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Thread: "Is the Presidency Driving Us Nuts?"

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    "Is the Presidency Driving Us Nuts?"

    Jay Cost at National Review argues that in fewer than 70 years, we have developed a “pervasive sense of presidential omnipotence and omniscience,” the notion that a President is all-powerful and everywhere, and that this may be driving us all crazy. In a republic, centering government power around one person and making that person a celebrity superstar is not very republican, he says, and adds:

    The fact that any president could rile up the nation as Trump has is an illustration of how overgrown the executive power has become. The notion of “coequal branches” is a 20th-century invention. For most of the nation’s history prior to the Great Depression, the president played second fiddle to Congress. This was by constitutional design. The Framers envisioned the legislature, not the president, as the fount of republican authority, and they designed a government accordingly.

    Cost observes that when Teddy Roosevelt reinvigorated the Presidency, his opponents mocked him for it, and he blames “Progressive Democrats” assuming power under Wilson and certainly under FDR for “giving the president a leadership role that he had only occasionally possessed before.”

    He also notes that FDR’s admin was the first to exploit mass-communications technology. With successive admins, “Presidential exposure has scaled up accordingly.” His opinion:

    I think one reason for these bipartisan manifestations of presidential derangement syndrome is the mythological foundation of the modern presidency. A core operating assumption of the office is that one human being can possibly speak for the national interest generally understood. That is fanciful. At most, the president will always express a particular view of the national interest, thereby creating the potential for cognitive dissonance in a sizable minority of the country. Because he is now able to speak to us so often, this mental discomfort can be nearly constant for his opponents. And because he is now so powerful, he also makes it seem to them that he is ruining the country. Trump & Obama Derangement Syndrome Rooted in Myth of President as King | National Review

    I’m with the author: I too hope that the “lemonade” here is that perhaps the Trump administration is exposing institutional flaws that will lead to the scaling back of the Executive and the reformation and restoration of the Congress.

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    Re: "Is the Presidency Driving Us Nuts?"

    Quote Originally Posted by nota bene View Post
    Jay Cost at National Review argues that in fewer than 70 years, we have developed a “pervasive sense of presidential omnipotence and omniscience,” the notion that a President is all-powerful and everywhere, and that this may be driving us all crazy. In a republic, centering government power around one person and making that person a celebrity superstar is not very republican, he says, and adds:

    The fact that any president could rile up the nation as Trump has is an illustration of how overgrown the executive power has become. The notion of “coequal branches” is a 20th-century invention. For most of the nation’s history prior to the Great Depression, the president played second fiddle to Congress. This was by constitutional design. The Framers envisioned the legislature, not the president, as the fount of republican authority, and they designed a government accordingly.

    Cost observes that when Teddy Roosevelt reinvigorated the Presidency, his opponents mocked him for it, and he blames “Progressive Democrats” assuming power under Wilson and certainly under FDR for “giving the president a leadership role that he had only occasionally possessed before.”

    He also notes that FDR’s admin was the first to exploit mass-communications technology. With successive admins, “Presidential exposure has scaled up accordingly.” His opinion:

    I think one reason for these bipartisan manifestations of presidential derangement syndrome is the mythological foundation of the modern presidency. A core operating assumption of the office is that one human being can possibly speak for the national interest generally understood. That is fanciful. At most, the president will always express a particular view of the national interest, thereby creating the potential for cognitive dissonance in a sizable minority of the country. Because he is now able to speak to us so often, this mental discomfort can be nearly constant for his opponents. And because he is now so powerful, he also makes it seem to them that he is ruining the country. Trump & Obama Derangement Syndrome Rooted in Myth of President as King | National Review

    I’m with the author: I too hope that the “lemonade” here is that perhaps the Trump administration is exposing institutional flaws that will lead to the scaling back of the Executive and the reformation and restoration of the Congress.
    This is actually a fantastic point, I agree with all of it, great post. Unfortunately, the power of the cult of personality that Trump has created has driven a division that far exceeds what a president should ever be able to do. When folks hate each other over which political party they support, something's wrong. Disagree, sure, it's been that way forever...but the hate I see, and correct me if I'm wrong, between supporters of different leanings is out of control. My honest prayer for you guys is that the next president you get is mind numbingly boring...you guys could use the break.
    Life's too short...

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    Re: "Is the Presidency Driving Us Nuts?"

    I am all for cutting the power of the Presidency by a LOT. The War Powers Act needs more teeth and the scope of Executive Orders needs to be reigned in.
    “In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” - Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker's Guide

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    Re: "Is the Presidency Driving Us Nuts?"

    Quote Originally Posted by nota bene View Post
    Jay Cost at National Review argues that in fewer than 70 years, we have developed a “pervasive sense of presidential omnipotence and omniscience,” the notion that a President is all-powerful and everywhere, and that this may be driving us all crazy. In a republic, centering government power around one person and making that person a celebrity superstar is not very republican, he says, and adds:

    The fact that any president could rile up the nation as Trump has is an illustration of how overgrown the executive power has become. The notion of “coequal branches” is a 20th-century invention. For most of the nation’s history prior to the Great Depression, the president played second fiddle to Congress. This was by constitutional design. The Framers envisioned the legislature, not the president, as the fount of republican authority, and they designed a government accordingly.

    Cost observes that when Teddy Roosevelt reinvigorated the Presidency, his opponents mocked him for it, and he blames “Progressive Democrats” assuming power under Wilson and certainly under FDR for “giving the president a leadership role that he had only occasionally possessed before.”

    He also notes that FDR’s admin was the first to exploit mass-communications technology. With successive admins, “Presidential exposure has scaled up accordingly.” His opinion:

    I think one reason for these bipartisan manifestations of presidential derangement syndrome is the mythological foundation of the modern presidency. A core operating assumption of the office is that one human being can possibly speak for the national interest generally understood. That is fanciful. At most, the president will always express a particular view of the national interest, thereby creating the potential for cognitive dissonance in a sizable minority of the country. Because he is now able to speak to us so often, this mental discomfort can be nearly constant for his opponents. And because he is now so powerful, he also makes it seem to them that he is ruining the country. Trump & Obama Derangement Syndrome Rooted in Myth of President as King | National Review

    I’m with the author: I too hope that the “lemonade” here is that perhaps the Trump administration is exposing institutional flaws that will lead to the scaling back of the Executive and the reformation and restoration of the Congress.
    I've been on that beat for years. We're a republic. The President is a servant. He's there solely as the chief administrator, to carry out what Congress enacts.
    The only reason to be anti-libertarian is there are people you want to control that you wouldn't be able to.

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    Re: "Is the Presidency Driving Us Nuts?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Harshaw View Post
    I've been on that beat for years. We're a republic. The President is a servant. He's there solely as the chief administrator, to carry out what Congress enacts.
    What do you think about Cost's comment about the "early seedbed of presidential mania" being cultivated by right-wing conspiracy theorists such as David Brock that bore hateful fruit in the aughts? That's when I think the pathology manifested. I remember a time when Dubya attended a performance at the Ford Theater and partisans on the board where I was then posting and elsewhere expressing the hope that the President would at least fall off the balcony and die. I couldn't even believe it!

    Sigh, and now that is "back-in-the-day." I'm still appalled, but I'm no longer shocked by the venom.

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    Re: "Is the Presidency Driving Us Nuts?"

    Excellent analysis but, IMHO, it is the constant and relentless increase in federal power that enables the POTUS to run ever more of the show. Congress passes laws that have far too many "fill in the blank" details left up to executive "enforcement agencies" to deal with.

    When things like DACA (complete rewrite of immigration "law") can be accomplished by the POTUS, with a pen and a phone, it should come as no surprise that federal power to make law has been shifted. At least, in the DACA case, it was an existing federal power being abused.

    In other cases, such as establishing a cabinet level federal department of education, it is simply a matter of adding federal power where non existed before. There are no federal schools (with the possible exception of the service academies) yet we, somehow, have acquired a $70B/year federal, cabinet level department to spew federal funds (pork?), in exchange for some federal control, over a state/local government function. How much control the POTUS vs. congress has over this new federal power is of secondary importance.

    Under PPACA the federal government gave itself yet another new power - to abuse the taxation/commerce (depending on which SCOTUS opinion you like) power to mandate the purchase of a specific (federally defined) "private" good/service or pay a fine (called a tax penalty) for not doing so.
    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself.
    Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

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    Re: "Is the Presidency Driving Us Nuts?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Harshaw View Post
    I've been on that beat for years. We're a republic. The President is a servant. He's there solely as the chief administrator, to carry out what Congress enacts.
    The problem is that much of what congress enacts is simply a shell with "fill in the blank" implementation details left entirely up to the, executive controlled, regulatory agencies to "prioritize" the application of massive amounts of public funds with precious little "congressional oversight". Can anyone name all of the nations that have US military personnel (and/or massive "defense" contractor support) and what specific act(s) of congress authorized that "defense" (war on drugs, war on terror, national security or ally support) mission?
    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself.
    Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

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    Re: "Is the Presidency Driving Us Nuts?"

    Quote Originally Posted by nota bene View Post
    What do you think about Cost's comment about the "early seedbed of presidential mania" being cultivated by right-wing conspiracy theorists such as David Brock that bore hateful fruit in the aughts? That's when I think the pathology manifested. I remember a time when Dubya attended a performance at the Ford Theater and partisans on the board where I was then posting and elsewhere expressing the hope that the President would at least fall off the balcony and die. I couldn't even believe it!

    Sigh, and now that is "back-in-the-day." I'm still appalled, but I'm no longer shocked by the venom.
    It had ebbs and flows before that, but I think it really started on its current vector in the '90s. Lately it's really been a line drawn between perceptions of "good" and pure evil.

    One of the major problems is this:

    A core operating assumption of the office is that one human being can possibly speak for the national interest generally understood. That is fanciful. At most, the president will always express a particular view of the national interest, thereby creating the potential for cognitive dissonance in a sizable minority of the country.
    Properly understood, there really is no "national interest," except in the most generic terms. There are many, many, many individual interests, and the country was founded specifically on the idea that each should be free to pursue his own interests, and that government exists to facilitate that, not control it.

    But you have a lot of people who think of the country as a collective, and that society -- not the government, but civil society -- is something that should be led by government, rather than being the aggregate of millions of individual choices freely made. Those who look at the "national interest" as being related to how they think civil society should be organized are far more invested in the idea of a robust government and a powerful central authority. They see the President as the embodiment of that authority, and thus he's there to lead us to the kind of society they think should exist. So when there's someone in office who doesn't agree with the direction that type of person wants to go, it's a big, even existential problem for them. This, of course, can describe either the left or the right, depending on what it is, though at this time it better describes the left.

    Those of us who are more individual-minded have a better time handling, cognitively and emotionally, someone we disagree with being in power, because we don't see the function of government in the same way. People are still largely free to live their lives as they see fit. But as that changes more and more, the harder it's going to be.

    Bottom line: it should never really matter who the President is, because he should be relatively unimportant, and you should be able to pay little attention to him. And for the moment, you mostly still can. But those who want the government to be doing Big Things have trouble seeing it that way.
    Last edited by Harshaw; 01-08-18 at 02:10 PM.
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    Re: "Is the Presidency Driving Us Nuts?"

    Quote Originally Posted by ttwtt78640 View Post
    The problem is that much of what congress enacts is simply a shell with "fill in the blank" implementation details left entirely up to the, executive controlled, regulatory agencies to "prioritize" the application of massive amounts of public funds with precious little "congressional oversight". Can anyone name all of the nations that have US military personnel (and/or massive "defense" contractor support) and what specific act(s) of congress authorized that "defense" (war on drugs, war on terror, national security or ally support) mission?
    That is a serious problem, yes.
    The only reason to be anti-libertarian is there are people you want to control that you wouldn't be able to.

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    Re: "Is the Presidency Driving Us Nuts?"

    Quote Originally Posted by nota bene View Post
    Jay Cost at National Review argues that in fewer than 70 years, we have developed a “pervasive sense of presidential omnipotence and omniscience,” the notion that a President is all-powerful and everywhere, and that this may be driving us all crazy. In a republic, centering government power around one person and making that person a celebrity superstar is not very republican, he says, and adds:

    The fact that any president could rile up the nation as Trump has is an illustration of how overgrown the executive power has become. The notion of “coequal branches” is a 20th-century invention. For most of the nation’s history prior to the Great Depression, the president played second fiddle to Congress. This was by constitutional design. The Framers envisioned the legislature, not the president, as the fount of republican authority, and they designed a government accordingly.

    Cost observes that when Teddy Roosevelt reinvigorated the Presidency, his opponents mocked him for it, and he blames “Progressive Democrats” assuming power under Wilson and certainly under FDR for “giving the president a leadership role that he had only occasionally possessed before.”

    He also notes that FDR’s admin was the first to exploit mass-communications technology. With successive admins, “Presidential exposure has scaled up accordingly.” His opinion:

    I think one reason for these bipartisan manifestations of presidential derangement syndrome is the mythological foundation of the modern presidency. A core operating assumption of the office is that one human being can possibly speak for the national interest generally understood. That is fanciful. At most, the president will always express a particular view of the national interest, thereby creating the potential for cognitive dissonance in a sizable minority of the country. Because he is now able to speak to us so often, this mental discomfort can be nearly constant for his opponents. And because he is now so powerful, he also makes it seem to them that he is ruining the country. Trump & Obama Derangement Syndrome Rooted in Myth of President as King | National Review

    I’m with the author: I too hope that the “lemonade” here is that perhaps the Trump administration is exposing institutional flaws that will lead to the scaling back of the Executive and the reformation and restoration of the Congress.
    What is the presidency doing that they haven't always been able to do in the past 30 years?
    Trump Attacked A Syrian Airfield. Trump will be a one-term president.

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