Sunday, August 11, 2019

Donald Trump and our monarchophobic founders

A simple question: Does Donald Trump understand his position as the head of one of three coequal branches of government? Or does he assume that he is somehow our sovereign? The President of the United States is powerful, to be sure, but our monarchophobic put founders limits on the position. All Presidents, I am sure, have been tempted to overstep those boundaries, and some have lurched us in the direction of an Imperial Presidency. When I heard his Republican acceptance speech in 2016, my thought was "You're just the President. You can't do all that, even if you are elected." In two and a half plus years since the inauguration, I have yet to see a glimmer of understanding of his constitutional role. He seems to think that the US Government is his to run in the same way that the Trump Organizations are his to run, since he is the CEO. Sorry, our founders didn't set America up that way.

33 comments:

Starhopper said...

WWII, the Cold War, and the atomic bomb gave our chief executive way too much power. It was a gradual thing, but Americans of any era prior to 1942 would not recognize today's government. Trump may be the most egregious example of a monarchical presidency, but we've been sliding down the path to our current situation my entire lifetime. With (sometimes) the best of intentions, it seems that every initiative, program, and crisis has somehow ended up with more power in the hands of the president, regardless of who was in that office.

It will take an honest-to-God saint as our next president to willingly shed a major portion of presidential power and return it to Congress where it belongs. The best thing our country could do is to unilaterally disarm our nuclear arsenal and slash our military budget by at least two thirds. Then take those savings and pay down the debt, while repairing and modernizing our national infrastructure and cleaning up the environment.

bmiller said...

The biggest change was the Civil War.

Starhopper said...

I disagree. Yes, the Civil War was probably the biggest agent of change in our entire history for the country as a whole. But for the federal government, not so much. No argument about it's powers being vastly inflated for the duration, but after the war things pretty much went back to how they were before "the recent unpleasantness". In fact, the late 19th Century is a model of congressional government. Who can even name all the post Civil War presidents? They were largely nobodies.

Every summer I spend a week in Vermont to observe the sky away from city lights. This year while up there, I visited the birthplace of Calvin Coolidge. What a contrast to today's presidency was his time in office! When he would spend his summers at Plymouth Notch (his home town), the Secret Service had to run a telephone line into town, because there was otherwise no connectivity from there to the outside world. Imagine a president cutting himself off that way today!

But the Second World War, followed immediately by the Cold War and the Atomic Age, basically blew up the government ("blew up" in the sense of blowing up a balloon). Washington never reverted to its antebellum size and influence, but rather kept on expanding. And the bomb utterly transformed the concept of Commander in Chief. The idea that we could be at war at any moment gave immense powers to a single individual. And once that idea was established and accepted, it naturally flowed to all other aspects of government to the point that we today govern by executive order while Congress does nothing.

Trump has once again accelerated the process by simply ignoring Congress and denying its right (and duty) of oversight.

bmiller said...

I'd say that after Lincoln, FDR made the biggest power grab.

Tried to pack the Supreme Court and forced Congress to pass term limits on the Executive branch.

Legion of Logic said...

The best thing our country could do is to unilaterally disarm our nuclear arsenal and slash our military budget by at least two thirds.

Russia and China love your ideas.

SteveK said...

Power grabbing has been an ongoing problem for all 3 branches of government since the beginning. It's the reason why we have less liberty today than we did decades ago. The government wants to control every aspect of life. This is not a problem unique to Trump or any one branch.

Starhopper said...

"Russia and China love your ideas."

Hmm..

The United States currently spends 10 times as much as China on defense, and 18 times as much as Russia.

If we cut our expenditures by two thirds, we'd still be spending 3 times as much as China, and 6 times as much as Russia.

SteveK said...

Replying with irrelevant information doesn't change the fact that Russia and China would love your idea

Starhopper said...

How is it irrelevant?

Legion of Logic said...

How do you suppose Russia would conduct its business if the United States destroyed its nuclear arsenal, leaving Russia with thousands at its disposal? China? How would North Korea respond?

Yes, the United States does have a lot of unnecessary military expenditures, but disarming itself in this world would be like knowing there is a violent thief on your front porch and thus deciding to throw your weapons out the window and unlocking the door to make a peace statement.

Starhopper said...

"How do you suppose Russia would conduct its business if the United States destroyed its nuclear arsenal, leaving Russia with thousands at its disposal?"

They would breathe a sigh of relief and follow suit. The only reason they don't "go first" is because they quite rightfully do not trust us. After all, we are still (thank God) the only nation to ever use the damned things.

Legion of Logic said...

They would breathe a sigh of relief and follow suit.

Based upon what? The Russian government isn't exactly known for its peaceful side.


The only reason they don't "go first" is because they quite rightfully do not trust us.

To be clear, are you saying the Russians are the trustworthy ones compared to us? You think the Soviets wouldn't have nuked the hell out of Germany in WW2 if they could have?

bmiller said...

Wait. Wasn't it just yesterday the Russians were the greatest evil EVER? Colluding like crazy with Trump to hack elections and make us their servants.

You know since Trump is a secret Russian agent, then he'd be in control of the only nukes left when the US disarmed. I think his was his plan all along!

Starhopper said...

Hypotheticals, Legion, hypotheticals. The FACTS show that, since the dawn of time, the USA has so far dropped 2 nuclear devices on our enemies. The rest of the world? Zero.

This isn't a contest between which side is the most trustworthy. Just based on our respective records, which party is more likely to use nuclear weapons? Recall that in 2002, the whole world held its breath (myself included) while we feared a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan. But the two sides stepped back from the brink. Recall that South Africa had actually developed and tested (in the South Atlantic) a nuclear device, but voluntarily (under pressure from nobody) cancelled its program and destroyed its own bombs. The same (apparently - we can't be sure) goes for Israel. As for the old Soviet Union, the policy of both Khrushchev and Brezhnev was "no first use". This at a time when the USA refused to make any similar declaration. (It still does not!)

This may come as a shock to most Americans, but the United States is today THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD that officially maintains the possibility of a first nuclear strike as an "option on the table". The fact is that the USA is the LEAST trustworthy nation when it comes to nuclear weaponry. Shocking, but true.

bmiller said...

That's not quite right

Starhopper said...

Ahh.. That's what I get for not keeping up with Russia once it stopped being the Soviet Union.

Starhopper said...

Damn! I posted the above before I found this much better version of the anthem.

Legion of Logic said...

Hypotheticals, Legion, hypotheticals. The FACTS show that, since the dawn of time, the USA has so far dropped 2 nuclear devices on our enemies. The rest of the world? Zero.

The FACTS show that nearly a century ago the United States dropped two nuclear weapons during a world war, which killed at most half a percent of the civilians who died during that war. In other words, militaries were slaughtering civilians quite handily with conventional weapons. Personally, I'm far more upset with all the civilians killed in the Middle East by the modern United States military than I am with the decisions made during World War II.

But disregard that. Even sticking to just the two bombings, how many of the people who made that decision are currently in office making policy?


Just based on our respective records, which party is more likely to use nuclear weapons?

Guess I'll head over to Germany and start punching people in the face, since their record shows them to be the most likely to have Nazis.


This may come as a shock to most Americans, but the United States is today THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD that officially maintains the possibility of a first nuclear strike as an "option on the table".

You mean, the only country that admits it?


The fact is that the USA is the LEAST trustworthy nation when it comes to nuclear weaponry. Shocking, but true.

Well okay then.

bmiller said...

Starhopper:

Speaks Russian? Check
Was in Intelligence? Check
Wants US to unilaterally disarm? Check
Engages in Agitprop? Check

I do believe that Starhopper is a RED (Retired-Extremely Dangerous).

Starhopper said...

All that, plus I do have a bust of Lenin on my desk.

bmiller said...

Interesting comrade.

Looks like the only places you can get one of those is from the former Soviet states.

Starhopper said...

I got it back in the late 1980s, when a co-worker of mine went with one of the disarmament inspection teams over to the USSR. (Remember Reagan's "Trust, but verify!"?) He asked me whether I wanted anything from there, and I said "If possible, pick me up a bust of Lenin." So a few days later I get a message from him. "Do you want a smiling Lenin? a stern Lenin? a farsighted Lenin? Lenin with a cap? Lenin without a cap? Lenin as a youth? etc., etc.

I chose the ubezhdennyj Lenin, a pretty much untranslatable term, perhaps best called an "inspiring" Lenin.

bmiller said...

Google says it means "convinced", but also maybe "dedicated" or "persuaded".

Starhopper said...

"Convincing" would be better than "convinced".

Considering how many years I worked on that target, I have very few "souvenirs" from the Evil Empire: The aforementioned bust, a (quite beautiful) celebratory banner presented to a top producing factory (gold fringe and everything), some space-related lapel pins, and a retiree medal for a worker in state security (how appropriate!). A handful of books (my favorite being an elementary school reader)... oh, and a front left turn signal indicator light I screwed off of a knocked out Soviet built Iraqi T-55 tank on the Highway of Death in Kuwait.

bmiller said...

Hey. Maybe you could open up a little museum where the old balding hippies from the 60's could come and reminisce about the good times.;-)

Starhopper said...

Ha! At this very moment, I am watching a 1963 Beatles concert in Sweden on Youtube. As far as I am concerned, the world has been going downhill since 1974. It's like a second Fall of Man. Practically everything I admire is before that date.

bmiller said...

Practically everything I admire is before that date.

I'll bet it's because you forgot what it was really like or didn't realize what it was really like. For instance, 1963 was before Sweden went hard Socialist.

Legion of Logic said...

the world has been going downhill since 1974

I mean, Stephen King isn't the greatest author ever, but I would hardly herald his first book as the downfall of man!

bmiller said...

Carrie was pretty scary.

bmiller said...

Carrie was a scary fictional story.

Here's another. It may be even scarier.

SteveK said...

Here's the Senate Democrats overstepping their boundaries. The fact is nobody stays in their political lane. The nature of co-equal branches invites this sort of thing. Everyone wants to be in charge.

Legion of Logic said...

Yeah I'm sure the human wastecans that comprise the Senate Democrats would have the same opinion of a politicized Supreme Court if it was expected to rule in their favor.

bmiller said...

Democrats warn Supreme Court it's too unhealthy to hear gun case

Looks like the SCOTUS failed the Red Flag test and now must have their power taken away.