The modern institution of the presidency is the primary political evil
Americans face, and the cause of nearly all our woes. It squanders the
national wealth and starts unjust wars against foreign peoples that have
never done us any harm. It wrecks our families, tramples on our rights,
invades our communities, and spies on our bank accounts. It skews the culture
toward decadence and trash. It tells lie after lie. Teachers used to tell
school kids that anyone can be president. This is like saying anyone can go
to Hell. It's not an inspiration; it's a threat.
The presidency – by which I mean the executive State – is the sum
total of American tyranny. The other branches of government, including the
presidentially appointed Supreme Court, are mere adjuncts. The presidency
insists on complete devotion and humble submission to its dictates, even
while it steals the products of our labor and drives us into economic ruin.
It centralizes all power unto itself, and crowds out all competing centers of
power in society, including the church, the family, business, charity, and
the community. I'll go further. The US presidency is the world's leading
evil. It is the chief mischief-maker in every part of the globe, the leading
wrecker of nations, the usurer behind Third-World debt, the bailer-out of
corrupt governments, the hand in many dictatorial gloves, the sponsor and
sustainer of the New World Order, of wars, interstate and civil, of famine
and disease. To see the evils caused by the presidency, look no further than
Iraq or Serbia, where the lives of innocents were snuffed out in pointless
wars, where bombing was designed to destroy civilian infrastructure and cause
disease, and where women, children, and the aged have been denied essential
food and medicine because of a cruel embargo. Look at the human toll taken by
the presidency, from Dresden and Hiroshima to Waco and Ruby Ridge, and you
see a prime practitioner of murder by government.
Today, the president is called the leader of the world's only
superpower, the "world's indispensable nation," which is reason
enough to have him deposed. A world with any superpower at all is a world
where no freedoms are safe. But by invoking this title, the presidency
attempts to keep our attention focused on foreign affairs. It is a
diversionary tactic designed to keep us from noticing the oppressive rule it
imposes right here in the United States.
As the presidency assumes ever more power unto itself, it becomes less
and less accountable and more and more tyrannical. These days, when we say
the federal government, what we really mean is the presidency. When we say,
national priorities, we really mean what the presidency wants. When we say
national culture, we mean what the presidency funds and imposes.
The presidency is presumed to be the embodiment of Rousseau's general
will, with far more power than any monarch or head of state in pre-modern
societies. The US presidency is the apex of the world's biggest and most
powerful government and of the most expansive empire in world history. As
such, the presidency represents the opposite of freedom. It is what stands
between us and our goal of restoring our ancient rights.
And let me be clear: I'm not talking about any particular inhabitant
of the White House. I'm talking about the institution itself, and the
millions of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats who are its acolytes. Look
through the US government manual, which breaks down the federal establishment
into its three branches. What you actually see is the presidential trunk, its
Supreme Court stick, and its Congressional twig. Practically everything we
think of as federal – save the Library of Congress – operates under the aegis
of the executive.
This is why the governing elites – and especially the foreign policy
elites – are so intent on maintaining public respect for the office, and why
they seek to give it the aura of holiness. For example, after Watergate, they
briefly panicked and worried that they had gone too far. They might have
discredited the democratic autocracy. And to some extent they did. But the
elites were not stupid; they were careful to insist that the Watergate
controversy was not about the presidency as such, but only about Nixon the
man. That's why it became necessary to separate the two. How? By keeping the
focus on Nixon, making a devil out of him, and reveling in the details of his
personal life, his difficulties with his mother, his supposed pathologies, etc.
Of course, this didn't entirely work. Americans took from Watergate
the lesson that presidents will lie to you. This should be the first lesson
of any civics course, of course, and the first rule of thumb in understanding
the affairs of government. But notice that after Nixon died, he too was
elevated to godlike status. None other than Bill Clinton served as high
priest of the cult of president-worship on that occasion. He did everything
but sacrifice a white bull at the temple of the White House.
The presidency recovered most of its sacramental character during the
Reagan years. How wonderful, for the sake of our liberties, that Clinton has
revived the great American tradition of scorning tyrants. In some ways, he is
the best president a freedom lover can hope for. Of course, someday, Clinton
too will ascend to the clouds, and enter the pantheon of the great leaders of
the free world.
The libraries are filled with shelf after shelf of treatises on the
American presidency. Save yourself some time, and don't bother with them.
Virtually all tell the same hagiographic story. Whether written by liberals
or conservatives, they serve up the identical Whiggish pap: the history of
the presidency is the story of a great and glorious institution. It was
opposed early on, and viciously so, by the anti-federalists, and later, even
more viciously, by Southern Confederates. But it has been heroically
championed by every respectable person since the beginning of the republic.
The office of the presidency, the conventional wisdom continues, has
changed not at all in substance, but has grown in stature, responsibility,
and importance, to fulfill its unique mission on earth. As the duties of the
office have grown, so has the greatness of the men who inhabit it. Each
stands on the shoulders of his forerunners, and, inspired by their vision and
decisiveness, goes on to make his own contribution to the ever-expanding
magisterium of presidential laws, executive orders, and national security
When there is a low ebb in the accumulation
of power, it is seen as the fault of the individual and not the office. Thus
the so-called postage-stamp presidents between Lincoln and Wilson are to be
faulted for not following the glorious example set by Abe. They had a vast
reservoir of power, but were mysteriously reluctant to use it. Fortunately
that situation was resolved, by Wilson especially, and we moved onward and
upward into the light of the present day. And every one of these books ends
with the same conclusion: the US presidency has served us well.
The hagiographers do admit one failing of the American presidency. It
is almost too big an office for one man, and too much a burden to bear. The
American people have come to expect too much from the president. We are
unrealistic to think that one man can do it all. But that's all the more
reason to respect and worship the man who agrees to take it on, and why all
enlightened people must cut him some slack.
The analogy that comes to mind is the official history of the popes.
In its infancy, the papacy was less formal, but its power and position were
never in question. As the years went on and doctrine developed, so too did
the burdens of office. Each pope inherited the wisdom of his forbears, and
led the Church into fulfilling its mission more effectively.
But let's be clear about this. The church has never claimed that the
papacy was the product of human effort; its spiritual character is a
consequence of a divine, not human, act. And even the official history admits
the struggles with anti-popes and Borgia popes. Catholics believe the
institution was founded by Christ, and is guided by the Holy Spirit, but the
pope can only invoke that guidance in the most narrow and rare circumstances.
Otherwise, he is all too fallible. And that is why, although allegedly an
absolute monarch, he is actually bound by the rule of law.
The presidency is seemingly bound by law, but in practice it can do
just about anything it pleases. It can order up troops anywhere in the world,
just as Clinton bragged in his acceptance speech at the Democratic
convention. It can plow up a religious community in Texas and bury its
members because they got on somebody's nerves at the Justice Department. It
can tap our phones, read our mail, watch our bank accounts, and tell us what
we can and cannot eat, drink, and smoke.
The presidency can break up businesses, shut down airlines, void
drilling leases, bribe foreign heads of state or arrest them and try them in
kangaroo courts, nationalize land, engage in germ warfare, firebomb crops in
Colombia, overthrow any government anywhere, erect tariffs, round up and
discredit any public or private assembly it chooses, grab our guns, tax our
incomes and our inheritances, steal our land, centrally plan the national and
world economy, and impose embargoes on anything anytime. No prince or pope
ever had this ability.
But leave all that aside and consider this nightmare. The presidency
has the power to bring about a nuclear holocaust with the push of a button.
On his own initiative, the president can destroy the human race. One man can
wipe out life on earth. Talk about playing God. This is a grotesque evil. And
the White House claims it is not a tyranny? If the power to destroy the
entire world isn't tyrannical, I don't know what is. Why do we put up with
this? Why do we allow it? Why isn't this power immediately stripped from him?
What prevents fundamental challenge to this
monstrous power is precisely the quasi-religious trappings of the presidency,
which we again had to suffer through last January. One man who saw the
religious significance of the presidency, and denounced it in 1973, was –
surprisingly enough – Michael Novak. His study, Choosing Our King: Powerful
Symbols in Presidential Politics, is
one of the few dissenting books on the subject. It was reissued last year as
– not surprisingly – Choosing Our Presidents: Symbols of Political
Leadership, with a new introduction repudiating the best parts of the
Of course, none of the conventional bilge accords with reality. The US
president is the worst outgrowth of a badly flawed Constitution, imposed in a
sort of coup against the Articles of Confederation. Even from the beginning,
the presidency was accorded too much power. Indeed, an honest history would
have to admit that the presidency has always been an instrument of
oppression, from the Whisky Rebellion to the War on Tobacco.
The presidency has systematically stolen the liberty won through the
secession from Britain. From Jackson and Lincoln to McKinley and Roosevelt
Junior, from Wilson and FDR to Truman and Kennedy, from Nixon and Reagan to
Bush and Clinton, it has been the means by which our rights to liberty,
property, and self-government have been suppressed.
I can count on one hand the actions of presidents that actually
favored the true American cause, meaning liberty. The overwhelming history of
the presidency is a tale of overthrown rights and liberties, and the erection
of despotism in their stead.
Each president has tended to be worse than the last, especially in
this century. Lately, in terms of the powers they assumed and the dictates
they imposed, Kennedy was worse than Eisenhower, Johnson was worse than
Kennedy, Nixon was worse than Johnson, Carter was worse than Nixon, and
Reagan – who doubled the national budget and permanently entrenched the
warfare State – was worse than Carter. The same is true of Bush and Clinton.
Every budget is bigger and the powers exercised more egregious. Each new
brutal action breaks another taboo and establishes a new precedent that gives
the next occupant of the White House more leeway.
Looking back through American history, we can see the few exceptions
to this rule. Washington wrote an eloquent farewell address, laying out the
proper American trade and foreign policy. Jefferson's revolution of 1800 was
a great thing. But was it really a freer country after his term than before?
That's a tough case to make. Andrew Jackson abolished the central bank, but his
real legacy was democratic centralism and weakened states' rights.
Andrew Johnson loosened the military dictatorship fastened on the
South after it was conquered. But it is not hard to make the country freer
when it had become totalitarian under the previous president's rule. Of
course, Lincoln's bloody autocracy survives as the model of presidential
James Buchanan made a great statement on behalf of the right of
revolution. Grant restored the gold standard. Harding denounced US
imperialism in Haiti. But overall, my favorite president is William Henry
Harrison. He keeled over shortly after his inauguration.
There have been four huge surveys taken of historians' views on the
presidents: in 1948, in 1962, in 1970, and in 1983. Historians were asked to
rank presidents as Great, Near Great, Average, Below Average, and Failure. In
every case, number one is Lincoln, the mass murderer and military dictator
who is the real father of the present nation. His term was a model of every
despot's dream: spending money without Congressional approval, declaring
martial law, arbitrarily arresting thousands and holding them without trial,
suppressing free speech and the free press, handing out lucrative war
contracts to his cronies, raising taxes, inflating the currency, and killing
hundreds of thousands for the crime of desiring self-government. These are
just the sort of actions historians love.
The number-two winner in these competitions is FDR. Moreover, Wilson
and Jackson are always in the top five. The bottom two in
every case are Grant and Harding. None bothered to rate William Henry
What does greatness in the presidency mean? It means waging war,
crushing liberties, imposing socialism, issuing
dictates, browbeating and ignoring Congress, appointing despotic judges,
expanding the domestic and global empire, and generally trying his best to be
an all-round enemy of freedom. It means saying with Lincoln, "I have a
right to take any measure which may best subdue the enemy."
The key to winning the respect of historians is to do these things.
All aspirants to this vile office know this. It's what they seek. They long
for crisis and power, to be bullies in the pulpit, to be the dictators they
are in their hearts. They want, at all costs, to avoid the fate of being
another "postage-stamp president." Madison said no man with power
deserves to be trusted. Neither should we trust any man who seeks the power
that the presidency offers.
Accordingly, it is all well and good that conservatives have worked to
discredit the current occupant of the White House. Call him a cheat and a
double-dealer if you want. Call him a tyrant too. But we must go further. The
answer to restoring republican freedom has nothing to do with replacing
Clinton with Lott or Kemp or Forbes or Buchanan. The structure of the
presidency, and the religious aura that surrounds it, must be destroyed. The
man is merely a passing occupant of the Holy Chair of St. Abraham. It is the
chair itself that must be reduced to kindling.
It was never the intention of the majority of framers to create the
mess we have, of course. After the war for independence, the Articles of
Confederation had no chief executive. Its decisions were made by a
five-member Confederation. The Confederation had no power to tax. All its
decisions required the agreement of 9 of the 13 states. That is the way it
Most of the delegates to the unfortunate Philadelphia convention hated
executive power. They had severely restricted the governors of their states
after their bitter experience with the colonial governors. The new governors
had no veto, and no power over the legislatures.
Forrest McDonald reports that one-quarter of the delegates to the convention
wanted a plural executive, based loosely on the Articles model. But those who
planned the convention – including Morris, Washington, and Hamilton – wanted
a single, strong executive, and they out-maneuvered the various strains of
But listen to how they did it. The people of the several states and
their representatives were suspicious that Hamilton wanted to create a
monarchy. Now, there's much mythology surrounding this point. It's not that
the anti-federalists and the popular will opposed some guy strutting around
in a crown. It was not monarchy as such they opposed, but the power the king
When they said they didn't want a monarch, they meant they didn't want
a King George, they didn't want a tyrant, a despot,
an autocrat, an executive. It was the despotic end they feared, and not the
Indeed, formally, the Constitution gives few powers to the president,
and few duties, most of them subject to approval by the legislature. The most
important provision regarding the presidency is that the holder of the office
can be impeached. It was to be a threat constantly hanging over his head. It
was, most framers thought, to be threatened often and used against any
president who dared gather more power unto himself than the Constitution
In one famous outburst, Hamilton was forced to defend himself against
the charge that the new office of the presidency was a monarchy in disguise.
He explained the difference between a monarch and a president. But as you
listen to this, think about the present executive. Ask yourself whether he
resembles the thing Hamilton claimed to have created in the office of the
presidency, or whether we have the tyrant he claimed to be repudiating.
Among other points, Hamilton said in "Federalist 69":
The President of the United States would be liable to be impeached, tried,
and, upon conviction . . . removed from office; and would afterwards be
liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law. The
person of the king of Great Britain is sacred and inviolable; there is no
constitutional tribunal to which he is amenable; no punishment to which he
can be subjected. . . .
The President will have only the occasional command of such part of
the militia of the nation as by legislative provision may be called into the
actual service of the Union. . . .
[The power] of the British king extends to the declaring of war and to
the raising and regulating of fleets and armies – all which, by the
Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature. . . .
The President is to have power, with the advice and consent of the
Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the senators present concur.
The king of Great Britain is the sole and absolute representative of the
nation in all foreign transactions. He can of his own accord make treaties of
peace, commerce, alliance, and of every other description. . . .
The President is to nominate and, with the advice and consent of the
Senate, to appoint ambassadors and other public ministers. . . . The king of
Great Britain is emphatically and truly styled the fountain of honor. He not
only appoints to all offices, but can create offices. He can confer titles of
nobility at pleasure . . . and . . . [even] make denizens of aliens. . . .
[The President] can prescribe no rules concerning the commerce or
currency of the nation; [the king] is in several respects the arbiter of
commerce, and in this capacity can establish markets and fairs, can regulate
weights and measures, can lay embargoes for a limited time, can coin money. .
What answer shall we give to those who would persuade us that things
so unlike resemble each other?
Well, we can debate all day whether Hamilton was naïve about the
imperial office he was in fact creating, or whether he was a despicable liar.
But the fact remains that in his writings, despite his reputation as a backer
of the exalted presidency, he is by today's standards a Congressional
For that matter, and in comparison with today's presidency, so was the
Most historians agree that there would have been no presidency apart
from George Washington, who was trusted by the people as a true gentleman,
and was presumed to understand what the American revolution was all about.
But he got off track by attempting to suppress the Whisky Rebellion, although
he at least acknowledged that his actions went beyond the strict letter of
the Constitution. But though the presidency quickly spun out of control, at
its antebellum worst it had nothing in common with today's executive State.
In those days, you could live your life and never even notice that the
presidency existed. You had no contact with it. Most people couldn't vote
anyway, thank goodness, and you didn't have to, but certain rights and
freedoms were guaranteed regardless of whoever took hold of this – by today's
standards – largely ceremonial position. The presidency couldn't tax you,
draft you, or regulate your trade. It couldn't inflate your money, steal your
kids, or impose itself on your community. From the standpoint of the average
American, the presidency was almost invisible.
Listen to what de Tocqueville observed in 1831:
The President is . . . the executor of the laws; but he does not
really cooperate in making them, since the refusal of his assent does not
prevent their passage. He is not, therefore, a part of the sovereign power,
but only its agent. . . . The president is placed beside the legislature like
an inferior and dependent power. . . .
The office of president of the United States is temporary, limited,
and subordinate. . . . [W]hen he is at the head of government, he has but
little power, little wealth, and little glory to share among his friends; and
his influence in the state is too small for the success or the ruin of a
faction to depend upon his elevation to power. . . . The influence which the President
exercises on public business is no doubt feeble and indirect.
Thirty years later, all this would be destroyed by Lincoln, who
fundamentally changed the nature of the government, as even his apologists
admit. He became a Caesar, in complete contradiction to most of the framers'
intentions. As Acton said, he abolished the primary contribution that America
had made to the world, the principle of federalism. But that is an old story.
Less well known is how Wilson revived Lincoln's dictatorial predilections,
and added to them an even more millennial cast. Moreover, this was his
intention before he was elected. In 1908, while still president of Princeton,
he wrote a small book entitled the President of the United States. It
was a paean to the imperial presidency, and might as well have been the bible
of every president who followed him. He went beyond Lincoln, who praised the
exercise of power. Wilson longed for a Presidential Messiah to deliver the
There can be no successful government, without
leadership or without the intimate, almost instinctive, coordination of the
organs of life and action. . . . We have grown more and more from generation
to generation to look to the President as the unifying force in our complex
system. . . . To do so is not inconsistent with the actual provisions of the
Constitution; it is only inconsistent with a very mechanical theory of its
meaning and intention.
The president must be a man who understands his own
day and the needs of the country, and who has the personality and the
initiative to enforce his views both upon the people and upon Congress.
. . . He is not so much part of its organization as
its vital link of connection with the thinking nation . . . he is also the
political leader of the nation. . . . The nation as a whole has chosen him. .
. . Let him once win the admiration and confidence of the country, and no
other single force can withstand him, no combination of forces will easily
overpower him. His position takes the imagination of the country. He is the
representative of no constituency, but of the whole people . . . the country
never feels the zest of action so much as when its
President is of such insight and caliber. Its instinct is for unified action,
and it craves a single leader. . . .
The President is at liberty, both in law and
conscience, to be as big a man as he can. His capacity will set the limit . .
. he is the only spokesman of the whole people. [Finally, Presidents should
regard] themselves as less and less executive officers and more and more
directors of affairs and leaders of the nation – men of counsel and of the
sort of action that makes for enlightenment.
This is not a theory of the presidency. It is the hope for a new
messiah. That indeed is what the presidency has come to. But any man who
accepts this view is not a free man. He is not a man who understands what
constitutes civilized life. The man who accepts what Wilson calls for is an
apostle of the total State and a defender of collectivism and despotism.
Conservatives used to understand this. In the last century, all the
great political philosophers – men like John Randolph and John Taylor and
John C. Calhoun – did. In this century, the right was born in reaction to the
imperial presidency. Men like Albert Jay Nock, Garet Garrett, John T. Flynn,
and Felix Morley called the FDR presidency what it was: a US version of the
dictatorships that arose in Russia and Germany, and a profound evil draining
away the very life of the nation. They understood that FDR had brought both the
Congress and the Supreme Court under his control, for purposes of power,
national socialism, and war. He shredded what was left of the Constitution,
and set the stage for all the consolidation that followed. Later presidents
were free to nationalize the public schools, administer the economy according
to the dictates of crackpot Keynesian economists, tell us who we must and who
we must not associate with, nationalize the police function, and run an
egalitarian regime that extols nondiscrimination as the sole moral tenet,
when it is clearly not a moral tenet at all. Later conservatives like James
Burnham, Wilmoore Kendall, and Robert Nisbet, understood this point too.
Yet who do modern conservatives extol? Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR.
Reagan spoke of them as gods and models, and so did Bush and Gingrich. In the
1980s, we were told that Congress was the imperial branch of government
because Tip O'Neill had a few questions about Reagan's tax-and-spend military
buildup, and his strategy for fostering global warfare while managing world
affairs through the CIA. All this was bolstered by books by Harvey Mansfield,
Terry Eastland, and dozens of other neoconservatives who pretended to provide
some justification for presidential supremacy and its exercise of global rule.
More recently even Pat Buchanan repeated the "Ask not . . . "
admonition of John F. Kennedy, that we should live
to serve the central government and its organizing principle, the presidency.
What the neocon logic comes down to is this: The US has a moral
responsibility to run the world. But the citizens are too stupid to
understand this. That's why we can't use democratic institutions like
Congress in this ambition. We must use the executive power of the presidency.
It must have total control over foreign affairs, and never bow to
Congressional carping. Once this point is conceded, the game is over. The
demands of a centralized and all-powerful presidency and its interventionist
foreign policy are ideologically reinforcing. One needs the other. If the
presidency is supreme in global affairs, it will be supreme in domestic
affairs. If it is supreme at home, there will be no states' rights, no
absolute property rights, no true liberty from
government oppression. The continued centralization of government in the
presidency represents the end of America and its civilization.
A key part of the theory of presidential supremacy in foreign affairs
is the idea that politics stops at the water's edge. If you believe that, you
have given up everything. It means that foreign affairs will continue to be
the last refuge of an omnipotent scoundrel. If a president can count on the
fact that he won't be criticized so long as he is running a war, he will run
more of them. So long as he is running wars, government at home cannot be
cut. As Felix Morley said, "Politics can stop at the water's edge only
when policies stop at the water's edge."
Sadly, the Congress for the most part cares nothing about foreign
policy. In that, it reflects the attitude of the American voter. The
exception is the handful of Congressmen who do speak about foreign issues,
usually at the behest of the State Department, the CIA, the Pentagon, and the
increasingly global FBI. Such men are mere adjuncts of presidential power.
In fact, it is the obligation of every patriot not only to denounce a
president's actions at home, but to question, harass, and seek to rein in the
presidency when it has sent troops abroad. That is when the watchful eye of
the citizenry is most important. If we hold our tongues under some mistaken
notion of patriotism, we surrender what remains of our freedoms. Yet during
the Gulf War, even those who had courageously opposed this intervention in
advance mouthed the old clichés about politics and the water's edge and
"supporting the troops" when the presidency started massacring
Iraqis. Will the same happen when the troops are sent to China, a country
without a single aircraft carrier, in retaliation for some trumped-up
incident in the tradition of the Maine, the Lusitania, Pearl
Harbor, and the Gulf of Tonkin?
If there is ever a time to get behind a president, it is when he
withdraws from the world, stops wars, and brings the troops home. If there is
ever a time to trip him up, question his leadership, and denounce his
usurpations, it is when he does the opposite. A bipartisan foreign policy is
a Napoleonic foreign policy, and the opposite of that prescribed by
Washington in his farewell address.
In the midst of America's war against Britain in 1812, John Randolph
wrote an open letter to his Virginia constituents, pleading with them not to
support the war, and promising them he would not, for he knew where war led:
to presidential dictatorship: "If you and your posterity are to become
hewers of wood and drawers of water to the modern Pharaoh, it shall not be
for the want of my best exertions to rescue you from cruel and abject
Sixty years ago all conservatives would have agreed with him. But the
neoconservative onslaught has purged conservatives of their instinctive
suspicions of presidential power.
By the time 1994 had come around, conservatives had been thoroughly
indoctrinated in the theory that Congress was out of control, and that the
executive branch needed more power. The leadership of the 104th Congress –
dominated to a man by neocons and presidential supremacists – bamboozled the
freshmen into pushing for three executive-enhancing measures.
In one of the Congress's first actions, it made itself subject to the
oppressive civil rights and labor laws that the Executive enforced against
the rest of the nation. This was incredibly stupid. The Congress was exempted
from these for a reason. It prevented the Executive from using its own
regulatory agencies to lord it over Congress. By making itself subject to
these laws, Congress willingly submitted itself to implicit and explicit
domination by the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, and the
EEOC. It imposed quotas and political correctness on itself, while any
dissenters from the presidential line suddenly faced the threat of
investigation and prosecution by those they were attempting to rein in. The
imposition of these laws against Congress is a clear violation of the
separation of powers. But it would not be the last time that this Congress
made this mistake. It also passed the line-item veto, another violation of
the separation of powers. The theory was that the president would strike out
pork, pork being defined as property taken by taxation and redistributed to
special interests. But since pork is the entirety of the federal government's
$1.7 trillion budget, this has given the president wide latitude over
Congress. It takes away from Congress the right to control the purse strings.
Also part of the Contract with America was term limits for Congress.
This would represent a severe diminution of Congressional power with respect
to the presidency. After all, it would not mean term limits for the permanent
bureaucracy or for federal judges, but only for the one branch the people can
actually control. Thank goodness the self-interest of the politicians
themselves prevented it from coming into being. After that initial burst of
energy, this Congress surrendered everything to the Clinton White House:
control of the budget, control of foreign affairs, and control of the Federal
Reserve, and the FBI. The Justice Department operates practically without
oversight, as does the Treasury, HUD, Transportation, Commerce, EPA, the SEC,
the FTC, and the FDA.
Congress has given in on point after point, eventually even granting
the presidency most of what it demanded in health-care reform, including
mandated equal coverage of the mentally ill. Chalk it up to long-term
planning. They came into office pledging to curb government, but are as
infatuated with the presidency as Clinton himself. After all, they hope their
party will regain the office.
Then the Republicans had the audacity to ask in bewilderment: why did
the president beat Dole? What did we do wrong? The real question is what have
they done right? James Burnham said that the legislature is useless unless it
is curbing the presidency. By that measure, this Congress has been worthless.
It deserves to lose its majority. And its party deserves to lose the
presidency, whose powers they are so anxious to grab for themselves.
best moments in the 104th Congress were when a few freshmen talked quietly of
impeachment. Indeed it is their responsibility to talk loudly, openly, and
constantly of impeachment. Today's presidency is by definition in violation
of the Constitution. Talk of impeachment ought to become routine. So should
ridicule and humiliation. For if we care about liberty, the plebiscitary
dictatorship must be reined in or tossed out.
John Randolph had only been a Senator for a few days when he gave an
extraordinary speech denouncing John Quincy Adams. "It is my duty,"
said Randolph, "to leave nothing undone that I may lawfully do, to pull
down this administration. . . . They who, from indifference, or with their
eyes open, persist in hugging the traitor to their bosom, deserve to be
insulted . . . deserve to be slaves, with no other music to soothe them but
the clank of the chains which they have put on themselves and given to their
offspring." John Randolph said this in 1826. This was a time, writes de
Tocqueville, when the presidency was almost invisible. If we cannot say this
and more today, when the presidency is dictator to the world, we are not
authentic conservatives and libertarians. Indeed, we are not free men.
This speech was delivered near the imperial capital on October 6,
1996, at the John Randolph Club.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail],
former editorial assistant to Ludwig von Mises and congressional chief of
staff to Ron Paul, is founder and chairman of the Mises Institute,
executor for the estate of Murray N. Rothbard, and editor of LewRockwell.com. See his books.
Copyright © 2004 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or
in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.