[BOOKS] F.H. Buckley: ‘The Presidency Has Turned Into an Elective Monarchy’

“Presidentialism is significantly and strongly correlated with less political freedom.”

The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in Americabuckleybook by F.H. Buckley, Encounter Books, 2014, 319 pages, $27.99.

For Reason writes: Try making sense out of what Americans tell pollsters. According to the Pew Research Centerfewer than one in five of us trusts the federal government. Gallup says that nearly three quarters of us consider it “the biggest threat to the country in the future.”

[Check out Buckley’s book “The Once and Future King” at Amazon.com]

Yet by equally overwhelming margins, Gallup shows Americans agreeing that “the United States has a unique character because of its history and Constitution that sets it apart from other nations as the greatest in the world.”

[Also see Juan Linz‘s 1990 article “The Perils of Presidentialism”]

Apparently, we’re disgusted and frightened by our government as it actually operates. And yet we’re convinced that we’ve got the best system ever devised by the mind of man.

On both counts, no one’s more convinced than American conservatives. Few goquite as far toward constitutional idolatry as former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, who earlier this year proclaimed that God “wrote the Constitution.” But the superiority of our national charter, with its separation of powers and independently elected national executive, is an article of faith for conservatives.

It’s about time for some constitutional impiety on the right, and F.H. Buckley answers the call in his bracing and important new book, The Once and Future King. Buckley, a professor of law at George Mason University and a senior editor at The American Spectator, is unmistakably conservative. But that doesn’t stop him from pointing out that America’s not so all-fired exceptional—or from arguing that our Constitution has made key contributions to our national decline. Read the rest of this entry »

The Five Worst Op-Eds of 2013

The year's worst op-eds covered everything from impeachment to the National Security Agency. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The year’s worst op-eds covered everything from impeachment to the National Security Agency. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The Examiner‘s Gene Healy‘s list is good, but he mentions briefly at the top, but doesn’t include in his final top five, what I would personally crown as the number one worst op-ed of the year–the New York Times piece arguing that conservative Dallas ”willed the death” of JFK (by getting a communist to shoot him?) But not just that NYTimes item, variations on that same malignant fantasy polluted op-ed pages from coast to coast, for weeks.

For readers who saw our JFK 50th anniversary coverage here at punditfromanotherplanet during November, I hammered this leftist “Dallas-did-it” myth nonstop, including savage pieces by George Will, and others. While my personal choice doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of number one worst op-ed, I’m glad to see that it at least got an honorable mention.

Gene Healy writes:  Picking the year’s worst op-eds — an annual tradition in this space — wasn’t easy in 2013. There’s the Slate writer who announced you’re “a bad person if you send your children to private school”; the New York Times piece arguing that conservative Dallas ”willed the death” of JFK (by getting a communist to shoot him?); and the fellow who worried that allowing more high-skilled immigration would exacerbate “America’s Genius Glut.”

If you’ve been losing sleep over the genius glut in American punditry, rest easy. That threat’s a long way off.

To narrow the choices and give this pudding a theme, I’ve decided that 2013’s malicious listicle will focus on the perverse affinity for executive power of our alleged “Thought Leaders.” In a year when presidential incompetence and power lust ruled the headlines — when record numbers of Americans feared big government — the leading lights of the American commentariat clamored for more presidential power. Go figure.

5. Amitai Etzioni, “Why It Should Be Harder to Impeach a President,” The Atlantic (May 16)

Early on in President Obama’s summer of scandal eruptions, communitarian honcho Amitai Etzioni was incensed that anyone dared invoke the I-word. After all, the president likely “did not know diddly squat” about IRS harassment of the Tea Party.

Only a constitutional amendment making it harder for Congress to impeach the president could save us, Etzioni insisted. But since we manage fewer than onepresidential impeachment per century, how much harder could it be?

4. Maureen Dowd, “Barry’s War Within,” the New York Times (Sept. 7)

MoDo routinely uses her space at the Times to work through her daddy issues: Why can’t President Obama be “the strong father who protects the home” instead of an aloof “professorial president”?

In this column, Dowd’s father figure disappoints her once again. Instead of “hurl[ing] a few missiles, Zeus like,” at Syria, Obama had been contemptibly weak: “When it came time to act as commander in chief, he choked,” reverting to “Barry, president of the Harvard Law Review.” Apparently, only a legalistic sissy would ask Congress to authorize a war.

Read the rest of this entry »