Today is President’s Day. George Washington, our first president, was a humble fellow. Some wanted to make him a king. George said no thanks, he had already fought one King George to gain his freedom, and he didn’t care to establish another. Our Constitution prohibits the granting of royal titles. Therefore, our first president set a precedent. Just call me Mr. President.
Article One of the Constitution enumerates the powers of Congress. It gives the Congress, among other powers, the power to regulate commerce, to borrow and raise money, to promote the progress of science and useful arts, to declare war, and to raise money to support armies. It also gives the House the power of impeachment, and the Senate the power of conviction and removal of a President.
Our current President says that Article Two gives him the power to do anything he wants. No, it doesn’t. It gives him executive power and designates him the Commander in Chief of the army and navy. It does not give him the power to unilaterally declare war or to appropriate money for purposes not authorized by Congress. It is not a blank check for him to do whatever he wants, including using his power to promote his own personal self-interest. He seems to think that while the House impeached him, but the Senate did not convict and remove him that now he is unchained, and he has no restrictions. If allowed to stand, we may as well throw out the Constitution and concede that we now have a King—a terrible precedent.
Benito Mussolini, fascist dictator of Italy, said in the 1920s that he was going to “drain the swamp” (sound familiar?). He subsequently fired 35,000 civil servants. The rise of fascism is characterized by a charismatic figure who promises to restore the country’s greatness, scape-goats minorities, attacks the free press, persecutes enemies real or imagined, demands loyality and quashes dissent. Sound familiar?
So on this President’s Day may we remember and honor the precedent of Presidents in our history and remember that they took the following oath: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”