Tuesday, February 20, 2018


PRESIDENT’S DAY (formerly Washington’s Birthday), February 19, 2018.
Compiled by Dick Bennett for a Culture of Peace, Justice, and Ecology

Otus the Head Cat gets it.
     “The uphill struggle for precision and accuracy is made all the more Sisyphean by equally ignorant (or simply apathetic) presidents including the current Sciolist in Chief.”   Equally?  Public “pandemic ignorance,” explains Otus.   Washington’s birthday Feb. 22 was celebrated as a holiday until President Trump by executive order changed the name to Presidents’ Day.   From the looks of the advertisements in the newspaper the last few days, businesses are delighted.  Not just one, but all our presidents are commodified in yet another profit opportunity.  Otus observes the “vast indolent segments of American society, manipulated by the advertising industry” with sciolism their crowning achievement.
     Otus’s amusing perceptions sometimes lead to sobering realities.   The growing power of the presidency particularly over foreign affairs and the simultaneous weakening of Congress and the principle of separation of powers are worrying other observers of US history.  Another shop ‘til you drop Presidents’ Day (forget George Washington) is pleasant for carpet, clothes, and casket companies.  But when we come to our senses, what should we think about the power—or rather the abuse of power—by our presidents?
Long History of President Up, Congress Down Accelerated by Wars and Security Obsession
     Wars are the oxygen of executive power.  We must go back in time to the Spanish American War, to WWI, particularly to WWII, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars to comprehend the enormous expansion of presidential power, especially in foreign affairs up to today.   For example, Nixon, without informing let alone obtaining the consent of Congress or the American people, dropped 2 million tons of bombs on Laos, as much as was dropped on all of Europe and the Pacific in WWII.  For another: The Supreme Court upheld in United States v. Reynolds (1953) a new precedent, allowing the executive branch to assert an all-encompassing “state secret privilege” as a basis for withholding information from public scrutiny. 

In Daybreak (2009), Parts I and II, David Swanson explains how the Executive Branch expanded its power, and how the Legislature, which has great Constitutional power, allowed the imperial presidency to happen.

Nuclear Weapons

In Bomb Power (2010), Garry Wills draws a direct line from the Manhattan Project to the usurpations of George W. Bush and reveals how the atomic bomb transformed our nation down to its deepest constitutional roots by dramatically increasing the power of the modern presidency and redefining the government as a national security state.

World Dominance and Permanent War

Andrew Bacevich,.  Washington Rules.  2010.      Regardless of the president or party, the basic edifice of the U.S. National Security State (NSS) has remained unchanged since the end of WWII and the start of the Cold War: 1) a worldwide military presence; 2) armed forces not for defense but for dominance; and 3) intervention in other nations from influencing elections to military invasion (over 40 since1945).   From Harry Truman to Barack Obama, these 3 principles have remained sacrosanct.   The result has been perpetual war and insolvency.  These principles and their wars provide the bedrock for the authoritarian president.

Government of Security and Fear: the US National Security State

Glenn Greenwald’s No Place to Hide (2014), on Snowden, is replete with examples of excessive presidential power fueled by official fear-mongering and public fear: “the post-9-11 veneration of security above all else has created a climate particularly conducive to abuses of power” (p. 2).

Bush II
The end of the US democracy caused by the “fascist shift”?    Naomi Wolf, “Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps”: 

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all.


Gardner’s Killing Machine  narrates the drawdown in Iraq, the counterinsurgency warfare in Afghanistan, the rise of the use of drones, and targeted assassinations from al-Awlaki to Bin Laden.  What has come into view, is the new face of American presidential power: high-tech, secretive, global, and lethal.  Obama has simply built on the expanding power base of presidential power that reaches back across decades and through multiple administrations.
Google Search 2-19-18.  Assessment of President Trump’s first year is still fragmented.  I found articles on Trump’s use of executive orders, of Trump testing the limits of his powers, an article of several paradoxes, his power over Congress, over the public, and much more, a flood of publications.  


    An impassioned opponent of the growing power of the presidency over foreign affairs, the weakening of Congress, and in general the undermining of the principle of separation of powers, is former Senator J. William Fulbright from Arkansas.  For example, from his The Crippled Giant (1972).  “Far from having been rendered obsolete by the realities of the nuclear age, the checks and balances of our Constitution have become more essential than ever.  Nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and a vast arsenal of lesser weapons have vested in the single person of the president of the United States something approaching absolute power over the lives of millions of people all over the world” (215).   –Dick

Otus might observe: Only a sciolist population further deluded by commercialism would celebrate our Presidents as a whole without distinguishing the better from the worse. 


Otus.   “’Presidents’ Day’ Is an Annual Exercise in Futility.”  NADG (Feb. 17, 2018).
US Nuclear Weapons, We Have the Big Button So Do As You’re Told
Garry Wills.  Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State.  2010.
Louis Fisher. In the Name of National Security: Unchecked Presidential
      Power and the
“Reynolds” Case.  2006.
World Dominance and Permanent War
Andrew Bacevich,.  Washington Rules:  America’s Path to Permanent War. 
Metropolitan, 2010. 
9\11: Authorization for the Use of Military Force, Signing Statements,
     Preemptive Attack, Unlimited Enemies, Unlimited Surveillance
David Swanson.  Daybreak:  Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a
      More Perfect Union.
  Chapter 1. Presidential Power Grab.  Chap. 2. 
     Congressional Collapse.   2009.
Glenn Greenwald.  No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S.
     Surveillance State.  2014. 
Bush II
Naomi Wolf, The “Fascist Shift”

Lloyd C. Gardner.  Killing Machine: The American Presidency in the Age of Drone Warfare.   2013.

I could not find a book on the subject.  Here are bits and pieces of the puzzle.  --D
Oct 14, 2017 - 

Separation of Powers
J. William Fulbright, The Crippled Giant (1972).


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