Archives for June, 2008

Things I Wish I Could Un-read

From the NYT Sunday Magazine interview with Uma Thurman’s dad, a Buddhist scholar at Columbia:

What do you think about when you meditate? Usually, some form of trying to excavate any kind of negative thing cycling in the mind and turn it toward the positive. For example, when I am annoyed with Dick Cheney, I meditate on how Dick Cheney was my mother in a previous life and nursed me at his breast.

Posted on Jun 30, 2008 in Asides | 12 Comments

Neocon Career Advice

First two sentences of a book review by David “End to Evil” Frum in yesterday’s NYT:

In most lines of work, a person does his credibility real damage by denying the obvious and asserting the manifestly untrue. Yet in the book world, there can be very large rewards for a writer who boldly turns reality on its head.


Posted on Jun 30, 2008 in Arts and Culture, Asides, Conservatism | 3 Comments

Cynics for Obama

Here’s a bumper-sticker sentiment that appeals to me. Reminds me of one of Lowi’s Laws:

The Law of Succession: Each president contributes to the upgrading of his predecessors.

And its corollary:

This [i.e., making his predecessor look good] is the only certain contribution each president will make.

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Posted on Jun 29, 2008 in Asides, Cult of the Presidency | 14 Comments

Sales Pitch

I doubt I’ll have any other speaking opportunities in the near future that involve shouting at the top of my lungs in a crowded bar. (Which is a shame). So I thought I’d reproduce for posterity the tail end of my remarks Thursday evening:

And I also say, buy my book. It’s a book that is many things:

it is an arrow against tyrants, and a barbaric yawp from one man’s couch;

in a campaign season dominated by mindless crap, it is a cleansing high colonic for the mind;

and it, perhaps more than anything, a love song. A love song for the beautiful losers, the Gerald Fords and the Calvin Coolidges, the Tafts and the Harrisons and the Hardings. For the presidents who get no respect from historians and talking heads, because they didn’t do enough, they didn’t blow enough stuff up, they offered no New Deals, no New Frontiers, no Great Societies, no nuthin’. They were presidents who were content to preside over peace and prosperity without screwing it all up. It’s a love song to them. It sings, where have you gone Warren Harding? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Woo ooh ooh. Woo woo woo.

All that for 10 bucks. You can’t go wrong.


Posted on Jun 29, 2008 in Asides, Cult of the Presidency | No Comments

Book Signing and Happy Hour

If you’re in DC, swing by the Rocket Bar in Chinatown at 6 PM for the America’s Future Foundation Happy Hour, featuring brief remarks by me, and a book signing. I will be pertinent, but I promise not to be sobering.

Posted on Jun 26, 2008 in Asides, Cult of the Presidency | 5 Comments

Heller Good

Congrats to my friends Alan Gura, Bob Levy, and Clark Neily for, against the odds–and with no help from the NRA–making the country a little freer today.


Posted on Jun 26, 2008 in Civil Liberties | 13 Comments

Situational Constitutionalism on the Right

Sam Tanenhaus has a sidebar in today’s NYT Week in Review section called “When Reining in an Imperial President Was the Conservatives’ Cause.” “Odd though it may seem, ideological conservatives used to be fierce critics of “executive supremacy,” he writes.

Tanenhaus, a longtime student of conservative intellectual history, is absolutely right. In Cult, I have a section entitled “How Conservatives Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Imperial Presidency,” that covers the ideological shift in detail. For a taste, click here.

The right-wing intellectuals who coalesced around William F. Buckley’s National Review associated powerful presidents with activist liberalism: the New Deal, the New Frontier, the Great Society. Therre was a time when you could hear conservative heroes like Barry Goldwater say the sort of things that would get Sean Hannity to call for treason trials today. Goldwater wrote in 1964 that:

Some of the current worship of powerful executives may come from those who admire strength and accomplishment of any sort. Others hail the display of Presidential strength … simply because they approve of the result reached by the use of power. This is nothing less than the totalitarian philosophy that the end justifies the means…. If ever there was a philosophy of government totally at war with that of the Founding Fathers, it is this one.

Heck, it wasn’t too long ago that you could hear John Yoo complain about “The Imperial President Abroad” in the Clinton years.

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Posted on Jun 22, 2008 in Conservatism, Cult of the Presidency, Executive Power | 2 Comments

Recent Media Mentions

In a review for the Orange County Register, J.H. Huebert says Cult is “one of the most important books of the year.”

Doug Bandow has a nice, comprehensive write-up of Cult at

Alexander Cockburn quotes from my Reason piece in “The Hope-Giver,” his column for the June 25 issue of the Nation.

Posted on Jun 18, 2008 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Half a Cheer for Carter

The obvious answer to John McCain’s recent, lame, anti-Obama soundbite, “Carter’s Second Term,” is that while Carter was no Gerald Ford, at least the man wasn’t as bad as Richard Nixon, the nearest recent historical parallel to George W. Bush. Though even that may be unfair to Nixon, who after all did not start the Vietnam War, and at least made peace with China. Moreover, despite his extravagant theories of executive power, Nixon at least disclaimed the right to lock up American citizens without charges or a trial, signing the Non-Detention Act of 1971. For the story behind that act, which the Bush legal team considers unconstitutional, see this piece [.pdf] by the indispensible Louis Fisher.

That said, the whole episode puts me in mind of Jim Henley’s tentative libertarian case for Jimmy Carter (see here, here, and here). As Jim wrote two years ago:

His administration deregulated trucking and air travel, market-friendly reforms that had huge, beneficial effects on American economy and life. (I’m old enough to remember when flight was for business travelers and the rich.) He appointed Paul Volcker to the Fed and backed his tight-money policies right through an election year.

I’m not convinced, nor is Jim, entirely. He runs through some of Carter’s bad points, like his godawful energy policy and his creation of two additional cabinet departments (one more than Reagan). I’d add the Desert One operation which, to read Mark Bowden’s account, was the craziest military operation approved by a president since the Bay of Pigs. Of course, Jimmuh’s unbearable sanctimony and self-righteousness shouldn’t count, but I’m sure it’s colored my assessment. But the fact that people reflexively rank Carter among the worst of the modern presidents says something about the bias toward presidential activism that warps our public debate.


Posted on Jun 16, 2008 in Cult of the Presidency, Domestic Policy, Foreign Policy and Defense, Libertarianism | 9 Comments


If I were remotely tech-savvy or good at Google, I’d know the answer to this question, but: where on my Amazon home page can I get a full list of my highlights and clippings from the Kindle? For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been using the highlight feature to flag Imperial Presidency-related articles and passages from the NYT and WaPo. I read somewhere that Amazon stored your Kindle highlights and clippings, and it would be really useful, work-and-blog wise if I could get them on my laptop or, even better, print or cut and paste them. Any help appreciated, thanks.


Posted on Jun 11, 2008 in Asides | 5 Comments

And the Nina Burleigh Award* Goes to…

…Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle for Friday’s column “Is Obama an Enlightened Being?” (answer: yes.):

Here’s where it gets gooey. Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.

The unusual thing is, true Lightworkers almost never appear on such a brutal, spiritually demeaning stage as national politics. This is why Obama is so rare.

    Is this guy having us on? Wikipedia refers to his “deeply satiric social commentary column,” though this one seems sincere. Hat tip: South Bend Seven.

    * explanation here.


    Posted on Jun 10, 2008 in Cult of the Presidency | 4 Comments

    “The All-Powerful Presidency”

    Friend and fellow Hoya Jerry Russello has a nice review of Cult of the Presidency at Jerry’s the editor of the University Bookman, and the author of the highly praised Postmodern Imagination of Russell Kirk.

    Posted on Jun 9, 2008 in Cult of the Presidency, Executive Power | 1 Comment

    Forked-Tongue Express

    Anybody reading McCain’s answers to an executive-power questionairre published in the Boston Globe last December could be excused for thinking that a McCain administration would represent at least a slight departure from the Bush team’s extravagant theories of presidential prerogative. “I don’t think the president has the right to disobey any law,” he said when asked about FISA. Alas, it seems that McCain has lately discovered the wondrous penumbras and emanations that supposedly issue from Article II. Charlie Savage has the goods.

    Posted on Jun 7, 2008 in Conservatism, Cult of the Presidency, Executive Power | 6 Comments

    With a Little Help from My Friends, Cont.

    Jeremy Lott references the book in his column for the Politico this week: “Obama: Peacenik or Untested Warmonger?”

    Shawn Macomber has an interview with me on the American Spectator online, “Narcissists with Nukes,” and my smug-looking mug is the weekend cover.

    Posted on Jun 6, 2008 in Cult of the Presidency, Executive Power | 6 Comments


    I don’t know, I’m with Yglesias on this one. This rings false to me. “There is a series of moments…”? Would he really have gotten the subject-verb agreement right?

    Posted on Jun 4, 2008 in Asides | 1 Comment