A word of warning to all you Rand Paul fans. Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.
I’m talking the Presidency of the United States of course and while its inspiring to think what Sen. Paul could do in the Oval Office, chances are he could stepping into a prison cell come Jan. 2017.
The Cult of the Presidency creates the illusion of the power of one man to get things and indeed the President is one powerful dude. How many people you know can blow up the world at the push of a button? Yet in the modern Presidency, the person who holds the office often finds themselves trapped in the very facade of power the office itself needs to project. Such power, the use of it, renders such a person slave to the Leviathan that is the federal establishment. How many Presidents have we heard on the campaign trail talk in terms of ‘openness”, “reducing the power of government”, “transperancy,” “reform”, “curbing abuses”? How many Presidents wind up well short of these slogans. Obama is just the latest. Any of the current scandals will do of a man a prisoner of his own Presidency. Hell, his own aides wouldn’t even tell him the IRS was under investigation. Now that’s a man who is in charge.
It would be wonderful if modern Presidents could simply reject the trappings of office. Unfortunately Jimmy Carter tried this and failed miserably. By late in his term, he too, tried to act like a President but it much too late for it to matter. An image has to be kept up and when it is then things must be done to keep up appearances. Likewise his successors (with the exception of George H.W. Bush I) all spoke of an “Imperial-less Presidency” and yet wound up like emperors none-the-less. No matter if it was the Cold War, the Kosovo War or the GWOT, events do have a way of preventing the President from being anything less than Commander in Chief. But so does the system itself which supposedly is at the beck and call of the man in charge. It’s what gives the President his power yet it will turn on the ring-bearer if that person refuses to use it. Rand, if he’s elected President, immediately becomes “Leader of the Free World” even if he doesn’t want to be. The whole national security and intelligence and defense apparatus at his command isn’t just going to go away even if he wishes it to. And once in charge, there is every temptation to use it or allow it to do what it wishes out of sight and mind, which is usually when the scandals arise.
Ron Paul relished the idea of downsizing the Presidency but very few agreed with him. Nobody, it seems, wants a Coolidge-like President. Rand has to follow a different path for himself to power, but don’t think if he inherits this power he’ll start citing the Constitution for act he makes or, as a specific matter, free everyone at Gitmo. There are institutions which limit Obama’s real power over the national-security bureaucracy and indeed forces that power into directions he may not have intended when he first ran for the office but. No doubt Reagan and or Clinton or even Bush II, who seemed to relish that power, felt the same way. But so long as the people demand security (and judging by the cheers in Boston, they do) and apparatus demands action and power, the, President is simply their prisoner and what he does becomes directed by them or done in his name (spoken or not). Unless there is a sea change in public attitudes, you may well be as disappointed President Paul as no doubt many are of President Obama and for many of the same reasons.