Tag Archives: George W. Bush

Trump: Just the Newest Leader of an Old Cult

U.S. President Donald Trump greets the crowd from the presidential review stand during the 58th Presidential Inauguration Parade in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. The parade route stretched approximately 1.5 miles along Pennsylvania Avenue from the U.S. Capitol to the White House. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
U.S. President Donald Trump greets the crowd from the presidential review stand during the 58th Presidential Inauguration Parade in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. The parade route stretched approximately 1.5 miles along Pennsylvania Avenue from the U.S. Capitol to the White House. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

In his first week as president of the United States, Donald Trump issued a flurry of executive orders on a number of subjects.

Some of those orders, such as his withdrawal of presidential recommendation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty (presidents propose treaties, the Senate ratifies them) and a hiring freeze in the executive branch, seem to fall squarely within his powers as laid out by Article II of the US Constitution.

Others, such as his conditioning of federal funding for “sanctuary cities” on their willingness to start doing the federal government’s work for it, his order to begin building a wall along the US border with Mexico, and his ban on entrance into the United States by nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries, not so much.

Trump’s early actions as president have given rise to substantial protest, not to mention litigation. Will he get away with ruling by decree? The Constitution says no. History says yes. The Trump presidency is far from sui generis . Rather it is the inevitable culmination of America’s long slide into a nearly worshipful attitude toward executive power — what Cato Institute vice-president Gene Healy dubbed, in his 2008 book of that name, The Cult of the Presidency.

The theory of American government is that the president is the chief executive. Words mean things. The president’s job is to implement — to execute — the will of Congress as expressed in legislation. He’s not the homeowner. He’s the housekeeper.

That’s the theory. In practice, presidents have, over time, carved out considerable personal power for themselves. Especially since World War Two and especially in the area of foreign policy (for example, Truman’s decision to go to war in Korea first and ask Congress for approval second), they’ve tended to treat Congress as a rubber stamp. Instead of following Congress’s lead, they expect Congress to follow theirs.

And it’s worked. Americans have become accustomed to regard the president as what George W. Bush called himself: “The Decider.” Or, as Barack Obama put it, “[w]e’re not just going to be waiting for legislation …. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.”

The “strong executive/weak executive” debate goes back to the founding of the United States.  For the last half century and more, the “strong executive” side has been winning out. The result: President Donald Trump and, for all intents and purposes, the finale of our national transformation from republic to banana republic.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION HISTORY

Win or Lose, Donald Trump Just Did the GOP a Yuuuuuuge Favor

English: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in...
Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fresh off his plurality win in the South Carolina primary, Donald Trump looks stronger than ever in his bid for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination. Whether or not he goes the distance to the nomination and then to the White House, he’s done the Republican Party a major service by helping it put the Bush dynasty in its rearview mirror.

Nobody doubts Trump’s willingness to say unpopular things in politically dangerous venues. But some observers felt that it might have been a bridge too far even for Trump to bust Jeb Bush’s “my brother kept us safe” balloon in South Carolina (uber-hawk Lindsey Graham’s stomping ground) the week before the south’s first major primary. Would this be the mistake that brought his campaign to grief?

Nope. Trump won the primary handily, Jeb ended his campaign … and from this point on Republican candidates for the presidency and other offices will finally feel free to openly disown — or at least quit feigning nostalgia for — the eight nightmare years of George W. Bush’s administration.

Dubya’s legacy — 9/11, two failed wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, and the  worst economic collapse since the Great Depression — may not have been entirely his fault. In fact, I think most reasonable people can agree that bad luck and bad advice were major contributing factors.

But what happened happened. It destroyed any chance of victory John McCain might otherwise have enjoyed in 2008, then dogged Mitt Romney’s heels in 2012 as well. Sure, Romney was the weakest Republican nominee since Wendell Willkie anyway, but the Bush legacy certainly didn’t do him any favors.

The GOP’s rut really goes back to 1990, the end of the Cold War, and yet another Bush White House. Ever since, the party’s establishment has had to work overtime, with the aid of convenient menaces (Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, 9/11, etc.) to keep its post-WWII raison d’etre — maintenance of an expensive gravy train for its military-industrial complex backers — on the rails. This meant marginalizing, at every opportunity, the party’s non-interventionist wing, most famously in the persons of Ron and Rand Paul over the last three election cycles.

Those non-interventionists could be marginalized, dismissed and put to pasture because they owed a modicum of loyalty to their party. But the Donald knows no loyalties except to himself, and perhaps to his own view of the truth. By stating that view and not paying for it with the loss of a major presidential primary, or with a hit to his overall nomination prospects, he has set the Republican Party free … if free is what it wants to be. Which remains to be seen, and is a question almost certainly weighing heavily on the minds of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Religion and Politics: Obama Visits the Mussulmen

Thousands listen to President Barack Obama's r...
Thousands listen to President Barack Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For 20 years prior to his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama attended Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Since his election as president, Obama has attended Christian worship services numerous times, has spoken annually at the distinctly Christian National Prayer Breakfast, and has periodically issued messages of holiday solidarity (Easter, Christmas, etc.) to “my fellow Christians.”

But some people don’t believe he’s a Christian. He drinks beer, eats pork, and marks Islam’s holy month of Ramadan with good wishes to Muslims (in one, referring to “my own Christian faith”)  rather than with that religion’s required fasting, but some people believe he’s secretly a Muslim. And some Republican politicians actively encourage that belief.

The can of hummus got opened up again on February 3,  when Obama visited a mosque in Baltimore to tell American Muslims “you’re part of America too. You’re not Muslim or American. You’re Muslim and American.”

As expected, the smirkingest, most “I’m saying what you think I’m saying but am not actually saying” critique of Obama’s visit came from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who opined that “maybe he feels comfortable there.” In other words, maybe he’s a secret Muslim.

Comes now US Senator (and also presidential candidate) Marco Rubio, characterizing the mosque visit as “pitting people against each other.” Because, you see, telling Muslim Americans that they’re Americans is soooooo divisive (unlike, for example, asserting that America is “a Christian nation”). I wonder if Rubio isn’t maybe just jealous that he forgot to cover all his religious bases. He started off as a Catholic. Then he was a Mormon. Now he’s a Catholic again and a Southern Baptist too (yes, really).

I sometimes suspect that Donald Trump’s, Marco Rubio’s  and Barack Obama’s real religions revolve around, respectively, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Barack Obama. But I digress.

Let me settle three questions for you as best I can.

Question #1: Is Barack Obama a Muslim?

Answer: No one can know another’s innermost thoughts, but going by Obama’s long record of public pronouncements and actions, no, he’s not a Muslim. He’s a professing Christian.

Question #2: Doesn’t that visit to a mosque make you wonder, though?

Answer: It shouldn’t. George W. Bush visited a mosque in Washington the week after 9/11, for exactly the same purpose as Obama did: To reassure Muslims that they are welcome in, and part of, America. Do you think George W. Bush is a Muslim too?

Question #3: Is America a Christian, or an anti-Muslim, nation?

Answer: I’ll let the first two presidents of the United States and the US Senate stand in for me on this answer. According to the Treaty of Tripoli, which was negotiated under George Washington and proffered to the Senate for ratification (it passed) by John Adams, “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion … it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims] …”

Any more questions?

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY