Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Imperial Presidency

For those of you who might have forgotten what happened 35 years ago, or for those of you too young to remember, I ran across this essay written by Arthur Schlesinger for The Atlantic Monthly in November 1973, shortly after the publication of his book, The Imperial Presidency (a book which went a long way towards cementing my political beliefs). Reading this essay again after all these years really brought back to mind the similarities between the push towards ultimate executive power by the Nixon administration and the same push by the Bush administration.

An excerpt:

"The belief of the Nixon Administration in its own mandate and its own virtue, compounded by its conviction that the republic has been in mortal danger from internal enemies, has produced an unprecedented concentration of power in the White House and an unprecedented attempt to transform the presidency of the Constitution into a plebiscitary presidency."

Another quote worthy of examination:
"Today the pessimism of the Supreme Court in an 1866 decision, ex parte Milligan, seems a good deal more prescient. The nation, as Justice Davis wrote for the Court then, has 'no right to expect that it will always have wise and humane rulers, sincerely attached to the principles of the Constitution. Wicked men, ambitious of power. with hatred of liberty and contempt of law, may fill the place once occupied by Washington and Lincoln.'"

I strongly urge you all to read the entire essay, and then read the book if you can find it in a bookstore or your public library (I'm not sure if it's in print anymore, but it's worth looking for).

1 comment:

Medic said...

George Bernard Shaw:

We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.