Campaigns/Elections

Presidential Power-Tripping

Why executive authority is the most important issue this November

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In our history and civics classes, we're taught that the genius of the Constitution is the checks and balances it imposes on the three branches of government. The founders understood that each branch—the president, the Congress and the courts—would seek to expand its power. They then set up a system that not only acknowledges man's desire to accumulate power but also one that harnesses that desire and uses it to keep any one branch from becoming too influential.

That system has mostly served us well. But an important new book details how the delicate balance of power in the federal government has been unraveling for nearly a century now, and underscores how important it is that we elect a president this November who understands the constitutional boundaries of the office.

Unfortunately, that isn't likely to happen.

The Cult of the Presidency by the Cato Institute's Gene Healy (I should disclose that Healy is a friend and former colleague) provides a history of the office of the presidency. It's a fascinating narrative of how the office that was meant to be little more than an administrator of the nation's laws (George Washington referred to it as "chief magistrate") has grown into the equivalent of an elected monarch.

It's a curious thing in America that each July we celebrate how the founding fathers threw off the shackles of an oppressive monarchy, that we favorably compare our republican system of governance with the world's tyrants, dictatorships and monarchies (and rightly so)—and yet we then celebrate those American presidents who most behaved like tyrants, monarchs and dictators.

Presidents like Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman are regularly put at the top of lists of America's greatest presidents. This is true when both historians and the American public at large are polled. Yet these are presidents who did everything they could to expand the power of their offices, to extend the sphere of influence of the federal government and to bully through policies that met inconvenient hurdles otherwise known as checks and balances.

Woodrow Wilson ran for president on a peace platform, then dragged us through the bloody trench carnage of World War I. Oh, and he imprisoned thousands of critics and war protesters in the process. Teddy Roosevelt once lamented that he didn't have a war during his administration to make him great, and compared the stakes of his third-party run for the White House to the rapture and second coming of Jesus Christ.

Franklin Roosevelt broke the tradition set by George Washington of serving just two terms. When the Supreme Court rebuffed his attempts to pass unconstitutional legislation, he tried to expand the number of justices on the Court to ensure a friendly majority. Harry Truman was the first president to pull America into a protracted war without first consulting Congress. He then sought to nationalize private companies to ensure that war was properly outfitted.

These are odd men to call heroes.

Inexplicably, the presidents who knew and understood their constitutional limits, who respected those limits and who generally took a more laissez-faire approach to government get short shrift—even derision—from historians.

Men like Calvin Coolidge, Warren Harding, Rutherford B. Hayes and Grover Cleveland merely exhibited what Healy calls "stolid, boring competence." Historians loathe them, Healy writes, because they had the audacity to "content themselves simply with presiding over peace and prosperity" and not seek to remake the world in their own image. The nerve of them.

Today, the president oversees 1.8 million federal employees. The federal government is America's largest employer. Moreover, we today expect much more from the president than merely to enforce the nation's laws. We expect him to console us in times of tragedy or natural disaster, to inspire us in times of war. Some even look to the president for spiritual guidance. The enormity of the office grows more unsettling when you consider the set of skills and traits it takes to get elected. As Healy explains, the long, brutal, expensive primary and general election process selects people with massive egos, people willing to subject themselves to all sorts of abuse in the pursuit of power and people willing to accept favors from all sorts of interests as they ascend from office to office—favors from people who generally expect to be repaid.

George Washington set perhaps the most important precedent in the history of the idea of a constitutional republic when he declined to seek a third term. He could have been a king if he'd so chosen. Despite achieving myth-like reverence and adulation while still in office, Washington had the humility and the foresight to understand the importance of leaving power on the table. Doing so not only limited his own power but began the voluntary two-term tradition that lasted 140 years.

While both Barack Obama and John McCain have in some way acknowledged that the Bush administration has dangerously pushed the limits of executive power, neither has indicated exactly what powers, if elected, he would give back or what steps he'd take to make sure those powers aren't later invoked by a successor.

Perhaps it's too much to hope for another George Washington. Instead, this November, it looks as if our choices are a man who styles himself after John F. Kennedy and a man who idolizes Teddy Roosevelt.

That doesn't bode well for the next four years, or for the imperial presidency's continuing threat to American democracy.

Radley Balko is a senior editor for reason. A version of this article originally appeared at FoxNews.com.

NEXT: Does Yusuf al-Qaradawi Qualify as an Intellectual?

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  1. “Presidents like Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman are regularly put at the top of lists of America’s greatest presidents.”

    Woodrow Wilson? The guy who screwed up Europe for future generations? The guy who is responsible for WW2 because of his screw ups after WW1?

  2. You left out Lincoln, widely regarded as the greatest US President, or at least in the top three. Yet he used military force to end the very idea that America was founded on — that governments draw their just power from the consent of the governed, and that individuals may form new governments when the existing one no longer serves them.

  3. Executive power is the most important issue – even more important than the Iraq end-game – to me this year.

    It’s why I supported Dodd, then Richardson, then Obama, over Clinton.

    How does “styling yourself after JFK” amount to “scary imperial president?” You never even mentioned JFK in your list of horribles.

    Men like Calvin Coolidge, Warren Harding, Rutherford B. Hayes and Grover Cleveland merely exhibited what Healy calls “stolid, boring competence.” Did the Fox editors make you take Clinton off that list?

  4. Yeah, Yahoo Answerer, Woodrow Wilson. They named a bridge after him and everything. He wanted to “preserve the world for democracy”, after all, didn’t he?
    And Lincoln – oh, God. We worry now about habeas corpus and the Republican Party… just look back to the first President the GOP ever put into office! Granted, it wasn’t just about slavery, or states’ rights; it’s arguable that the North would have had some serious economic problems (not to mention food shortages, perhaps, but don’t quote me on that) if they lost the more agrarian Southern states.
    We would have probably traded with them anyway, of course, come to think of it, if the Confederate States of America had ever come to be.
    That bit about finding “peace and prosperity”, hands-off Presidents boring? Well, what do you expect? Someone with restraint and patience for boring detail-work is hardly the exciting cowboy-protagonist we just can’t get enough of in this country.
    There’s a famous recording of Reagan saying something to the effect of “Congress accuses me of going over their heads. Well, so what? There’s an awful lot that goes over their heads.” The press corps promptly laughs hysterically, the sycophants.
    So, Mr. President, if you frame your attempt at overreaching executive power as a joke, we’ll look the other way! Haha!
    Entertaining presidents (and presidential candidates) are naturally more likable individuals, and if G.W. Bush’s popularity as “a guy you could drink a beer with” is any indicator, Americans are complete and utter morons, by and large.
    It’s doom! Doom for our country! Maybe.

  5. It is scary to think that so many people seem to believe that too much freedom is a weakness in times of crisis. Especially when those people are not just voting for President, but running for it as well.

    Costa Rica anyone?

  6. Maybe we should go with a bifurcated executive (VP doesn’t count). I don’t want a prime minister, as they are too beholden to the legislature, but a ceremonial office would be nice. Maybe the president would be the figurehead, and we could have a consul (call it what you will) under him to actual exercise executive power. That way, we can vote on personality for the figurehead position and on competence for the operational gig.

    If only we had done this ten years ago. President Charlton Heston. So cool.

  7. Joe — I agree that Clinton presided over a time of peace and prosperity. But I don’t think that it’s fair to say he wasn’t interested in executive overreaching. Kosovo and the aborted health-care plan are two examples of just that.

  8. Fair enough, Tillman Fan. I was just thinking about the former.

  9. Good Article. The increase in executive power is dangerous, and the growing bipartisan support for a Line-ITEM Veto is extremely dangerous to the checks and balances system.

  10. TF is right that Clinton was interested in expanding executive power, but he was Patrick Fucking Henry compared to GWB. So by Healy’s theory, future historians will consider Bush a better president than Clinton?

  11. it’s arguable that the North would have had some serious economic problems (not to mention food shortages

    The North had a greater agricultural output than the South, and pre-war was a net exporter of food . The South was a net importer due to cash crops which is one reason they were at a disadvantage. Plus because of the war, the South was pretty much a non-entity economically for the last half of the 19th century, with little impact on Northern prosperity.

    don’t quote me on that

    dagnabit.

    Men like Calvin Coolidge, Warren Harding, Rutherford B. Hayes and Grover Cleveland merely exhibited what Healy calls “stolid, boring competence.”

    Well, Harding is rightly on the ‘crap’ list because of rampant and unchecked corruption. He certainly wasn’t competent, nor particularly boring – Clinton is a monk compared with Harding’s escapades.

    I concur that the other three are genrally underrated.

  12. I think that when historians talk about “Great Presidents” they must mean great to write history books about, not really good for the country. And I have to agree, great presidents do make for a better read. But that doesn’t mean that is who we should elect. “Great” can mean either really big/influential or very good. Great presidents are generally of the former type.

  13. I’m voting for the candidate with the greatest psychic powers. Specifically, I’ll vote for the one who can levitate the highest.

    The growth in executive power is a serious issue, but it’s hard to separate that problem from the general growth of federal power as a whole. And it’s not just more power; it’s more unchecked power.

    I also blame those who tend to equate the presidency with the federal government at large. The media has done quite a bit of that, which I think helps to strengthen the perception of executive authority, which, even today, is quite a bit less than it’s made out to be. A strongly contrary Congress could almost completely incapacitate a president if it wanted to. That highlights how much Congress has failed to exercise its responsibility to check executive power, too, come to think of it.

  14. Men like Calvin Coolidge, Warren Harding, Rutherford B. Hayes and Grover Cleveland merely exhibited what Healy calls “stolid, boring competence.” Historians loathe them, Healy writes, because they had the audacity to “content themselves simply with presiding over peace and prosperity”

    Peace and prosperity are sooo outdated… Just like “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

    If I was president, I would surely be called one of the boring ones. That is, AFTER I tear apart the huge bureaucracy and take our government back to a smaller, more manageable and fluid size.

  15. “I also blame those who tend to equate the presidency with the federal government at large.”

    That’s typical of a celebrity culture. The president’s on TV, and there’s only one of him. Nobody wants to take the time to read up on how each legislator voted for each law.

    The bigger problem is this country was founded on government that would 1) protect you, thought it might need your help if we’re invaded and 2) let you take care of yourself and your loved ones.

    Now we want completely protected from everything that could happen to us and we want to be taken care of along with our precious children. Maybe more voters should just live with their parents forever.

  16. edit – “though it might need your help”

  17. Don’t try to be a Great President. Just be a President and let history make its judgement.

  18. Okay, I’m totally voting for a candidate who invents warp drive.

  19. I think that when historians talk about “Great Presidents” they must mean great to write history books about, not really good for the country.

    Exactly — and that’s the same attitude the media has toward contemporary political news. They have to sell a narrative to the public that’s simple and coherent enough for the person who doesn’t want to devote a lot of time to it to understand, yet gripping enough to hold that person’s attention. Problem is, reality is not usually going to satisfy those criteria — it’s going to be too boring, too chaotic, or too complicated.

    That’s why history books portray the War Between the States as a war about slavery (despite the fact there were slave states on both sides), ignoring the myriad other issues that contributed, and the Great Depression as an example of the superiority of govt intervention to laissez-faire (despite the massive economic interventionism of the Coolidge and Hoover administrations, and the utter failure of the New Deal to end the Depression).

    Remember how many articles on the first Republican debate claimed that all the candidates supported continuing the Iraq war?

  20. Maybe we should go with a bifurcated executive (VP doesn’t count).

    I completely agree. I hereby volunteer to be the one in charge of bifurcating the executive. I’m even willing to use my own chainsaw, to save the taxpayers some money.

  21. CP:

    Coolidge seems to be well-thought of here on the H&R boards; if he intervened in the economy so much as to be a factor in the Great Depression, why is he so highly regarded here?

    I’m not questioning you, I’m just asking out loud. What is it that is so revered about him?

  22. Coolidge? ‘Nuff said.

  23. Excellent article. And not as likely to make me hang myself as the typical Balko joint.

  24. The public long ago swallowed the idea that a great leader is someone who “gets stuff done”. I saw an ad for NJ Senator the other day that infuriated me. I don’t remember the exact details but the implication was clearly that this upstart was itchin’ to create a bunch of new laws.

  25. Cochrane didn’t invent warp drive, he’s a liar! Scotty traveled back in time and gave Cochrane transparent aluminum in exchange for cocaine (which had become extinct in Scotty’s time) but he got hooked and Cochrane demanded something bigger for his next fix so Scotty gave him warp drive technology.

    It’s all true, look it up.

  26. …the implication was clearly that this upstart was itchin’ to create a bunch of new laws.

    Right up there with the idea that they “create jobs”.

  27. Hey, Epi – are you trying to get an official speaking gig at the LP convention?

  28. zoltan:

    There’s a general impression that Coolidge, as President, didn’t intervene in the economy. Those who blame him for the Great Depression generally do so saying he didn’t do anything, not that he did so much as to be a factor. He vetoed a farm bill, for instance, and reduced taxes, spending, an debt. Perhaps you’re talking about some other kind of intervention?

  29. Don’t you realize that the Federation is actually a dictatorship secretly controlled by the greedy, money-grubbing Ferengi? It’s called the Ferengi Acting Government, or FAG. They control everything.

    You think the destruction of Regula One was done by Khan? Think again, fools! It was a planned demolition orchestrated by FAG, and Khan was merely their dupe. The Reliant was robotically controlled!

    It’s all out there, you just have to open your eyes!

  30. Gimme Back My Dog asked:
    “So by Healy’s theory, future historians will consider Bush a better president than Clinton?”

    If, 100 years from now, there is anything resembling a stable democracy in Iraq, Bush will be praised by some historians as the second coming of Lincoln.

  31. some fed,

    Coolidge was good in most areas, but his administration was terrible in pushing banks into making bad foreign loans. Laissez-faire economics is a fortress, and no crack in a fortress can be accounted small (Rev. Hale, The Crucible)

  32. …terrible in pushing banks into making bad foreign loans.

    I appreciate that point, and I personally agree with you that this was a serious contributing factor to the depression. However, there are those who consider themselves laissez-faire economists who nonetheless disagree with that view, saying that money is a thing unto itself meriting intervention.
    The disagreement is probably a can of worms best left for other threads. I’m happy to see your views clarified, though!

  33. Great column Radley.

    While both Barack Obama and John McCain have in some way acknowledged that the Bush administration has dangerously pushed the limits of executive power, neither has indicated exactly what powers, if elected, he would give back or what steps he’d take to make sure those powers aren’t later invoked by a successor.

    Yes, but if Obama wins that power will be used for Hope and Change.

  34. You know, the perfect platform would be something like:

    “Elect me, and I’ll do as little as possible!”

    Unfortunately the media live on reporting bad news, because our brains are wired to prioritize bad news over good. That creates a perceived need for the government to do something about all these problems we keep eharing about. Thus we end up with the War on Drugs, intervention in the economy, not being allowed to smoke in your own home, etc.

  35. I’m not going to defend Woodrow Wilson for imprisoning thousands of war protesters. I’m sure there’s a lot of other things about him that are indefensible as well. But the author of this article seems to take it as a given that his decision to declare war on Germany was a bad one.

    I’m no historian, but can we say with any conviction that America’s intervention in WWI didn’t prevent even more death and suffering before it finally ended?

    Also, the protection of individual rights and property is one of the fundamental values of libertarianism. Can we not interpret this as the protection of like-minded countries against the blatant imperialism of others? Or do we value isolationism at all costs?

    Am I disqualified from being a libertarian for thinking these things?

  36. Am I disqualified from being a libertarian for thinking these things?

    Apparently so, yes. But you do get to Drink!

  37. Can’t let this slide:

    That’s why history books portray the War Between the States as a war about slavery (despite the fact there were slave states on both sides), ignoring the myriad other issues that contributed

    It’s no oversimplification to say that the Civil War was about slavery. There were lots of issues involved, but they all centered on slavery.

    (Not to say that the North’s goal was to end slavery, or that Lincoln was a saint, etc., etc.)

  38. Dave2,

    Well, the history books do portray it as simply a war to end slavery. But I am curious as to why you think there were slave states Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware fighting on the supposedly anti-slavery side in the war?

  39. Because even though the war was about slavery (expansion into new territories, fugitive slaves, alarmist worries about Lincoln the ‘Black Republican’ being a closet abolitionist, etc., etc.), it wasn’t about ending slavery, even though that’s how it ended up.

  40. Dave2,

    If the South had been left alone, wouldn’t the possibility of expanding slavery into the territories be out the window, as those territories were held by the Union? So why would the South secede over that?

    And I’m not sure why four slave states would be on the side of the free states on the issues of fugitive slaves and abolition.

  41. The status of slavery in the territories was a divisive and unstable issue for years: there was the Compromise of 1850, which made California a free state but left New Mexico (Arizona-Utah-New Mexico) up to popular sovereignty, and then the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which introduced two new states with a slavery question to settle by way of popular sovereignty. There was also the question of what would happen with any new land acquired from Mexico, or with nearby islands (e.g. Cuba and the Ostend Manifesto).

    Fear of ‘the Slave Power’ and its spread was one of the main things agitating the North. Not that the North was filled with principled abolitionists. There was just a lot of paranoia about the balance of power being upset (not to mention resentment at being forced to help track down fugitive slaves).

    The South, for its part, was interested in extending slavery wherever it could, and was scared out of its wits by the victory of Lincoln, who was an opponent of the Nebraska-Kansas act.

    But if you want to know why the Southern states seceded (the first wave anyway), just look at why they seceded: http://sunsite.utk.edu/civil-war/reasons.html

    Here’s Georgia on expansion into territories:

    “The Presidential election of 1852 resulted in the total overthrow of the advocates of restriction and their party friends. Immediately after this result the anti-slavery portion of the defeated party resolved to unite all the elements in the North opposed to slavery an to stake their future political fortunes upon their hostility to slavery everywhere. This is the party two whom the people of the North have committed the Government. They raised their standard in 1856 and were barely defeated. They entered the Presidential contest again in 1860 and succeeded.

    The prohibition of slavery in the Territories, hostility to it everywhere, the equality of the black and white races, disregard of all constitutional guarantees in its favor, were boldly proclaimed by its leaders and applauded by its followers.

    With these principles on their banners and these utterances on their lips the majority of the people of the North demand that we shall receive them as our rulers.

    The prohibition of slavery in the Territories is the cardinal principle of this organization.”

    Here’s Mississippi:

    “It refuses the admission of new slave States into the Union, and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion.”

    etc. etc.

  42. Who are these vague ‘historians’, and which books exactly are ‘the history books’ people keep referring to?

    Where I come from, there are lots of different history books, and the best ones are pretty low key on the ‘loving’ and ‘hating’ of presidents and whatnot.

  43. No exceptions on non-intervention for genocide? I guess that means my grandparents would have been gassed with their siblings.

  44. There’s no problem, in my book, with intervention to prevent genocide, invasions of like-minded countries, etc. But it should be on an individual level; if you think a given region needs intervention, form your own regiment of like-minded folks and go intervene under the flag of whatever country or people you’re defending, or donate your money to an organization dedicated to that end. But the government should neither help nor hinder your efforts.

    The government should only be involved in a war in cases of national defense (by which I mean “there are troops crossing the border” and not “oil is getting expensive and that might someday make it hard to fuel our tanks”).

  45. You’d be hard pressed to ever find a candidate who had a realistic shot at the presidency (sorry LPers) that wanted to limit his/her own authority when he/she gets there.

    And if elections over the past 60 years are any indicator, most of the electorate doesn’t have much of a problem with this, and in fact, seems prefer it.

  46. CalGirl | May 23, 2008, 5:31am | #

    No exceptions on non-intervention for genocide? I guess that means my grandparents would have been gassed with their siblings.

    At the time the United States entered World War Two, the American government did not realize a genocide taking place.

    There was no “intervention for genocide” in World War 2. Ending the Holocaust was a happy side effect.

  47. Well, the history books do portray it as simply a war to end slavery.

    No, they don’t.

  48. Saying that presidential power is the most important issue this election is just silly. Look at the examples provided – Wilson and both Roosevelts, and our current president weilds nowhere near the kind of power those presidents wielded. Have you noticed thousands of Americans locked up in concentration camps lately? Of course not.

    For the last 100 years, Congress has expanded its power so greatly that our government is unrecognizable compared to the Constitution. It’s not the president’s fault he oversees 1.8 million employees – Congress created those jobs. You can’t wipe your butt without Congress being involved.

    The president may prosecute you, but Congress passed the laws that he’ll prosecute you for breaking. About the only thing the president can do to an American without Congress or the Court’s agreement is listen in on your phone calls, and that’s only if he suspects you are a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer in a time of war (which Congress declares and can end at any time).

    Congressional power is always the most important issue in any election. Second to that, is the rapidly expanding power of the Court. The president is not our problem.

  49. Just to highlight how silly the claim in this article is, a Senate committee just passed legislation requiring anybody working in the mortgage industry to provide fingerprints into the finger print database. Congress passes an outrage like this, expanding its power and stealing our freedom on a weekly basis.

    Just by looking at the examples listed in this article, it’s obvious that presidential power is less today than it was 100 years ago. The president cannot just lock up Americans at will. Bush tried to keep 2 Americans in Guantanamo, both after being caught actively subverting the US, and that decision was overruled. Clearly the president today has less power than FDR wielded.

    Does anybody in their right mind think that Congress has less power today than it did 100 years ago? How about than it did last week? Congress expansion of power has been exponential. The president’s power has been reduced. In light of that, it’s absurd to claim that presidential power is the most important issue facing America.

  50. 100 years ago, the President had never started a war without a Congressional authorization.

  51. The SNL skit that sums up this whole primary season
    Get These Latest Designs
    Bill wants Hill as Veep
    This and more on…

    http://sensico.wordpress.com/

  52. “And I’m not sure why four slave states would be on the side of the free states on the issues of fugitive slaves and abolition.”

    Academic historians don’t seem to find it at all odd that the US government simultaneously waged a war to end slavery in territories it didn’t control while allowing it to exist in territories that it did control. It seems that if they really wanted to end slavery they could have started in Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware. Instead they launched a bloodbath that killed 650,000 and maimed millions. That’s certainly not how slavery was abolished anywhere else in the Western world.

    The fact is that most southerners were opposed to Linclon’s basic platform which he inherited from his political mentor and idol Henry Clay: A high protective tariff, a centralized national banking system, and large federal subsidies for so-called “internal improvements”. With the free-trading, low tax, Jeffersonian Democrats (before their conversion into a party of big-government socialism) out of the way each of these planks were instituted within a year. Even though there was a war going on and supposedly the government had to focus all it’s attention on that, they started building railroads to nowhere, taxing private bank notes out of circulation and printing fiat currency, and instituting the highest tariff in American history. The reasons the free-trading south would oppose each of these measures is a long story but should be fairly obvious to a libertarian audience.

    But suffice it to say that when a candidate who receieved less than 40% of the vote and wasn’t even on the ballot in most southern states was elected, the south didn’t feel like it’s concerns were going to be protected in the new administration. At the beginning of his administration Lincoln stated his willingness to sign a bill in congress that would have protected slavery where it existed, in perpetuity. This didn’t convince any of the original seceeding states to change their minds, even though they had to know that seceeding would end the return of fugitive slaves forever. It didn’t convince North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee or Arkansas to stay in the Union (all of whom initially chose to remain even though they were slave states as well) after Lincoln demanded that they produce troops to attack their recently seceeded neighbors. Initially only 6 out of the 14 slave states seceeeded, and 4 never did. That should tell you that something else was at issue.

    It is no coincidence that 30 years earlier South Carolina had threatened to seceed from the Union over the “tariff of abominations” and actually did seceed from the Union in 1861 when the first act of the new Republican Congress, signed by the new Republican president, was the largest tariff increase in US history, one that dwarfed the “tariff of abominations” in size and scope.

    Back to the original topic – the president most sited by GW Bush as his inspiration and precedent setter for his expansion of executive power and depredations on the rights of Americans is Abraham Lincoln. That’s where the executive branch started getting out of hand, TR, Wilson and FDR just took the next logical steps.

  53. “Loose Lips Sink Ships”: Does McCain ‘Straight-Talk’ Before He ‘Straight-Thinks’?

    “Straight Talk” generally has a rather positive connotation with most people. It’s usually equated with Truth, an attribute rarely associated with politicians.

    But when does “Straight Talk” cross the boundary and become “Shoot from the Hip” dumb talk?

    McCain is coming perilously close to crossing that boundary. The Hagee case, and the new revelations (no pun intended) about some other televangelist from Ohio whose support McCain sought, obtained, and is now regretting, is symptomatic of a person who speaks and acts before doing adequate research.

    But the most disconcerting remark McCain has made lately came during his wistful State of the Union-2013 speech about a week ago. Therein he promised to subject himself, much as the British Prime Minister does, to regular questioning by members of Congress.

    This off-hand remark disturbed me. The United States is not Great Britain. The US has 3 separate but equal branches of government. And with the sole exception of Gerald Ford testifying before Congress after the Nixon debacle, the president–EVERY president–has maintained the independence of that office from Congressional subjugation, whether for good or evil.

    McCain, in one or two thoughtless sentences, could undo a Constitutional principle under which the country has operated throughout its history.

    In short, I have deep concerns that McCain may lack the necessary judiciousness and commitment to staffing-through and/or thinking through his remarks prior to uttering them. Such a lack could be disastrous to the county’s interests.

    As a Navy man, he should have learned long ago that, “loose lips sink ships.”

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