Archives for July, 2008

It’s Midnight in America

You could be excused for getting that vibe from this McCain campaign video, what with its vaguely X-Files-esque theme music and apocalyptic imagery (am I the only one who finds the little girl picking flowers reminiscent of “Daisy” the famous anti-Goldwater ad from the ’64 campaign?). The Teddy Roosevelt tape is from TR’s unhinged speech to the 1912 Progressive Party convention, a speech that ends “we stand at Armageddon–and we battle for the Lord!”

Election 2008: the Messiah vs. the Prophet of Doom. Sigh. Whatever happened to normalcy? Where have you gone Warren Harding? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Posted on Jul 30, 2008 in Cult of the Presidency | 1 Comment

“Even Richard Nixon Has Got Soul”

A great lyric, and perhaps an expression of bottomless Christian charity, because if Nixon had it, there’s not a one of us doesn’t. One of the many wonderful details in Rick Perlstein’s compulsively readable Nixonland is the following memo “To: Mrs. Nixon “From: The President”:

It wasn’t a love note. “With regard to RN’s room, what would be the most desirable is an end table like the one on the right side of the bed which will accommodate TWO dictaphones as well as a telephone…. In addition, he needs a bigger table on which he can work at night.”


Posted on Jul 27, 2008 in Asides, Cult of the Presidency | 8 Comments

Sunday Presidential Song Blogging

Neil Young: “Campaigner.” “Even Richard Nixon has got soul”: a lovely line, even if it’s hard to make sense of the rest of the lyrics. And hey, the Godfather of Soul endorsed Tricky Dick’s ’72 reelection campaign, so maybe he did.

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Posted on Jul 27, 2008 in Arts and Culture, Asides | 7 Comments

Cult on Kindle

Kindle owners: I’m pleased to announce that the book just came out on Kindle, where it’s number 10,000 something with a bullet. You can download the free sample, and get the whole intro. If you like it, it’s $9.99 for the whole thing, which will be delivered instantly through Amazon’s series of invisible tubes in the sky. Actually, I’m so pleased about this, that I’m this close to paying the money for my own book, like a schmuck.


Posted on Jul 18, 2008 in Cult of the Presidency | 4 Comments

Sorry for the Radio Silence

I’ve been out of town, in Las Vegas, America’s Museum of Obesity, a sprawling, endless Epcot Center for Drunks. In some ways it’s the Platonic form of America, in others a horrid, weirdly Soviet atmosphere that amplifies our country’s worst qualities. I’d never before seen people ride those “Rascal” mobility carts, not because they’re handicapped, but because they’re fat and lazy. Since I returned, I’ve been buried in work. I wish I had a Rascal with a laptop tray, so I could get work done on the commute home.

But back to self-promotion: Jim Antle, late of the American Conservative, now with the American Spectator, just wrote a nice review of Cult in the Washington Times. Thanks, Jim! (I can’t track down your email).


Posted on Jul 16, 2008 in Asides, Cult of the Presidency | Comments Off

The Power to Consult about War?

“In no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found,” James Madison wrote in 1793, “than in that clause which asks the president to give Congress a courtesy call whenever he’s picked a new country to invade.” Well, no, that’s not actually what he said. It went more like this:

In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department. Beside the objection to such a mixture to heterogeneous powers, the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man.

How to check that temptation? In 1973, Congress tried the War Powers Resolution, a deeply flawed piece of legislation that has never so much as inconvenienced a president bent on war. Former Secretaries of State Jim Baker and Warren Christopher–and a bipartisan panel of DC bigwigs–have a new answer: semi-mandatory consultation with Congress backed up by a dread “resolution of disapproval” (that the president can veto!). Somehow I don’t think this is going to work.

I haven’t had a chance to read the full report yet, but judging from the coverage and the op-ed Baker and Christopher penned for yesterday’s Times, the Commission’s proposal seems like an exercise in High Broderism. For some serious attempts at putting teeth in the War Powers Resolution, check here and here.

However, as I explain in the Cult of the Presidency, I’m skeptical that any of these megastatute solutions are going to work. Because no Congress can truly bind a future Congress and no statute can force the courts to resolve separation of powers fights they’d rather duck, such legislative solutions tend to be about as effective as a dieter’s note on the refrigerator. Unless and until ordinary voters demand that Congress stand and be counted on issues of war and peace–and defund unauthorized wars–we’ll continue as before. Hey, maybe we are the change we’ve been waiting on.


Posted on Jul 9, 2008 in Cult of the Presidency, Executive Power, Foreign Policy and Defense | 1 Comment