The dawn of the imperial presidency?

I was bouncing around LiveJournal and ran across this quote-of-the-day:

[The President’s] all-purpose incantation of national security as an inherent and absolute Presidential right, whatever the surrounding circumstances, a right to be exercised in secret at Presidential pleasure without accountability to Congress and the people, surely represents an extraordinary violation of public trust. Some of his own people have begun to understand this now, even though [the President] himself thus far has shown not the slightest evidence of comprehension, repentance, or even passing regret. “The key,” [a penitent aide] recently said, “is the effect that the term ‘national security’ had on my judgment. The very words served to block critical analysis. It seemed at least presumptuous if not unpatriotic to inquire into just what the significance of ‘national security’ was.” If [the President] is not impeached, it will be a message from Congress to future Presidents that they can define national security as they wish, share their definition with no one, and do whatever they claim national security requires. It will be difficult for future Congresses to object when future Presidents act upon the powerful precedent [the President] will thus have established.
— Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., May 1974.

(originally posted at; bold emphasis mine.)

Now, Schlesinger was talking about Nixon, but the same argument has been applied to the George W. Bush administration by constitutional scholars and political opponents, who have said the administration has done much to claim powers not allowed to the presidency. In 1974 Congress did its job, and brought Nixon’s deeds to light and drove him from office. But the current Congress has made no such moves, despite the fact that Bush’s misdeeds are even more serious than Nixon’s.

After reading Schlesinger’s quote, I had a little aha! moment. All three of the serious candidates for president in 2008 are senators who have long held presidential ambitions. Only one of all the candidates, including those out of the race, has ever mentioned impeachment of George W. Bush (that would be Dennis Kucinich). Now, I’m not saying senators Clinton, Obama, and McCain are actively working to enhance their own positions when one of them becomes president. I am saying, however, that reining in the president and maintaining the proper checks and balances in federal government don’t appear at the top of their to-do lists. At this juncture, it looks highly unlikely that we’re going to get the balance between the executive and the legislative brances back in whack anytime soon. There’s no way Bush will ever really be called to account for what he’s done while in office.


About songdogmi

I'm a longhaired almost-hippie stuck in the inner suburbs of a major rust-belt metropolis who's thoughtful, creative, and kind of geeky. In exchange for a paycheck I run around in a cubicle maze most days. When I escape, I play music, hang out in coffee houses, dink around on the computer, take naps, and think I should be off in the woods somewhere. Every once in a while I get in my car and drive far, far away, though I've always come back so far.
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