Kevin D Williamson on the Cult of the Imperial Presidency

I can’t really claim credit for the title: Gene Healy from the Cato Institute is the person I heard coin it. Kevin D Williamson from National Review has written a deservedly scathing article on the royal pomp and circumstance at this year’s State of the Union. A snippet:

When the moment comes and the sergeant-at-arms utters the sacred words — “Mr. Speaker! The president of the United States!” — the chamber will erupt, as though the assembled have entirely forgotten that the mysterious entity that is the object of this curious act of national worship only a decade ago was an obscure legislator in a destitute and corrupt state, a man whose most prominent legislative accomplishment was the passage of a bill requiring police to videotape confessions in potential capital cases — in a state in which there were as a practical matter no potential capital cases. (Illinois had not carried out an execution during the century in which the law was passed and was on its way toward abolishing capital punishment categorically.)

But they will listen, rapt, and the media mandarins afterward will evaluate each promise with great sobriety, ignoring entirely that the central promise made during the same charlatan’s first State of the Union address was subsequently labeled “Lie of the Year” by the great man’s own frustrated admirers. That an entire class of people should be so enthusiastic about being lied to, serially, is perplexing.

While it is easy to scorn the US for falling into this trap, I don’t think Australians can be so blasé. While we might lack the singular authoritarian authority figure like the US has, Canberra is as much a royal court – it might be a little bit more demure but the same spirit invigorates the place. Our political class, much as the US, is hermetically sealed from the real world – an exclusive zone for those who play the Game of Thrones and those who seek to benefit from it. The professionalization of politics means that if you want to get into the Game, you leave the real world and once there, you can easily avoid seeing the consequences of your legislative or regulatory good intentions.

But when Canberra and Washington are imbued with so much money and power, what else can you expect?


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