Thursday, October 20, 2005

The American Presidency

Gene Healy CATO has written a review of the new ABC docudrama, Commander-in-Chief, in which Healy tears apart the contemporary notion that the imperial-presidency is something to favor, applaud and, generally, take seriously. Here is my favorite part:

Perhaps instead of looking for a statuesque World Saver to fill the job, Americans ought to be willing to accept something less glamorous. You could hardly get less glamorous than our 27th president, William Howard Taft—who, since he did not start any major wars or offer any New Deals, is now best known for being shaped like a zeppelin. But Taft saw clearly where grandiose visions of presidential power would take the country, and fought against them with all his enormous bulk. In a series of lectures delivered at Columbia University in 1915 and 1916, Taft criticized the view of executive power offered by Teddy Roosevelt, his predecessor, a view that both Mackenzie Allen and George W. Bush embrace. Per Taft:

[The] mainspring of such a view is that the executive is charged with responsibility for the welfare of all the people in a general way, that he is to play the part of a universal Providence and set all things right, and that anything that in his judgment will help the people he ought to do, unless he is expressly forbidden not to do it. The wide field of action that this would give to the executive, one can hardly limit.

Geena Davis looks terrific, but we might do better with an awkward fat man. And perhaps the Republic will have regained its health when the presidency is no longer fodder for TV drama, but has instead been relegated to its proper place: the sit-com.

Here, here. Why do worship the Presidency? Don't you find something inherently creepy in such power-worship?? When Alexander Hamilton proposed that our executive be of the kingly-sort, the Framers rightly shot that crazed idea down faster than Aaron Burr's mini-ball. Seriously, Alex - there is really no need to bow to those power-whores that tend to seek the seats in D.C. - their heads are quite big enough as is.
Of late and in light of GW's mach-2 descent into Presidential bottom-dwelling, I have been a bit nostalgic for the days of good ole' Bill Clinton. Hear me out on this. Can you name one thing that Slick Willie did that made our daily lives any worse? Did he create a giant new bureaucracy? Did he implement a bank-busting new entitlement program? He certainly didn't advocate throwing US citizens in jail without the benefit of due process. In all truth, in 8 solid years the old boy really didn't do much of anything - other than make for some damn funny Saturday Night Live skits. Sit-coms, indeed.