Is the president a kind of king?

Marcus_aurelius_3 "Colonel,
How about a thread on the role and function of CiC? It’s a central theme in this election yet nothing substantive has been written.

It seemed to me self evident that the president was CiC of the Army of the US to assert ultimate civilian control over the military, keeping power answerable to the citizenry, not to make the president some kind of super general, as seems to be implied these days. I though Obama’s statements at the outdoor press conference after the Iraq visit showed a good grasp of this–undoubtedly Hagel had many intelligent things to say along the way.

Re: Unitary Presidency-as I understood the Calabrese paper which originated the concept (co-author Yoo, of DOJ-White House legalized torture fame) it’s not the CiC ‘duty’ which give the pres. ‘unitary’  power in wartime (which the Jacobins seek to make permanent), but the very nature of the Executive Branch as the sole actioning and implementing agent in the government. This is to say that all actions of the Federal Government must emanate from the will of the President, and that anything which goes against this is unconstitutional. This hierarchical ‘godhead’ concept probably comes from deep within the Strausian neo-platonism. It boils down to a government ‘Of the President, For the President, and By the President’."  Florestan


I don’t think the basic issue here is civilian control of the military in the United States.  This concept is so bred into the US Military that it is not even remotely in question.  Everyone understands that the president of the US is the CIVILIAN head of the armed forces.  Does he, none the less, have operational control of the armed forces?  Yes, he does.

IMO, the issue is whether or not the citizenry is being seduced (not necessarily deliberately) into thinking that the president is sovereign.  As I have tediously said before, "commander in chief" is a pretty close rendering of the Latin word "imperator."  Imperator-emperor, get it?  If the view takes hold that the president is a temporary, elected king, the "CEO of America," then we will be living in the hollowed out shell of the "Great Republic." (Churchill) The forms of republican government will remain, but we will then be "subjects."

It should be clear to all that both parties are prone to this kind of creeping Caesarism.  "A pox on both their houses."   Personalities do not matter in such issues.  I don’t care if Marcus Aurelius returns.  He would still be an enemy of Republicanism.  pl

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39 Responses to Is the president a kind of king?

  1. “I don’t think the basic issue here is civilian control of the military in the United States. This concept is so bred into the US Military that it is not even remotely in question.”
    I know that the concept of civilian control has been deeply engrained in the uniformed folks in the past, Colonel, but I’m a bit fearful regarding the future. The religious right has been deliberately seeding the military for several decades and some of them who are now achieving an age to move into positions of real power and responsibility very likely share some of the Christian Dominionist tendencies that the recently selected GOP VP candidate apparently does. Thankfully there are organizations such as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, established by an USAFA graduate, doing their part to call them to account.

  2. I’d be curious to see a poll conducted amongst the American people–
    Does an American citizen have to follow the orders of the Commander in Chief?
    How many of our fellow citizens think the President of the United States can order them around?

  3. Yohan says:

    For Rome, the price of empire was the collapse of the social and economic consensus that underpinned the republic. The growth of proconsular and military power was a direct outgrowth of the precieved military needs of dealing with the (small e) empire.
    The military requirements for sustaining a large, long-term military force to pacify Roman Spain required longer terms for proconsuls and greater personal authority over the increasingly numerous legions under their control. Land, instead of being a prerequisite for military service became the reward for service. The backbone of the Roman social system, the moderately propertied farmers(like our middle class), were ruined by being forced to serve in the army, far from their farms, for years and years on end. Thus ruined, they flooded the cities as landless mobs while the upper class made fortunes out of provisioning the military. This dislocation of the traditional patron-client system meant that the mob(who no longer had set patrons) became increasingly angry and subject to influence by demagogues.
    The war on terror with its imperial overreach, whether purposely or accidentally, is putting similar stresses on America’s social and economic consensus, with obvious implications for our republic.

  4. Duncan Kinder says:

    The failure of the American polity following the collapse of the Soviet Union to demobilize to pre-WWII military levels certainly buttresses your argument, Col.
    But it is easier, far easier, to become a warlord when when is enjoying victories than suffering defeats.
    And for reasons you well know, when “the troops” come marching home from Iraq, while pundits may proclaim that “the surge has worked,” the spectacle shall bear greater semblance to Caligula – having proclaimed his victory over the sea – marching into Rome bearing seashells and conchs as trophies than to Caesar crossing the Rubicon after having enriched Rome by crushing Gaul.

  5. Cold War Zoomie says:

    I need a King.
    He makes me feel safe at night.

  6. Mike Martin, Yorktown, VA says:

    Pat, how do you see John McCain practicing the CinC role if he’s elected? Particularly wrt his Navy background. As you say, civilian control of the military is ingrained in every one of us who has taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution. McCain’s taken that oath – and there’s no end date on it as far as I’m concerned.
    It will be interesting to see if the Neocons retain power, likewise the advocates of the “unitary executive” theory.

  7. Patrick Lang says:

    Mike Martin
    The oath we took is effective so long as the status for which we took it remains unchanged. It is legal, not sacramental.
    McCain is a retired naval officer, not a former naval officer. He is also a US Senator. He remains bound in both categories by his oaths to “protect and defend the constitution of the United States agaisnt all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
    I am a student of the American Civil War. The question of the permanence of an officer’s oath arises in regard to the Southern regular officers who resigned from US service at the secession of their states. The general legal opinion is that if their resignations were accepted by the Secretaries of War or Navy of the United States, then they were no longer bound by that oath. pl

  8. JohnH says:

    Yohan said that the Roman “mob became increasingly angry and subject to influence by demagogues.” Anybody else notice that these are the emotions that Palin is exploiting?
    US elections are increasingly looking like a Super Bowl of politics. No issues, no substance. But everybody gets to vote on which Defense they prefer: the Patriots or of the Sheep…

  9. Walrus says:

    The doctrine in Britain and Westminster system countries is called “The Separation of Powers”, not sure if it’s the same in the U.S.
    The military chain of command is responsible to the crown or Head of State, but the Head of State is not a lawmaker. The lawmakers “advise” the Head of State what to do with the military, but don’t actually have legal control.
    To put it another way, one party has the power but can’t use it. The other party can use the power but can’t have it.
    It’s a nice legal fiction that’s tested maybe once every fifty years or so, and I suspect it was tested in Britain in the lead up to the second Iraq war, but we will have to wait for the memoirs to find out.
    I would like to think that a similar concept is deeply embedded in the American Officer Corps, but I am not as sure as you are Col. Lang. The British have a deeply engrained and healthy “contempt” (probably too strong a word) for their military. Kipling’s “Tommy Atkins” expresses it rather well.
    However this “love – hate” relationship is not mirrored in America and this is deeply unsettling to me. The Neocons have been stoking militarism in my opinion and the entire maudlin, phoney, “fallen warrior”, “valiant sacrifice” narrative they spin makes me want to throw up.
    Judging by the Pentagon’s PR efforts, including the entire “Milblog” phenomenon, I believe that there are officers in the military who believe this same narrative, and are covertly supporting the Republicans in direct contravention of the principle of separation of powers – a principle that Bush deliberately misunderstands himself.
    This situation is aided and abetted by a complaisant Congress that is derelict in it’s duty of keeping the Presidency on the straight and narrow way, and that is the root of the problem in my opinion.
    When you couple this creeping militarism, romantic glorification of war, and then conjure an amorphous, ever present foe, as Bush has done with the war on terror, you are asking for trouble.
    Remember all military coups have a trumped up legal basis that provides the justification and an assertion that the plotters are not oath breakers. The usual one being that they need to take steps to preserve the Constitution.

  10. frank durkee says:

    Isn’t the short term relevant issue that of “the War” and presidential powers? If we move off a declared war then much of the superstructure falls to the ground. the argrument and conversation changes. Bush et al saw this and opted for the ‘forever war’ as a way of controlling the argrument.

  11. Paul says:

    Bush Is a defacto king. He has repeatedly declared a divine right. He famously identified which father he listened to.
    Woodward reports that with regard to the surge, Bush ignored the advice of the most senior commanders, and on the very next day announced to those gathered at Ft. Bragg that the surge had the blessing of the commanders. That was a lie and it resulted in death and injury to American military and Iraqi civilians.
    If the presence of 140,000 troops in Iraq is a political ploy intended to hamstring the next admistration, that and the worsening situation in Afghanistan are the most reckless acts that can be perpetrate.
    It would be nice if the military had the option to just quit and go home. Bush has screwed them.
    What more does the Congress need to impeach Bush and Cheney, and why has Pace and the rest of them remained quiet?
    Does McCain know he has been snookered? How in the world could Ms. Palin handle this situation should McCain die in the next six months?
    The nation is in freefall yet half of it is too enthralled with Ms. Palin to take notice.

  12. Grumpy says:

    Col. When you answered Mike Martin, the person I considered was 5-Star GEN. Dwight Eisenhower. Now the issues were not the same, and I’m not trying to imply it. In some ways, they are similar. Eisenhower had a life time commission as 5-Star General of the Army, RETIRED, not former. But when he became President, he resigned his commission. This protects him from a whole host issues. Upon completion of his Presidential term, his commission as a 5-Star General of the Army, Retired was returned.

  13. Frank Newbauer says:

    Yohan’s analysis is partially correct but misses the real reason why the Roman republic failed. The small farmer was ruined, not because they were forced to serve in long-term expeditionary forces to secure the empire, but because the changed economic conditions rendered their labor uneconomical. The Roman world became “flat”. The conquest of the empire resulted in undercutting the economic base of the citizen farmer. The flood of slaves into Italy gave rise to the development of the latafundia – large-scale factory farms operated by slaves – and the extrajudicial expropriation of the citizen-farmers’ land by the oligarchs. The economic division between the orders became greater and greater, with a fabulously wealthy few and the many in want – sound familiar? This rural proletariate enlisted in the Roman army to (hopefully) secure their and their families future. Those who went to the metropolis for employment could not compete with the highly skilled, but cheap, Greek slaves.
    It was the failure of the republican government to adequately reward these citizen soldiers with land that led to the fall of the republic. Starting with Marius, the individual Roman general and later consul (or dictator) became the guarantor of this reward. Sulla, Pompey, Julius Ceasar became the champion the legionnaires looked to for security, not the state. Ceasar was the culmination of this (he was Marius’ nephew) and saw the rot in the system. He was capable of taking control, but was killed by those who no higher aim than perpetuating the forms of the republic.
    The internal contradictions of the Roman constitution were not capable of functioning in an empire. Those individuals who tried to change the system, such as the Gracchi, were destroyed, literally, by the Senators. Short term advantage trumped the security of the state.
    That reminds of some other republic that had a sound footing, created a great nation, and then squandered it, paying off the masses with bread and circuses.

  14. Wow! Great post and comments. “The Man Who Would Be King” a Kipling tale might be of interest. It was always of interest to me that political appointees often had never been elected officials although of course some were. Those who had been elected were more sensitive to the fact that their real service was owed to the people and not to the party or leadership that appointed them. Since PL is expert on the Civil War and I am not would be interested in his comments on election of officers in that war, north and south, and their performance. The modern military is self-contained but what is of interest is that in the period of time since General Haig served Nixon it is becoming increasing frequent that officers make rank based on their service to elected politicians and appointees. And of course the fact that the Senate votes on promotions is always of interest. When was the last truly open dialog in academia, the military or political circles on what civilian control of the military really means? Eliot Cohen’s writings speak to elected politicians like Churchill and Roosevelt of having contibuted greatly to the cause of the democracies. But the debate over Hitler and his performance might lead to other conclusions. What is interesting however is that military service is increasingly unlikely in candidates and their grip on what actually motivates soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women is often lacking. I think that the Nurmemberg policy of not obeying orders that were unlawful continue to plague the issue of civilian control. On that basis alone I think participation by the US in the ICC (International Criminal Court) might focus attention of the military and civilians in their chain of command just as Churchill’s comment on bullets passing close by without result. In this case, trial and punishment by the ICC is never an issue if the US were to take action on its own. But let’s get serious, how many field grade officers have been punished since the end of the draft military? If they were punished what was it for? How many for disobeying a direct order and what were those orders? There is no question that international law has been violated by the US numerous times. Example, employment of Agent Orange was chemical warfare no doubt. In short, this long comment is directed at who is really accountable for the performance of the military in its fullest dimensions and what is the basis of that accountability? I think the current President’s flirtation with military activity is similar to that of Kaiser Bill playing toy soldiers when young. Never a serious student but one who loved the uniforms and the pomp and circumstance. When serving in Germany in the late 60’s and early 70’s I actually had German officers (who were subjected to frequent democracy training) say that we (the US) were the new NAZIs because we polished our boots. Way off but yes we did redesign the Bundeswehr uniforms because those of the Werhmact were too spiffy. Maybe we need more training for all involved including appointees and elected officials as to their accountability. It would be easier with an ICC membership for the US.

  15. JTCornpone says:

    There was an interesting discussion on the old Intel Dump site about CinC power. My takeaway was summarized by J D Henderson. See his 5:09 post at
    For Zoomie:
    For making you safe, George II is the man. He starts with the idea that “they” hate us for our freedom. This hatred makes us unsafe because it makes “them” want to attack our homeland. Therefore to make us safer obviously our freedoms must be reduced. As our freedoms dwindle so does the hatred and our safety increases in proportion. When our freedom is gone, the hatred vanishes and we are perfectly safe. What we’ll be allowed to do when we are safe is a valid question.
    As a corollary OIF was instigated to provide the Iraquis with freedom, as the name implies. Along with their freedom they will obviously acquire hatred. This will provide an outlet for those who can no longer hate us. See where logic leads with the proper premise?
    Or as Mark Twain says in Life on the Mississippi:
    “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact”
    (third quote)
    Be safe

  16. Patrick Lang says:

    As I understand it, a five star general or admiral is like a European field marshal, never retired, always on active duty until death. Omar Bradley was the last. He had an army personal staff (small)and lived on post at Ft. Bliss until he died.
    Eisenhower resigned to be president as you say and then was reinstated whrn he left office in 1960.
    The same thing must have been true of Marshall. pl

  17. Charles I says:

    You have a “Magna Carta”.
    But the Gentry charged with enforcing it to secure their interests no longer operate in their own, their public, interests.
    For a long period the feather-nesting and gerrymandering of incumbency nonetheless generally accorded to the sensible goals of a sound economy, local employment, public tolerance if not comity, secure borders and international status. But the interests of our present gentry, or rather their myriad paymasters, have been freed from any nationalistic tendencies by a fruitful long term campaign to discredit and sell the social contract, along with maintenance and governance thereof to the highest bidder.
    Globalization was the uncoupling of the gentry from their former rent-producing holdings, and the human capital therein, the further monetary inflation of freed capital in flight affording fantastic profits coming and going, even as one’s own erstwhile peasants were beggared in situ by same. Uncoupling that eliminated consequences of manufactured crises used to simultaneously increase costs and lower property values of social assets prior to sale and redevelopment or leaseback. Populist Clinton was a globalizer par none, so the American middle class manufacturing sector sublimated into global capital with allegiance to no state, an orgy of cheap credit, consumption and debt prescribed as cure.
    Executive governance, in every sense of those words, similarly passed into a realm unfettered by the workings of the democratic electoral cycle that once empowered it, or indeed any class of shareholders outside of management, the latter, while handsomely rewarded no longer with tenure, as it were.
    Cold War Zoomie feels safer with a warrior king.
    That’s all this system offers, given current foreign policy. Until such time as those so easily addled yet so assiduously seeded by the great Base of the Right into the hallways of Power cohere into a religiously charged cabal a la the flatheads that becomes incumbent – and charged with a very different kind of true mission. At that time the government shall stop ignoring the population, and set to great domestic projects with more skill, fervour and technology than has ever been applied to a congregation to date. Shock and Awe fit for a King is what I expect, because I don’t believe Congress will ever step up. I’m thinking Total Information Awareness meets Margaret Atwoods’ ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’, applied with a system of gold stars, maybe colour-coded like threat levels according to you contributions, or lack thereof, to the Church of Homeland Security and Sanctity.
    At which time I’ll be pining for a King to rid me of a troublesome priest.

  18. Patrick Lang says:

    It is cslled the same thing here. Here the head of state is head of government and we actually do have a real separation of powers which you do not have in the “Westminster” model since real power is in the hands of the parliament.
    The US military is good at purging officers who are too closely affiliated with a particular civilian ideology. Wait and see. pl

  19. bstr says:

    Dear Sir “(not necessarily deliberately)” I do not think the case can be made that, to use your term, the Jacobins are not deliberate. In particular the concept of the Unitary Executive is so seductive to the POTUS, no matter who, that it clings to the cosnstitution as blood upon the hands of Lady Macbeth.

  20. Grumpy says:

    I come from a family with a long history, early 1700’s, in this country, the same area I live in at the present time. My Mother’s and Father’s Families were never considered “Favorites of the King” or “Conservatives”.
    Looking from the British point of view, the “Revolutionaries” were nothing more than an insurgent group of traitors. The whole group should all be taken out and hanged. But the feeling was mutual on both sides. But as these simple people worked together (Networking),remember everything they did was a life or death choice, you or them. They had a password system, it was a riddle. “Can you tell me which it is, is it the king is law OR is it the LAW IS KING? You better answer the question with “Law is King” or you are dead!
    Let’s just take a quick look at our Constitution, many swore an oath in support of it. The sequence is important.
    Article I- Legislative – They write the Law.
    Article II – Executive – They execute the Written Law.
    Article III – Judiciary – They interpret the law,
    I wonder, what do their actions say about their answer to the riddle, How do you think the Revolutionaries, who put everything on the line, including their families’ and their own lives on the line, would answer this question? Well?!?!

  21. Fitzhugh says:

    Dear Colonel,
    Would it be fair to call Madison our last true commander in chief of the Army and Navy, since he was the last president to strap on a sword and ride into battle?

  22. VietnamVet says:

    The “CiC” ignored the Joint Chiefs and the Chain of Command and adopted American Enterprise Institute’s battle plan to increase the number of troops in Bagdad and stove piped General Petraeus to take command.
    Bob Woodward indicates there were three additional reasons for the decrease in violence besides additional boots on the ground:
    1) “Fusion cells” using every tool available simultaneously, from signal intercepts to human intelligence and other methods, that allowed lightning-quick and sometimes concurrent operations.
    2) Anbar Awakening, and
    3) Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his powerful Mahdi Army to suspend operations.
    John McCain’s Surge victory is 200 attacks a week. This was won by Gestapo tactics and multiple 15 month tours but can be lost in a second by a reversal by either the Sunnis or Shiites. A quandary left to the next CiC. Does he listen to his military and financial advisors or does he keep booting the can down the line as long as he can?

  23. fasteddiez says:

    Vietnam Vet said:
    “Fusion cells” using every tool available simultaneously, from signal intercepts to human intelligence and other methods, that allowed lightning-quick and sometimes concurrent operations.”
    That sounds like SOCOM got the crème de la crème of the available Intelligence multi-dicipline humanoid/systems talent with which to undertake stated high speed, low drag missions (much to the chagrin of the sad sack crunchy drones).
    The problem is how do you evaluate the catch? How many garbage fish had to be gaffed over the side?
    With all their talent, could the Snake eaters from Hell tell the difference (quality wise) between the sources they failed to ventilate and dragged in instead? If they could tell the difference, a senior officer’s admission to trolling for garbage could be considered a career ender, could it not? Were there provable, significant reductions in Takfiri/Iranian ops in the sectors where these DA activities took place? Was there an over reliance on IA personnel to vet bad guys during the course of this offensive? And if so, how could their prejudices be evaluated?
    If you do not know the answers to those questions within a reasonable degree of probability, are you not pissing in the proverbial wind, and checking off the latest box in your career progression?
    Hint: has anyone ever seen an ass covering, fraudulent combat after action report before?

  24. Patrick Lang says:

    Frank Durkee
    We do not have a declared war. pl

  25. Patrick Lang says:

    The Civil War armies north and south were artifacts of 19th century European and American history. During the Napoleonic Wars there arose in Britain what was called the “Volunteer Movement.” In this movement, local citizens groups formed geographically based units for the duration of the emergency. These were wartime only units made up of local people; squires, tradesmen, farmers, etc. The members thought themselves voluntary patriotic associations, not to be confused with regular soldiers or disciplined the same way. In these units, company officers (lieutenants and captains) were elected. field officers (majors, and colonels appointed) by higher political authority.
    This idea spread to the New World and established itself in both the US and Canada.
    In the Mexican War a large volunteer force was raised. The units were given state designations, “Mississippi Rifles,” etc. They supplemented both the Regulars and the militia of the states. At war’s end they were disbanded and everyone involved got a presentation sword, a big reputation, the right to style himself colonel (of volunteers), etc.
    This had worked rather well and so when the Civil war started, the leaders, who had all served in Mexico, raised the armies the same way.
    So, there were; Regulars, Volunteers (the majority) and militia on both sides. Virginia even had something it called the Reserves.
    We did the same thing in the Spanish War. After that the Regulars “put their foot down” and insisted that there would be no more of that.
    What do I think of this?
    It would have been a lot more efficient and effective to raise a unified national army as we did from WW1 on. The volunteer system resulted in whole armies of green troops taking the field in combat under officers, including generals, who had no military knowledge at all. They learned the hard way. A lot of Regular officers transferred to the volunteers for the duration of the war.
    Maureen and I have a great grandfather who was first sergeant of a rifle company in a volunteer regiment. The regiment’s fixed term of enlistment ran out in the Spring of 1864, just before The Wilderness. Those who were willing, re-enlisted for the rest of the war in the same regiment. The rest went home. Since it was legally a new regiment they re-elected company officers. Our ancestor was elected a captain and soldiered on to Appomattox. pl

  26. J says:

    that is why i keep saying that the office of both the presidency and vice presidency are ‘obsolete’ and need to be done away with. we the u.s. are a republic not a ‘kingdom’ like british crown – colonies of the 1700s. that is why our forefathers gave the british crown the big middle finger, as they were tired of the abuse and corruption. and sadly those who wish to occupy the offices of both our u.s. president and vice presidential offices are trying to be ‘kings for a day’ instead of working on behalf of the republic.

  27. Curious says:

    Bush phone spying is increasing exponentially. (He is the emperor beyond the reach of constitution. This is a fact. Congress is too corrupt and partisan to take action.
    A recent article in the London Review of Books revealed that a number of private companies now sell off-the-shelf data-mining solutions to government spies interested in analyzing mobile-phone calling records and real-time location information. These companies include ThorpeGlen, VASTech, Kommlabs, and Aqsacom–all of which sell “passive probing” data-mining services to governments around the world.
    ThorpeGlen, a U.K.-based firm, offers intelligence analysts a graphical interface to the company’s mobile-phone location and call-record data-mining software. Want to determine a suspect’s “community of interest”? Easy. Want to learn if a single person is swapping SIM cards or throwing away phones (yet still hanging out in the same physical location)? No problem.

  28. Grumpy says:

    Col. In reference to your reply to me, 8 SEP 2008, 05:26 PM, Thank you, for the correction.

  29. Grimgrin says:

    I affirmed an oath to faithfully carry out my duties to Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second The Queen of Canada once. It was when I got a temporary job at the government run liquor store. This made me a temporary member of the civil service, and as such I had to affirm the standard loyalty oath. While most of my thoughts on this oath were me amusing myself by imagining Queen Elizabeth having some personal stake in me slinging booze it did occur to me that having all the ceremonial functions of the head of state invested in a figurehead monarch like the Queen, or a figureheads representative Governor General may make it more difficult for the executive to size on those ceremonial functions to try and justify a power grab.
    That’s why I’m going to suggest this. A constitutional amendment to create an American monarchy. In keeping with Americas egalitarian principles the monarch will be chosen by random drawing at whatever interval is deemed appropriate, maybe 6 years. Selling tickets to the draw could be a way to raise revenue. Build The American Monarch some big neo-Palladian house in DC equal to the role of head of state of America. Make it slightly larger and more ostentatious than the White House. For five years this person is the the head of state of America. Have them show up at disasters looking concerned, pin medals on people, sign bills into law and generally take over all the ceremonial roles the President now fills. You could have them spin bullshit for the Congress and call it the Throne Speech and let the State of the Union Address get back to being what it was intended to be. Obviously they would be the Commander in Cheif as well, and just as obviously, would have zero actual authority over the operations of the United States Armed Forces.
    The President can go back to their traditional, if more minor role of being the person in charge of executing the laws as written and using the bully pulpit to try and drive the public agenda. Veto power would be retained by the President, but it would now be cast as ‘declining to present the bill for royal assent’, and could be overridden as it is now.
    While I can see some diehard republicans (using the original meaning) objecting to any Monarch whatsoever, I feel that this plan is an experiment worth trying.

  30. This is wonderful food for thought as I approach my journey to the eastern reaches of the former Roman Empire. I will be going to Tyre to look again at the ruins of the great hippodrome there, the largest in the Roman world. We will also go to Baalbek and marvel at the mighty temple, mostly destroyed.
    (not my photo in the link)
    You’ve heard me say it often enough, but I’ll say it again. From the balcony of the house where my father was born I can look out upon Sidon, or Saida, which was destroyed a dozen times in antiquity, only to be rebuilt; the Romans had it for a few hundred years, and left some ruins; its Crusaders Castle lies upon an island offshore, with a domed mosque roof built into one corner. Why even my countrymen, American missionaries, held a redoubt in the Evangelical school at the bottom of our hill for a century, but they’re now gone, and only the name remains.
    Empires rise, and then they fall. See Ozymandias.
    I have learned from this post that I am actually a republican, lower case r, because I want to live in a republic. Republics rise and fall, too. I hope for more from this country. I hope we are not falling, but merely going through a bumpy patch that will wake up the apathetic and invigorate the competent and committed.
    Barack Obama won my support when he spoke in February of the ideals upon which this union was founded, and how we might work to live up to those ideals, forming a more perfect union.
    He also wins my admiration for how he focuses on the positive vision he wants to achieve; he will get down there and slug it out against liars and naysayers, but he tends to avoid namecalling and stick to what he wants to accomplish. I am going to focus on this for the next 58 days. (and pray for my country, the USA).

  31. Cujo359 says:

    I’ve noticed a trend recently of referring to the President as “Commander In Chief” without the caveat that he’s the CiC of the military. This trend bothers me a lot. It does seem to imply that we do whatever he says. It’s one of the reasons I keep repeating that the President and other politicians work for us, not the other way around.
    At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

  32. Arun says:

    From the WaPo blog:
    It was in St. Paul last week that Palin drew raucous cheers when she delivered this put-down of Obama: “Al-Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America and he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.”
    Obama had a few problems with that.
    “First of all, you don’t even get to read them their rights until you catch ’em,” Obama said here, drawing laughs from 1,500 supporters in a high school gymnasium. “They should spend more time trying to catch Osama bin Laden and we can worry about the next steps later.”
    If the plotters of the Sept. 11 attacks are in the government’s sights, Obama went on, they should be targeted and killed.
    “My position has always been clear: If you’ve got a terrorist, take him out,” Obama said. “Anybody who was involved in 9/11, take ’em out.”
    But Obama, who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago for more than a decade, said captured suspects deserve to file writs of habeus corpus.
    Calling it “the foundation of Anglo-American law,” he said the principle “says very simply: If the government grabs you, then you have the right to at least ask, ‘Why was I grabbed?’ And say, ‘Maybe you’ve got the wrong person.'”
    The safeguard is essential, Obama continued, “because we don’t always have the right person.”
    “We don’t always catch the right person,” he said. “We may think it’s Mohammed the terrorist, but it might be Mohammed the cab driver. You might think it’s Barack the bomb-thrower, but it might be Barack the guy running for president.”
    Obama turned back to Palin’s comment, although he said he was not sure whether Palin or Rudy Giuliani said it.
    “The reason that you have this principle is not to be soft on terrorism. It’s because that’s who we are. That’s what we’re protecting,” Obama said, his voice growing louder and the crowd rising to its feet to cheer. “Don’t mock the Constitution. Don’t make fun of it. Don’t suggest that it’s not American to abide by what the founding fathers set up. It’s worked pretty well for over 200 years.”

  33. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Under the Constitution, he is not a “king.” The basic doctrine in this republic traditionally relates to the “separation of powers” — Legislative, Executive, Judicial. Sovereignty is vested in the People, not in the “person” of the President.
    Those who have been in the business of overthrowing the Constitution — say since the Imperial Presidency of Nixon — have in recent years espoused a different doctrine, these days called by some the “Unitary Executive.”
    A corrupted Legislative Branch (Congress) facilitates Executive Branch usurpation of powers.
    As I have noted on other threads, IMO the current trend uses the doctrines of Nazi jursit Carl Schmitt to reconstruct the American Presidency into something akin to a 1920s-30s European fascist dictator. “States of Emergency” and “states of exception” are important to the work.
    One can look back also to the “cumulation of powers” in the principate as managed by Augustus Caesar.
    Wiki has an overview of “separation of powers”
    IMO, our system will get more Imperial mostly due to the corruption (moral and financial) and cowardice of Congress. A reflection of the condition of the citizenry? Our society will get more “diverse” and violent. The memory of the intentions, principles, and acts of the Founders (those “dead white males” and their families) will fade from the minds of men. Just look around…

  34. I blogged this article and the WaPo report of Obama’s Constitution talk. Thank you, Colonel, and thank you Arun for alerting us to Senator Obama’s defense of habeus corpus.

  35. frank durkee says:

    Technically waht is the difference between a “declared war” and the action of congress in the post 9/11 period and the administrations claims under it and other congressional actions. what difference does it make to my point?

  36. Curious says:

    The so called “balance of power” in the constitution when it was created was designed to tackle accumulation of power experienced in europe, such as monarchy turned emperor.
    At that time, as long as state financial matter, legal system and legislation are separated. A president cannot accumulate power without the system ultimately correct itself.
    But time change. We are after all in 21st century, not 17th century anymore.
    What the founding father did not anticipate
    1. the scope and speed of modern mass media, particularly the cost of running campaign.
    2. The strength of modern party system and its ability to go beyond the separation of power and create an effective strategy to install partisan players that ultimately weakened separation of power.
    3. the size and power of modern corporation. Particularly military industrial complex and media.
    so in the end, power accumulate in very few hands. The system that supposedly distribute and rebalance power fails to function properly.
    A modern political party combined with partisan media, corporate money and think-tank can take over the entire system.
    Ultimately I think it’ll be back to 11th century version of florentine bankers controlling Italian city states. Maybe by way of Sovereign Fund and a multinational conglomerate. Those players has far more money and market technical capability to bring down a nation. US even.

  37. David W. says:

    It is interesting that Bush II is seeking to consolidate executive power by reasserting that the US is at war with Al Qaeda:
    The administration wants Congress to set out a narrow framework for those prisoner appeals. But the administration’s six-point proposal goes further. It includes not only the broad proclamation of a continued “armed conflict with Al Qaeda,” but also the desire for Congress to “reaffirm that for the duration of the conflict the United States may detain as enemy combatants those who have engaged in hostilities or purposefully supported Al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated organizations.”
    That broad language hints at why Democrats, and some Republicans, worry about the consequences. It could, they say, provide the legal framework for Mr. Bush and his successor to assert once again the president’s broad interpretation of the commander in chief’s wartime powers, powers that Justice Department lawyers secretly used to justify the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects and the National Security Agency’s wiretapping of Americans without court orders.
    The language recalls a resolution, known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress on Sept. 14, 2001. It authorized the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force” against those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks to prevent future strikes. That authorization, still in effect, was initially viewed by many members of Congress who voted for it as the go-ahead for the administration to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban, which had given sanctuary to Mr. bin Laden.
    But the military authorization became the secret legal basis for some of the administration’s most controversial legal tactics, including the wiretapping program, and that still gnaws at some members of Congress.

  38. Andy says:

    “Beginning with the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960, the occupant of the White House has become a combination of demigod, father figure and, inevitably, the betrayer of inflated hopes. Pope. Pop star. Scold. Scapegoat. Crisis manager. Commander in Chief. Agenda settler. Moral philosopher. Interpreter of the nation’s charisma. Object of veneration. And the butt of jokes. All rolled into one.” – Andrew Bacevich

  39. TomB says:

    Clifford Kiracofe wrote:
    “Those who have been in the business of overthrowing the Constitution — say since the Imperial Presidency of Nixon….”
    Hard to see how any consensus can ever be formed about what an Imperial Presidency even is so long as the “analysis” of same is so tendentiously partisan.
    E.g., Nixon and Bush, Nazi-like, bad; but FDR, who worked like hell violating neutrality to get us into war and used the FBI mercilessly against those who opposed him, good apparently; same with Truman, who intervened in Korea without a whit of Congressional authorization; same with JFK apparently who got us into Vietnam and single-handedly nearly got us incinerated over Berlin and Cuba and who was in bed with the mafia; same with LBJ apparently who cemented us there; same with Bill Clinton apparently whose White House collected FBI files on political adversaries and who essentially declared war on Serbia without Congressional authorization….
    Yeah right, that’ll convince fair-minded people that there’s a real problem with over-reaching Executives and it’s not just selective partisan polemics.
    P.S. And as for those of you who responded to Cold War Zoomie’s post, you might want to familiarize yourselves with the term “facetious.”

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