The Messianic Presidency
Gene Healy writes in the WashEx about the cult of the presidency:
As I explain in my new ebook, "False Idol," "No federal chief executive in recent memory has done as much as the 'Yes We Can' president to stir Americans' longing for presidential salvation; nor has any recent president done quite as much to enhance the presidency's dominance over American life."
In an important new article for Newsweek, "President Obama's Executive Power Grab," Andrew Romano and Daniel Klaidman note that Obama has "expand[ed] his domestic authority in ways that his predecessor never did." Frustrated by congressional resistance to his agenda, he's pursued "government by waiver," reshaping welfare, education and immigration law via royal dispensations and decrees.
"Obama is drafting a playbook for future presidents to deploy in response: How to Get What You Want Even If Congress Won't Give It to You," Romano and Klaidman write. The result is an "extraconstitutional arms race of sorts: a new normal that habitually circumvents the legislative process envisioned by the Framers."
Alas, there's no presidential "man on horseback" ready to ride in and restore normalcy. Presidential messianism infects the Romney camp, as well. On the stump and in his campaign ads, Gov. Romney insists that this is "an election to save the soul of America." In a recent speech at the Virginia Military Institute, he made clear that his ambitions went well beyond preserving the Constitution and faithfully executing the laws: "It is the responsibility of our president to use America's great power to shape history," he told the cadets.
In Romney's answers to an executive-power questionnaire late last year, he suggested that the president has great power indeed: He could launch a war without Congress, order the assassination of American citizens via drone-strike and use the U.S. military to arrest American citizens on American soil.