Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Impending Obamatarian Dictatorship

According to Barack Obama's wife, Michelle:
Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.
Now, obviously I don't expect an Obama presidency to institute work camps and reeducation centers -- rhetoric such as this is par for the course these days, and is merely symptomatic of a larger problem infecting U.S. politics. Americans are no longer expected to merely vote for an individual that they believe will best enforce the laws of the land. As the blogger IOZ points out, Americans go to the polls to elect a Caesar-like figure who, for a period of four to eight years, is expected to become a de facto dictator. And in an age when a president can unilaterally decide to attack a foreign country without congressional approval, the president-as-dictator view is not merely fear mongering hyperventilation -- it's fact (and for those who think I'm referring just to the Bush years, you might want to look up Bill Clinton's bombing of a Sudanese aspirin factory and air war on Serbia, just for starters).

But returning to Michelle Obama's comment, as Daniel Larison at The American Conservative writes:
You have to marvel at the use of so many phrases implying coercion, rather than persuasion: require, demand, never allow. I’m sorry, but in a still nominally free country the chief magistrate of a republic does not make demands of citizens, but enforces the laws enacted by their representatives. That is what the President does, or is supposed to do. He does not, cannot, rightfully require things of any citizen that the citizen does not already owe to his country, namely loyalty and patriotic service. That is what he is allowed to ask from us, because it is something we are already obliged to render. It is not he who permits and allows, but, at least in theory, we who permit him to serve us. He will not be a jefe or archigos to whom we are swearing personal allegiance (despite the confusion of some Bush supporters on this point), but a public servant who executes the laws and obeys the Constitution.
Regardless of whether you feel Barack Obama is the most supremely qualified candidate for president out there, if he is elected he'll be assuming dictatorial powers. If he so chose, he could send U.S. troops to Darfur or to any number of global hotspots on a whim. He could have you (and your grandmother) renditioned (my spellcheck clearly has a pre-9/11 mindset, as it considers that word a typo) to be tortured in some hellhole in Eastern Europe, if he so chose. The question isn't whether Barack Obama would exercise these powers more wisely than his opponents, it's whether he should have these powers to begin with. And considering the corrupting influence of power, I'm not sure I'd trust Jesus with the presidency, much less Barack Obama -- not that some of his supporters would know the difference.


  1. Charlie, do you know if Barack or Hillary have been asked if they would roll back (is it even possible) the 1000 or so Bush signing statements?
    Keep up the very interesting work.

  2. Spike--

    The Washington Post recently had an article regarding the candidates' positions on signing statements that you may find useful:

    And here's what Obama told the Boston Globe:
    "The problem with this administration is that it has attached signing statements to legislation in an effort to change the meaning of the legislation, to avoid enforcing certain provisions of the legislation that the President does not like, and to raise implausible or dubious constitutional objections to the legislation," Obama answered. But, he added: "No one doubts that it is appropriate to use signing statements to protect a president's constitutional prerogatives."

    As for Clinton -- does it really matter? I'm sure she would say she's against Bush's use of signing statements, like any Good Liberal, but that if she was in office I'd say it's a safe bet she'd use the hell out of them. The same goes for Obama. No president since probably Grover Cleveland has ever left the White House with less power than when they entered. Politicians like power, and there's no reason to think either Obama, or especially Clinton, would do anything to reverse the trend toward centralized power in the Executive branch -- something the Democrats have enabled just as much as the Republicans.

    The only candidate to actually campaign on the issue of rolling back the president's power has been Ron Paul, and we've seen how the media has treated him -- as more or less a fringe, extremist kook. I remember trying to pitch a story about Paul to a certain news director at a large public radio station in Texas and having him tell me that "his listeners" would not be interested in any stories about Paul, as he was nothing but a "fringe sideshow." That's the attitude our establishment media has toward anyone who dares to question the bipartisan consensus on things such as foreign policy and the power of the federal government. And I wouldn't expect Obama or any other Democrat (except Dennis Kucinich) to challenge that consensus in any meaningful sense, unless they want the same type of coverage that crazy old Ron Paul has received.

  3. Anonymous2:13 PM

    Yes, there are many reasons to be concerned about Obama. And ANY mainstream candidate for that matter.