The Presidency

Chuck Schumer issued a warning to Trump, telling Rachel Maddow that Trump was being ‘really dumb’ by challenging the unelected intelligence community because of all the ways they possess to destroy those who dare to stand up to them.” And yet there was no shock or fear, at least from Maddow or her viewers. Naked Capitalism (1/14/2017)
Richard Nixon in 1974, when he was threatened with impeachment. Revealingly, he told reporters, “I can go into my office and pick up the telephone, and in 25 minutes 70 million people will be dead.” (quoted in Elain Scarry's book: Thermonuclear Monarchy)
"When the President does it, that means it is not illegal" Richard Nixon interview with David Frost 1977 interview.
The Constitution already says there are two ways that the president becomes commander in chief. One, when the country is attacked, in which case he can begin to make arrangements to defend us. The other is if there’s a congressional declaration of war. This distinction is also incredibly clear in Scandinavian constitutions, which say that the executive can act to defend the country up to the border but not one step beyond without the authorization of the legislature." Elaine Scarry
"I didn't have to get permission from some old goat in the United States Congress top kick [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait" President Bush
...the American system of electing its president every four years is designed to produce domestic stability over the long term. But, despite the benign intentions of America's founding fathers, it is a system that has come to generate instability on the international scene. An interesting statistic is that almost every new U.S. president goes to war somewhere - often in his first year in office." Kishore Mahbubani: Beyond the Age of Innocence. pg 106
"This sense that the military serves at the pleasure of the President was candidly expressed by President Nixon during the Watergate aftermath: he said that the executive, legislative, and judiciary are not equal branches, because, unlike the executive neither the legislative no the judiciary has an army" From Elaine Scarry's book Thermonuclear Monarchy
"In the United States, the dissolution of law in the second half of the twentieth century accelerated in the twenty-first. In the first eight years of the new century, the claim of emergency and the momentum toward unconstrained executive power became increasingly legible, with a presidential office that sanctioned the practice of torture, detention without charge, widespread surveillance of its citizens, and a private mercenary army answerable only to the president. The first in this list - the practice of torture - carried the United States into the deepest region of war crime. The international and national prohibition on torture is not just one law among many but a foundational prohibition underlying the larger framework of laws." Elaine Scarry: Thinking in an Emergency
The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him wh en he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.
- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President (1858-1919)
Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose -- and you allow him to make war at pleasure.--Abraham Lincoln
America had been trapped for eight years with the Clintons' marital dysfunction disastrously shaping national events and then trapped for another eight with the Bushes' Oedipal dysfunction disastrously shaping international events. And before that, LBJ and Nixon had acted pretty nutty at times...Obama was supposed to be a soothing change...So it's unnerving now to have yet another president elevating personal quirks into a management style. (Maureen Dowd. New York Times June 20,2010)
"The Democrats in Congress have done absolutely nothing to tell the president he is not a king and we do not live in a monarchy. They are allowing him to trash the Constitution because most of them know nothing about the Constitution and are concerned only with making headlines about minor issues and getting themselves reelected." -- Bruce Fein,
If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize -- very publicly and very sincerely -- to all the widows and the orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victimsof American imperialism. I would then announce that America’s global interventions -- including the awful bombings -- have come to an end. And I would inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but -– oddly enough -– a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims and repair the damage from the many American bombings and invasions. There would be more than enough money. Do you know what one year of the US military budget is equal to? One year. It’s equal to more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born. "That’s what I’d do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I’d be assassinated." William Blum: Introduction to Rogue State, British Edition

No, Trump, We Can’t Just Get Along (11/23/2016)

Former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern: Obama Is ‘Afraid’ Of The CIA And The NSA (3/10/2016)

The Moment I Realized Barack Obama Is Insane (11/4/2013)

Our 'Government of Laws' is now above the law (3/14/2013)

The Shooting Gallery: Obama and the Vanishing Point of Democracy (2/12/2013)

Whistleblowers treatment exposes the dark side of obama (12/3/2012)

Make the Presidency work

US Presidents Charged with Crimes Against Humanity as Universal Jurisdiction Dies in Spain

Noam Chomsky: Big Business Dictates the Presidency (video about 4 minutes)

The Presidency Problem: High Crimes (9/29/2009)

The Problems

Over the last centuries Europeans nearly destroyed themselves in horrendous wars. But they appear to have learned that a head of state who, on his own whim, can make war, can disappear people, can torture, can ignore habeas corpus, or can otherwise act without regard for law is a clear and present danger. After nearly destroying themselves, they have now limited their royalty to mostly ceremonial functions, and their people are clearly the deciders. That's what democracy is about.

However in the US wealth rules. There is a dark part of our government that is heavily funded but secret and unaccountable. It may have grown to be our real ruler. Because it is privy to all communication, whether electronic or postal, it has something on everyone.

Unfortunately in the US, many Republicans, no longer beware concentration of power.  We have an administration that believes it is above the law. It has effectively shredded the Constitution by imposing secrecy on its important policy decisions, so there is little public debate and Congress has been unable to do proper oversight in the absence of information. Those checks and balances no longer function. Unfortunately, our primary system performs poorly in selecting candidates. Our national leaders come from only a few wealthy families.

The US Presidency has been held by family dynasties which has resulted in huge conflicts of interest. 

The Bush family illustrates this well:  Bush grandfather assisted Hitler's rise to power and along with some of our most important corporate leaders, plotted a fascist coup in America.

His son, a principal in the Carlyle group, war profiteers was the head of the CIA, a part of our secret government known to have participated in elections in many countries, assasinations of popular leaders, and there are credible people who think that the CIA was involved in the serial murders of the Kennedy brothers. Why would it surprise anyone that they are deeply involved in determining the outcomes of US elections.

W , assisted by his brother Jeb, was selected by a partisan Supreme Court, to win a rigged election. W continued in the family tradition of rolling back the new deal, installed corporate supremecists on the Supreme Court, started two wars on false pretexts, lost the US the moral high ground by engaging in torture, renditions, revoked US civil liberties by implementing universal surveillance, and expanded the national security state. Even Orwell would cringe. In addition he managed to hide his father's papers from public view. His administration was a feeding frenzy for corporate contractors.

Now, we are shown the prospect that his brother, Jeb may be the next Republican nominee for President in 2016. Jeb has already assaulted the public by his initiative to privatize the schools.


 
Pretending That Bush is Not a Tyrant  

Pretending That Bush is Not a Tyrant

If you listen to Bush's legal advisors, questions about the limits of his authority might not be hypothetical anymore. Read more »

 

9/11 was the pretext for an expansion of presidential power that, like the 'war on terror' itself, has no end.  It seems every empire results in a strong man head of state. Corporatism is fascism.

Bush, on his own, nullified long-standing treaties, overturned laws with signing statements, provoked wars in the Middle East, suppressed information from experts, thumbed his nose at international law, and caused ill-will in a large part of the world. His wars resulted in a power grab, resource robbery, imperialism, religious crusades, vengeful arrogance, or even war crimes and have no claim of legitimacy. Another discarded Constitutional assumption, the avoidance of entangling foreign activities, is discarded in an attempted resource grab, and a successful aggrandizement of Presidential power. 

Still, Bush was not held to account. Although it is not discussed much, our civil liberties shrunk dramatically until it is not clear that we have due process of law any more. Since Bush packed the Courts, the system may no longer be self-correcting. 

Charlie Savage, a Pulitzer Prize winner, documents much of this in his book :"Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency". He quotes Bruce Fein, a conservative lawyer who served as a deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, who told Congress in February 2006:

"The theory invoked by the president to justify eavesdropping by the NSA in contradiction to FISA would equally justify mail openings, burglaries, torture or internment camps, all in the name of gathering foreign intelligence. Unless rebuked it will lie around like a loaded weapon, ready to be used by any incumbent who claims an urgent need."

Partisans cannot be trusted with warrentless surveillance because it is a threat to the Constitution, nor can they be trusted with privatized vote counting.

Republicans have brought financial instability on us with their rush to deregulation.  Taxpayer money, without much fanfare (i.e. lap-dog media), is bailing out the speculators.

Bush's claim of a unitary Presidency is a violation of his oath of office, a direct slap at the Constitution, and should be cause for impeachment.

 Republicans need to be reminded that the US was founded on principles that "We the People" are the deciders, not the corporations, and not George the Imperial. Concentration of power, even private power, is a dagger in the heart of democracy. That's why it is a mistake to vote for Republicans. We need reform.

To add to the problem, even though our media are now controlled by a small number of Corporations (i.e. privatized), the FCC, backed by Bush and over the objections of most of the public, decided to allow further concentration of ownership. In return, Corporate US media, who are war profiteers also, are willing propagandists and cheerleaders for war. Anyone favoring peace is considered subversive. The military-industrial complex that Ike warned about...rules.

Like most of our regulatory agencies, the FCC is run for the benefit of their Corporate powerful, not for the people. A government controlled by Corporations is, by definition, Fascist. So our already poor media as it continues concentrating, will get worse. It is evident that US media keeps people distracted, exploited, subservient, misinformed, juvenile, and ignorant. Since people don't really have information to make an informed decision, there can be no democracy. Elections are untrustworthy, candidates are self selected, and the result has not been good. (i.e. Bush)

No US institutions, certainly not the two official parties, favor real democracy.

The Danger from the Imperial Presidency

Yale Law School Dean Koh's Commentary

About Presidential Elections

One of the reasons for dysfunctional U.S. Presidential elections is that discussion of issues is usually hijacked by a candidate's personal problem unrelated to any public purpose: Willie Horton, Swiftboats, Benghazi, etc. Discussion of the candidate's issues, leaves real ones back-burnered and debate that is not constructive.

After election, the winning candidate claims he has a mandate and media guesses the public agrees with his agenda. This is always arguable, but national polling might better determine what direction people would like to take.

Noam Chomsky wrote “There is an enormous gap between public opinion and policy. In 2005, for example, right after the federal budget was announced, the Program on International Policy Attitudes, which also studies domestic issues, did an extensive poll on what people thought the budget ought to be. It turned out to be the inverse of the actual budget: where federal funding was going up, an overwhelming majority wanted it to go down. The public opposed increases in military spending overall and supplemental spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, which is going up even more now. Where the budget was going down; social expenditures, health, renewable energy, veterans benefits, the United Nations right across the board, the public wanted spending to increase. I asked a friend to see how many newspapers in the country reported this. Apparently not one.”

We should develop metrics to measure candidates distance from what the public polls show should be our direction, to rate the Federal Budget on its disparity with public preferences, and to offer guidance on a direction that is sensible and that the public would prefer.

Periodically, there should be a large scale poll of major issues.

First, People would rank, say on a scale of 1 to 10, the relative importance of each issue. No doubt it is important how questions are framed. I am not a pollster, but here are examples that come to mind:

*  Should election procedures be reformed ?

*  Should we expand social programs like Social Security, Medicare, Eldercare, or income assistance ?

* Should Community Colleges be free ?

* Should Medicare be expanded to cover everyone ?

* Compared to other countries, Federal assistance to public media is very small. Should it be increased ?


* Should the Federal Government have a jobs program like the WPA ?

* Civil engineers rate condition of infrastructure as poor. Should we spend more ? 

* Scientists are near unanimous is saying climate change is a threat. Fossil fuel use causes CO2 emissions that will persist for centuries. Should we invest more in conservation and renewables ?

* Fossil fuel taxes constrain usage, should we raise them ?

* The U.S. military is the world's largest, should we spend more ?

* Immigration reform is needed to assure sufficient agricultural workers.

* The U.S. is the world's leader in incarceration. The war on drugs is largely responsible and is a failure. Should we eliminate the war on drugs ?

*  Secrecy in government has permitted activity that no one would approve: torture, renditions, assassinations, universal surveillance, secret law, militarized police... Should there be aggressive oversight of secret government ?

* Land based nuclear weapons are on hair-trigger alert. Should Congress have embarked on a ten year trillion dollar upgrade ?

* The School of the Americas has trained terrorist, death squads. Should it be cut ?

* Should we increase assistance to needier countries ? (We do not keep up with the Scandinavians.)

* Should we support the UN ? (We don't.)

Second: After ranking the importance of each issue, the next step would be to apply a percentage to each line with a positive or negative percentage for each. The percentage might indicate agreement or funding depending on context. For example, I might think military expenditure should decrease by 25%. The School of the Americas should be canceled altogether. Land based, hair-trigger nuclear ballistic missiles should be eliminated, Citizens United should be fixed, the Supreme Court should be enlarged.

After summarizing such a poll, we would not have to guess so much what the agenda should be.

Candidates should be required to complete the poll also. That would get them on the record and allow comparisons. Completion of an issues survey should be a condition of candidacy.

We could then rank the candidates depending on how closely they agree with the publics polling results.

Then, in debates, they could attempt to justify their departure from the norm. This would help to identify the best candidates.

Results should be placed in a free and open-source, public database, so that it would be possible to select, as a group, scientists, economists, Republicans, Democrats, minorities, and others for comparison of opinion.  We could reconcile differences between informed opinion and public preferences, and thereby identify areas that media should work on.  The database should be accessible to the public for further analysis so that independent scoring could be done from different viewpoints and by various techniques.

To keep the database public, it would need to be done either by a non-profit, or by some public entity.

For a country that can engage in universal surveillance of communications without telling anyone, this could be done at a small price.

Meanwhile, it could be possible to summarize likely results from existing polling, candidates statements, and other data.

The really crucial question: is ANY reform of our bankrupt system possible ?

About Presidential Elections

One of the reasons for dysfunctional U.S. Presidential elections is that discussion of issues is usually hijacked by a candidate's personal problem unrelated to any public purpose: Willie Horton, Swiftboats, Benghazi, etc. Discussion of the candidate's issues, leaves real ones back-burnered and debate that is not constructive.

After election, the winning candidate claims he has a mandate and media guesses the public agrees with his agenda. This is always arguable, but national polling might better determine what direction people would like to take.

Noam Chomsky wrote “There is an enormous gap between public opinion and policy. In 2005, for example, right after the federal budget was announced, the Program on International Policy Attitudes, which also studies domestic issues, did an extensive poll on what people thought the budget ought to be. It turned out to be the inverse of the actual budget: where federal funding was going up, an overwhelming majority wanted it to go down. The public opposed increases in military spending overall and supplemental spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, which is going up even more now. Where the budget was going down; social expenditures, health, renewable energy, veterans benefits, the United Nations right across the board, the public wanted spending to increase. I asked a friend to see how many newspapers in the country reported this. Apparently not one.”

We should develop metrics to measure candidates distance from what the public polls show should be our direction, to rate the Federal Budget on its disparity with public preferences, and to offer guidance on a direction that is sensible and that the public would prefer.

Periodically, there should be a large scale poll of major issues.


First, People would rank, say on a scale of 1 to 10, the relative importance of each issue. No doubt it is important how questions are framed. I am not a pollster, but here are examples that come to mind:

*  Should election procedures be reformed ?

*  Should we expand social programs like Social Security, Medicare, Eldercare, or income assistance ?

* Should Community Colleges be free ?

* Should Medicare be expanded to cover everyone ?

* Compared to other countries, Federal assistance to public media is very small. Should it be increased ?


* Should the Federal Government have a jobs program like the WPA ?

* Civil engineers rate condition of infrastructure as poor. Should we spend more ? 

* Scientists are near unanimous is saying climate change is a threat. Fossil fuel use causes CO2 emissions that will persist for centuries. Should we invest more in conservation and renewables ?

* Fossil fuel taxes constrain usage, should we raise them ?

* The U.S. military is the world's largest, should we spend more ?

* Immigration reform is needed to assure sufficient agricultural workers.

* The U.S. is the world's leader in incarceration. The war on drugs is largely responsible and is a failure. Should we eliminate the war on drugs ?

*  Secrecy in government has permitted activity that no one would approve: torture, renditions, assassinations, universal surveillance, secret law, militarized police... Should there be aggressive oversight of secret government ?

* Land based nuclear weapons are on hair-trigger alert. Should Congress have embarked on a ten year trillion dollar upgrade ?

* The School of the Americas has trained terrorist, death squads. Should it be cut ?

* Should we increase assistance to needier countries ? (We do not keep up with the Scandinavians.)

* Should we support the UN ? (We don't.)

Second: After ranking the importance of each issue, the next step would be to apply a percentage to each line with a positive or negative percentage for each. The percentage might indicate agreement or funding depending on context. For example, I might think military expenditure should decrease by 25%. The School of the Americas should be canceled altogether. Land based, hair-trigger nuclear ballistic missiles should be eliminated, Citizens United should be fixed, the Supreme Court should be enlarged.

After summarizing such a poll, we would not have to guess so much what the agenda should be.

Candidates should be required to complete the poll also. That would get them on the record and allow comparisons. Completion of an issues survey should be a condition of candidacy.

We could then rank the candidates depending on how closely they agree with the publics polling results.

Then, in debates, they could attempt to justify their departure from the norm. This would help to identify the best candidates.

Results should be placed in a free and open-source, public database, so that it would be possible to select, as a group, scientists, economists, Republicans, Democrats, minorities, and others for comparison of opinion.  We could reconcile differences between informed opinion and public preferences, and thereby identify areas that media should work on.  The database should be accessible to the public for further analysis so that independent scoring could be done from different viewpoints and by various techniques.

To keep the database public, it would need to be done either by a non-profit, or by some public entity.

For a country that can engage in universal surveillance of communications without telling anyone, this could be done at a small price.

Meanwhile, it could be possible to summarize likely results from existing polling, candidates statements, and other data.

The really crucial question: is ANY reform of our bankrupt system possible ?

Links:

Howie's Presidential and Political Page

The American Presidency Project

Presidential Election Data

The War Powers Resolution After 30 Years (3/11/2004)

The Living Room Candidate (Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2012)

Bibliography:

Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters by Andrew Kreig (Jul 5, 2013)

All the Presidents' Bankers: Nomi Prins

The Once & Future King: Frank Buckley

The Manufacturing of a President: The CIA's Insertion of Barack H. Obama, Jr. into the White House: Wayne Madsen

Running Alone: Presidential Leadership JFK to BUSH II...Why it has failed and how we can fix it: James MacGregor Burns

Bad For Democracy: How the Presidency Undermines the Power of the People, Dana Nelson

Takeover: the Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy. Charlie Savage (winner of the Pulitzer Prize)
At the end of this chilling volume Savage offers a concise and powerful conclusion: "The expansive presidential powers claimed and exercised by the Bush-Cheney White House are now an immutable part of American history — not controversies but facts. The importance of such precedents is difficult to overstate. As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson once warned, any new claim of executive power, once validated into precedent, 'lies about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need. Every repetition embeds that principle more deeply in our law and thinking and expands it to new purposes.' "Sooner or later, there will always be another urgent need."

Unchecked and Unbalanced: Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr. and Aziz Z. Huq

Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union: David Swanson

Decline and Fall of the American Republic: Bruce Ackerman

 Commander in Chief: Geoffrey Perret

The Limits of Power, the End of American Exceptionalism: Andrew J. Bacevich

When Presidents Lie: Eric Alterman

Presidential Power: unchecked and unbalanced: Mathew Crenson and Benjamin Ginsberg

The Cult of the Presidency: Gene Healy

War and the American Presidency: Arthur M. Schlesinger. Jr.

United States v George W. Bush et al: Elizabeth de la Vega

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers: Daniel Ellsberg

Executive Privilege: A Constitutional Myth by Raoul Berger

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