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October 18, 2009

New Tomdispatch


Presidential Power Grows
Will You Love Every Future President?

By David Swanson

Presidential power has been on a pathway of expansion beyond what the Constitution outlined, and what a government of, by, and for the people requires, since George Washington was president. That expansion, which hit the highway after World War II, got a turbo boost during the co-presidency of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Some of the new powers that those two stole from Congress, the courts, the states, and us the people are being abused less severely in this new age of Obama; others, more so; but far more crucially, in a pattern followed by recent presidencies, all are being maintained, if not expanded, and thus more firmly cemented into place for future presidents to use. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, you are likely to strongly oppose some major decisions of some future presidents. So it shouldn't be hard to envision some pretty undesirable consequences that might flow from presidential power that increasingly approaches the absolute.

Our television news and newspapers don't seem terribly interested in this story, despite scraping its surface with reports on the many "czars" Obama has appointed or lectures on the importance of renewing, or only marginally amending, the PATRIOT Act. And Congress seems, if possible, even less interested. That's not so surprising, given that we've replaced the three branches of government with the two parties, so that at any given time roughly half the members of Congress take as their leader a president who is theoretically supposed to execute the will of Congress. And the other half usually obey their party's "leaders" in Congress, whose primary interest is in electing one of their own as the next president. Both parties continue to value presidential power itself either for its uses in the present, or for when their candidate is elected. Everyone wants to inherit the imperial presidency, not constrain it.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at October 18, 2009 03:41 PM

If only he could see US now, Ben Franklin WOULD be pissed.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 18, 2009 05:38 PM

Mike Meyer:

Ben Franklin would STILL be pissed, because he was pissed then too. He just new how to have a good time anyway. He was definitely the funniest inventor turned political thinker that I know of. Read his letter on the reasons to marry an older woman sometime when you're bored.

As for Swanson's article, it seems good to me. It's much better than that bunch of lying crap Woodward published in the Post today. (What is it with Woodward doing the last interview with every famous person before he dies? Did they teach Woodward that in Naval Intelligence?)

Here's the tiny little qualification people might remember about Swanson's article: Presidential Power = Executive Power, not the personal power of the President. Those are different things. Presidential Power is much more than the power of the person elected as President, a lesson almost universally learned by Presidents when they try to be independent thinkers and especially if they get soft-headed and try to do something good. The National Security State likes Presidents who amplify Presidential Power, which is effectively the power of the National Security State. On the other hand, Presidents who try to lessen Presidential Power don't usually get much cooperation with that, especially if they have some dumb idea about peace or what's good for humanity or something like that.

Posted by: N E at October 18, 2009 09:43 PM