The Imperial Presidency

The role of President of the United States is the ultimate in the fantasy of political power.  Legislators who are frustrated and disgusted by the process of producing laws, and further frustrated by an Imperial Executive who disdains to carry out the laws and directives of the legislative branch, look at the unrestrained power of the Chief Executive and wish to gain it for themselves.  Of course, they will do different things with the power.

Others, the Arlen Specters and Ted Kennedys and Russ Feingolds and, dare I say it, Orrin Hatches, in the Senate have settled down to do what is within the power of the Senate to do. I hesitate to name members of the House of Representatives, other than Nancy Pelosi, because the frequency of scandal discourages me from endorsing particular members, lest they later be tainted by some misdeed or other.  Nominations will be taken from the floor, on this.
<>The power of the Presidency is a different thing, somewhat unwritten, somewhat written, and perhaps unwriteable. In particular, since we (probably) will not use the power to impeach,  this power can be self-defined. Because of the ambiguity in the role definition, which leads Presidents to define and redefine the Presidency, we are potentially and actually in the uncomfortable position of being citizens of a country governed by a Presidential fantasy.

<>For a further discussion of the definition of the Presidency, please see this article by Garrett Epps, in Salon.


Yes I know . . .

Yes, I know. Bob Woodward wrote a book called State of Denial that was released at the end of September. It started out to be a big media frenzy, but was rapidly eclipsed by the real news of Congressman Foley’s resignation and the Amish schoolhouse shooting. What do I think? It seems to me that the news that’s more worthy of serious thought is the release of Woodward’s book. The–well, I have to use the word “denials”–of Woodward’s assembled evidence in support of his rather new and more radically alarming case have popped up in the interstices of the news about Foley and Hastert, and the Amish schoolhouse.

Thus we have not had the chance to examine in depth any of the counterclaims to Woodward’s case.

It seems to me, as a critical reader of the Newsweek excerpt, that Woodward had this evidence, these statements from interviews, long ago. That is, he seems to me to have gone back over information he already had, and seen it/heard it with new eyes and ears. Eyes and ears informed by what? He may tell the story of his new perspective in the full book, or the reader may need to study State of Denial in comparison to his earlier two books about the current Bush administration.

Most of us would say “I have too much on my plate right now to examine Woodward’s change in perspective.” Me, too. Until I am able to go through Woodward’s third book, at least, I am reserving judgment on whether he goes on the “heroes” list.