were. Bill Clinton, being Bill Clinton, pandered. And Bush 41 spluttered through his answer thusly:
“I mean I—I think, in general, let’s talk about these—let’s talk about these issues; let’s talk about the programs, but in the presidency a lot goes into it. Caring is…that’s not particularly specific; strength goes into it, that’s not specific; standing up against aggression, that’s not specific in terms of a program. So I, in principle, I’ll take your point and think we ought to discuss child care—or whatever else it is.” That wasn’t just an example of the Bush family’s famous locution problems; it’s hard not to stammer when faced with the limitless and bewildering demands the public places on the presidency.
Somebody fucking kill me. This fucking long-haired freak-ass social worker piece of shit should have been put against a wall and shot. Instead three supposedly grown men running for President got down on their knees and kissed his hairy hippie ass.
Here is how I would have answered the question:
“What you can expect from me, as your symbolic father, is a nice ass whipping. I don’t mean a little swat where your butt turns pink for a few moments. No, I mean a good ass beating until blood runs down your legs. You see, so long as you live under my roof and I’m the one filling your needs then you are going to live by my rules. I’m going to take you money and property, physically and emotionally abuse you and fuck your daughters if they are good looking. When you grow up and move out, that is to say, when you become capable of providing for yourself, then I will leave you alone. But you can come home to visit every April 15th. I’m still going to need your money to care for the children who haven’t left home yet.”
Die hippie! Die!
To understand is not to excuse: No president should have the powers President Bush has sought and seized during the last seven years. But after 9/11 and Katrina, what rationally self-interested chief executive would hesitate to centralize power in anticipation of crisis? That pressure would be hard to resist, even for a president devoted to the Constitution and respectful of the limited role the office was supposed to play in our system of government.
In the current presidential race, none of the major-party candidates comes close to fitting that description. Aside from the issue of torture, there’s very little daylight between John McCain and George W. Bush on matters of executive power. For her part, Hillary Clinton claims she played a key role in her husband’s undeclared war against Serbia in 1999. “I urged him to bomb,” she told Talk magazine that year. In 2003 she told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “I’m a strong believer in executive authority. I wish that, when my husband was president, people in Congress had been more willing to recognize presidential authority.”
Barack Obama has done more than any candidate in memory to boost expectations for the office, which were extraordinarily high to begin with. Obama’s stated positions on civil liberties may be preferable to McCain’s, but would it matter? If and when a car bomb goes off somewhere in America, would a President Obama be able to resist resorting to warrantless wiretapping, undeclared wars, and the Bush theory of unrestrained executive power? As a Democrat without military experience, publicly perceived as weak on national security, he’d have much more to prove.
“I urged him to bomb”? Was this before or after the sniper fire?
No matter how you look at it, thanks to you spineless, needy, pussyfied citizens out there we are all fucked.
Read the whole thing at: