Some claim we are in the midst of an Imperial Presidency in the United States where entitlement, privilege, birthright and non-accountability for actions creates a royal purview that leads to a “no discussion” and “What I say goes” attitude in the office that was built to lead us all. There are some that claim the Bush family see themselves as landed American Royalty where the right to rule us is an innate and inborn power that must, and shall, continue for generations to come.

The Royal Family

New York Times editor Tom Friedman was on Imus in the Morning the other day and he was wound up and angry about the war in Iraq. Friedman believes it is “stakes not performance; principles not practice” that rules the current presidential mindset and that powerful phrase gives great insight into an administration where only the now matters and whatever the future brings is beyond our interest.

He went on to argue how Republicans are using the war as a wedge issue for political gain. He is concerned American troops on foreign soil are being politicized to win elections on the homeland. “How,” Friedman asked, “can you get all of Americans behind the war when only 50.1% of them are sought out by the current administration? You need to try to get 100% of Americans behind the war not just a bare majority.”

Friedman also said the war in Iraq is about Donald Rumsfeld proving Colin Powell wrong. Rumsfeld wants “just enough troops to lose” while Powell wanted “overwhelming force to win.” “I am shocked at the breathtaking audacity [of the current administration],” Friedman continued, and he finished his interview by sharing a story about recently dropping off his daughter for her first year in college when he realized “she now lives in a more dangerous world than that into which she was born.” Are we currently living under American Royal Robes?

If yes, how did this happen and how can we get out from under? What does the rest of the world think when they see a democratic society usurped by privilege and entitlement by birthright?

25 Comments

  1. I don’t think the Imperial Presidency is limited to just the Bush family.
    Look at the people who run for the nation’s highest office — they are practically the same in terms of education, social class, background, social groups, etc.
    From CBS News:

    As opposite as George Bush and John Kerry may seem to be, they do share a common secret – one they’ve shared for decades, and one they will not share with the electorate.
    The secret: details of their membership in Skull and Bones, the elite Yale University society whose members include some of the most powerful men of the 20th century.

    Sen. Joe Lieberman is in support of the war and holds similar views as the President.
    Clinton also expressed some of the same viewpoint about Iraq in the 1990s.
    From CNN:

    — From the Oval Office, President Clinton told the nation Wednesday evening why he ordered new military strikes against Iraq.
    The president said Iraq’s refusal to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors presented a threat to the entire world.
    “Saddam (Hussein) must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons,” Clinton said.
    Operation Desert Fox, a strong, sustained series of attacks, will be carried out over several days by U.S. and British forces, Clinton said.
    “Earlier today I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces,” Clinton said.

    For all of the fights over wedge issues, most of the people at the highest levels of government are very homogenious.
    I don’t subscribe to the notion, but someone once told me that it doesn’t matter who wins the Presidency because he (or she — isn’t Hillary in support of the war?) end up doing the bidding of those who feed and groom them — the big corporations who own the media and defense companies.
    For example, General Electric owns NBC and is also a defense contractor. They also have their finance company, as well.
    From the Center for Public Integrity:

    Not surprising given its size, GE spends considerably to advocate its interests.
    In 2001 and 2002, the company spent more than $31 million lobbying Congress, federal agencies and the Executive Office of the President on issues touching on virtually all aspects of its operations: defense appropriations, environmental cleanup, energy, science and technology, aviation, banking and finance, telecommunications, domestic and foreign trade, foreign relations and taxation.
    GE spread its lobbying business among many individual lobbyists and lobbying firms, both in-house and outside. It spent $16 million on overall lobbying in 2000, twice what it spent in 1999.

    Maybe the Presidency shapes the man (or woman) more than the man or woman shapes it?
    Money makes our society work and those who have the money bend the will of anyone who is in charge to their viewpoint.
    I suspect even George Soros’ band of candidates would be captured by the special interests, if they spend enough time in D.C.

  2. The idea of royalty and the Bushes is that of a birthright mentality to lead rather than the ability to earn the right to lead and that is why Jeb is being primed –- as the cartoon above suggests — to one day lead us so we’ll have at least three Bush presidents to fulfill their dynastic belief in their predestiny to rule us.
    Like the Saudi Royal Family and the House of Windsor, the Bushes, it seems, see their footprints in American history as footholds of entitlement: They lead us because their blood was born to lead us.
    There are some who believe our current Bush believes in this Neo-Monarchy more than his father and brother and it is that mindset of “bloodright entitlement” that presses him to delve deep into foreign countries to, in fact, Colonize them for use in the United States’ (and the Bush family’s and friends’) best interests.

    To underscore grounds for concern, the administration has pronounced a theory of presidential power that should alarm anyone who wants government power limited. Under the Unitary Executive doctrine of the Bush Justice Department and many conservative legal theorists, the executive branch has enough implied and inherent powers during wartime to negate the checks and balances ordinarily provided by Congress and the courts. Considering that the Bush administration’s “war on terror” is vague enough to last indefinitely and assumes a global battlefield, the Unitary Executive doctrine is a blueprint for despotism that Napoleon would have envied.
    As Gene Healy and Timothy Lynch write in a new Cato Institute study, “Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush,” “The Bush administration’s view of executive power … amounts to the view that, in time of war, the president is the law, and no treaty, no statute, no coordinate branch of the U.S. government can stand in the president’s way when, by his lights, he is acting to preserve national security.”

    http://www.fff.org/comment/com0605f.asp
    Here’s this from the Cato Institute:

    n recent judicial confirmation battles, President Bush has repeatedly—and correctly—stressed fidelity to the Constitution as the key qualification for service as a judge. It is also the key qualification for service as the nation’s chief executive. On January 20, 2005, for the second time, Mr. Bush took the presidential oath of office set out in the Constitution, swearing to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” With five years of the Bush administration behind us, we have more than enough evidence to make an assessment about the president’s commitment to our fundamental legal charter
    Unfortunately, far from defending the Constitution, President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the document places on federal power. In its official legal briefs and public actions, the Bush administration has advanced a view of federal power that is astonishingly broad, a view that includes:
    * a federal government empowered to regulate core political speech—and restrict it greatly when it counts the most: in the days before a federal election;
    * a president who cannot be restrained, through validly enacted statutes, from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror;
    * a president who has the inherent constitutional authority to designate American citizens suspected of terrorist activity as “enemy combatants,” strip them of any constitutional protection, and lock them up without charges for the duration of the war on terror— in other words, perhaps forever; and
    * a federal government with the power to supervise virtually every aspect of American life, from kindergarten, to marriage, to the grave.

    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=6330
    I believe “Unitary Executive” is a synonym for “King.”

  3. I find this subject rather ironic, as we in the UK accuse Mr Blair of becoming more like a President than a Prime Minister. I wonder if this means by default theat he is the man who would be King !
    Aside from that I am not well enough accquainted with the political system in America to contribute much more than an anecdote.

  4. Hi Nicola!
    I thank you for your comment today. Even when you “don’t know much” you’re always interesting.
    😀
    I love knowing how the UK feel about Mr. Blair — and why you, and the UK papers not use a period for “Mr.” in print? Is it unnecessary? Inelegant? Never done?
    I love the title of this story “Proof that Blair is Bush’s Poodle”

    No one knows for sure if George W. Bush regards Tony Blair as his poodle – but he certainly addresses him as one.
    The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the President has greeted him with a cry of “Blair!” and told him: “You’re my boy.”
    Following last week’s revelation that Mr Bush said “Yo Blair” to greet the Prime Minister at the G8 summit in Russia, we used audio enhancement and a professional lip-reader to examine every meeting between the pair.

    It takes me right back to this story I wrote 10 months ago:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2005/10/12/picking-presidential-pet-names/

  5. We do not use the period for “Mr” in print ….. I guess he should be called Prime Minister Blair. More often than not he is called Mr Bliar …………. or Brown nose Blair for obvious reasons. ( I loved your list).
    I am amused you quote the Mail on Sunday …….. they are crackers for upholding the moral majoity …….. and stirring the masses.

  6. Hi Nicola —
    Fascinating about the use of “Mr” in print in the UK without the period. I always wondered about that because in formal papers you are required to change it. It can always be a treat to go back and re-punctuate UK text.
    It’s funny — I wanted to quickly find an example of the missing period to quote here and I couldn’t quickly think of the name of any UK newspapers so I started typing “daily…” and up popped the URL.
    Then I went to the search box of the Daily Mail site and I typed “Bush” into the search box and the first article that popped up as a return in World News was that story about Blair being a poodle! It was so funny and so perfect. I love kismet!
    What are your Top 10 news authorities –- with URLs! — 😀 in the UK for getting the news you and I would appreciate?

  7. My first port of call is always the BBC – http://news.bbc.co.uk/
    Then the following
    Channel Four News – http://www.channel4.com/news/
    CNN – http://www.cnn.com/
    Sky News – http://news.sky.com/skynews/home
    The Independent – http://www.independent.co.uk/
    The Guardian – http://www.guardian.co.uk/
    The Daily Mail – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/
    I get the local News from
    The Western Morning News – http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk
    OR
    The North Devon Journal – http://www.northdevonjournal.co.uk/
    Then I go blogging !

  8. It’s too late for that, Nicola!
    The power bouncing off-and-on all day killed my wireless hub and printing router. $300 gone in a poof and not even in puff of smoke!
    Now everything is all back to being wired. It is so ugly and messy. Harumph!

  9. David,
    There are “some” who will claim almost anything to further their personal positions. The New York Times editorial staff is hardly the unbiased source for any “news” about any Republican President and absolutely not unbiased when it comes to Bush.
    The facts (as I see them) are:
    At least 90% of our Senators and Representatives in Washington (Republicans and Democrats) are there to represent themselves — not their constituents. Power is the motivator!
    Most of our Senators and Representatives are there because they were rich enough to “buy” their elected office. He who has the largest campaign fund is most likely to get elected.
    Actually, “entitlement, privilege, birthright and non-accountability for actions” is a far more accurate description of the Kennedy family than it is of the Bush family.– not that you’re wrong about the Bush family, its just that next to the Kennedy’s they’re pikers.
    In January of ’09 there will be a new figurehead in office — no doubt someone fairly rich and powerful — and, from the names I’ve seen proposed, I certainly don’t think much of any of them with the exception of Joe Lieberman and possibly John McCain.
    “Are we currently living under American Royal Robes?” I certainly don’t see it that way and, I assure you, I’m neither a Republican or a Bush apologist.
    Your last question: “What does the rest of the world think when they see a democratic society usurped by privilege and entitlement by birthright?” tells everyone all they need to know about your political leanings — you’ve turned a question (consciously or not) into an editorial statement.

  10. If the Kennedy family had more than one family member as president I would buy into your argument. I am not making a general argument about presidential royalty. My argument was specific to one family.
    What, exactly, do you disagree with what Tom Friedman said? Or do you only disagree with him because he is an editor at The New York Times?
    You obviously haven’t read many of my articles here because I have never claimed, and have never taken, the position of neutrality in anything I write. To accuse me of not being impartial is to create your own uninteresting straw man argument. A blog, any blog, is a living editorial statement.

  11. Hi David,
    I was on the road yesterday, so I wasn’t able to get to a Wi-Fi hot spot to check back in on the comments.
    Does the idea of a Bush dynasty go away if Jeb decides not to run or isn’t elected in the primary?
    Or, is it solely based on the way “43” is doing his job?
    It seems the idea of a “King George” seems to come from the way that Bush interprets presidential power, such as the signing statements that allow him to disregard parts of laws that he doesn’t like. If he was better at PR, he’d just sign the bills make sure they were implemented (by agency rulemaking) in such a way that suited his goals.
    Not too many people read the Federal Register to know exactly how a bill really ends up being implemented by an agency.
    A bill that provides for “everything that is great and wonderful” but by agency rulemaking requires 10 hearings after 20 impact statements and other various structural impediments really ends up doing nothing, despite the hype. Or, if it does anything, it usually gets watered down and the blame gets put on vague special interests who complained at the public hearings.
    Back to the idea of a dynasty.
    It’s sort of interesting to think about a family wanting to have many members be president. I don’t think we’ve ever really had any one family — except for the Kennedys — who could compare.
    But, it’s a distraction from the homogenious quality of our national leaders.
    Jeb or Hillary in power in 2009 will result in pretty much the same overall outcome.
    No matter which party is in power, they will all end up doing the same sorts of things. The style in which they do it will be the only difference. Hence the 1998 quote from Clinton convincing us that we needed to take military action against Iraq.
    I still think that most people who achieve positions of power in the government — whether they are Democrat or Republican — basically all start thinking the same after they mix and mingle with the same limited set of folks.
    The squabbles come about because one party or another doesn’t want either side to get the credit for whatever they are doing.
    Remember the proposal for national health care?
    The Republicans were opposed and the Democrats were in favor.
    I predict that in the next 10 years, “Big Business” will demand that the government provide free health care to the public so that they can cut expenses. If the GOP is in power, they will be proposing national health care for all.
    GM and Ford already take advantage of Canada’s health plan because it cuts costs.

    “The Canadian plan has been a significant advantage for investing in Canada,” says GM Canada spokesman David Patterson, noting that in the United States, GM spends $1,400 per car on health benefits.
    Indeed, with the provinces sharing 75 percent of the cost of Canadian healthcare, it’s no surprise that GM, Ford and Chrysler have all been shifting car production across the border at such a rate that the name “Motor City” should belong to Windsor, not Detroit.
    Just two years ago, GM Canada’s CEO Michael Grimaldi sent a letter co-signed by Canadian Autoworkers Union president Buzz Hargrave to a Crown Commission considering reforms of Canada’s 35-year-old national health program that said, “The public healthcare system significantly reduces total labour costs for automobile manufacturing firms, compared to their cost of equivalent private insurance services purchased by U.S.-based automakers.”
    That letter also said it was “vitally important that the publicly funded healthcare system be preserved and renewed, on the existing principles of universality, accessibility, portability, comprehensiveness and public administration,” and went on to call not just for preservation but for an “updated range of services.”
    CEOs of the Canadian units of Ford and DaimlerChrysler wrote similar encomiums endorsing the national health system.

    No matter who is in charge of the government in the coming years, watch for a push by big business in favor of national health care that will be supported by both the Democrats and the Republicans. The fights will be over who gets credit for doing what, but the overall structural ideas will remain in favor by both. Neither side will like what the other proposes, but in the end, the result will be the same.
    Same thing for intervention in the Middle East.
    Clinton was in favor of military intervention in Iraq in the 1990s and the GOP was opposed. It’s the opposite now when the leadership is reverse. “Quagmire” and “Vietnam” were cried by the Republicans during the 1990s when we went to Bosnia. The president was criticized because he never served in the military.
    The same things are being said today. The songs are the same with different singers. It’s part of the “big show” put on for the public to show that there is some difference between the parties.
    When the power shifts again — it always alternates — the Democrats will be in support of military intervention. The style — high altitude bombing or “boots on the ground” or ship fired cruise missles or Marines in landing craft — will be the only differences.
    The inter-party political battles are shows for the public, but for the most part, all of the major pols move in the same direction toward the same goals as required by those with the real power in American society — those with the money and business interests that are affected by what the government does.
    The real dynasty is created by those who have the ears and control the campaign purse-strings of whoever is in power at any given moment.

  12. Hi David,
    If parents were really smart, they’d tell their kids to grow up to be CEO, rather than President. 😉
    The pay is better, there’s less public scrutiny, and you can take vacations and play golf without it being a major world affair.

  13. Chris —
    I agree our politics have been taken over my megalomaniacs and egomaniacs. I think there is great honor in public service but even at the local level there is so much corruption, backbiting and palm greasing that common people lose faith in their representation.
    When I was growing up I had a friend who told me if I really wanted an easy life with great pay and benefits, I should become an in-house counsel for a company like the Dial Corporation:
    http://www.dialcorp.com/
    He told me the work was easy, the risk was low, and they needed someone in that spot anyway.
    😀

  14. David,
    In response!
    You say: “If the Kennedy family had more than one family member as president I would buy into your argument. I am not making a general argument about presidential royalty. My argument was specific to one family.”
    I feel that the whole argument about presidential royalty is specious to say the least. My mention of the Kennedy family in that regard was more jest than serious. Bush was not “proclaimed” to be the President, he was elected by the people — that’s the way our government works and will always work, no matter who’s president.
    It seems that “some people” are upset because Bush is, as this Washington Post article suggests, pushing the limits of presidential wartime powers. The way I see it, that’s his job and would have been Al Gore’s job if he had become president in 2000. The president’s FIRST priority is the defense of the United States against ALL of it’s enemies. If doing what he feels is the right thing to keep America safe is accomplished by pushing his powers to or even beyond the limits it is more than his right to do it, its his obligation. Just, mind you, my opinion — you, no doubt have a different one.
    You ask: “What, exactly, do you disagree with what Tom Friedman said? Or do you only disagree with him because he is an editor at The New York Times?”
    Being an editor at a newspaper that continuously takes stands that I personally feel are wrongheaded certainly doesn’t warm my heart to him (or any member of their editorial staff) but, in particular, Friedman’s statement (quoted in your post) . . . :
    “. . . the war in Iraq is about Donald Rumsfeld proving Colin Powell wrong. Rumsfeld wants just enough troops to lose while Powell wanted overwhelming force to win.”
    . . . is so obscene it should have earned him the opportunity to go find a new job.
    You concluded: “You obviously haven’t read many of my articles here because I have never claimed, and have never taken, the position of neutrality in anything I write. To accuse me of not being impartial is to create your own uninteresting straw man argument. A blog, any blog, is a living editorial statement.”
    You’re right, I haven’t searched your archives to find you position on anything. You appeared to be, from the few posts I did read, the type of person who likes to host open, frank discussions and have everyone lay their points-of-view out for evaluation. That’s why I was frankly surprised to read that last question; stated like it is, its a “when did you stop beating your wife?” type question that lays the conclusion out before the question can be pondered.
    Whym