The Death-Dealing 'Divinity' in the White Houseby William Norman Grigg
"I could be well moved, if I were as you
But I am constant as the Northern Star,
Of whose true fixed and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.
The skies are painted with unnumbered sparks;
They are all fire, and every one doth shine.
But there's one in all doth hold his place.
So in the world: 'tis furnished well with men,
And men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive.
Yet in the number I do know but one
That unassailable holds onto his rank,
Unshaked of motion; and that I am he...."
Shakespeare placed those words in the mouth of Julius Caesar as the dictator arrogantly dismissed a plea to pardon Publius Cimber, who had been exiled from Rome. The merits of that request mattered not at all; the only issue, where Caesar was concerned, was his primacy and the need to display resolution in all things, to "show it, even in this: That I was constant Cimber should be banished, and constant do remain to keep him so."
Caesar, in his own view, wasn't a servant of Rome; he was Rome. He wasn't subordinate to the law; the law was an emanation of his sovereign will. He was self-enraptured, self-fixated, megalomaniacal – in a word, presidential.
Barack Obama rarely indulges in public displays of dictatorial arrogance. He leaves this to underlings like Eric Holder, Leon Panetta, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In testimony before separate congressional committees on the same day (March 7), Panetta and Mueller made clear the president’s view that his power to kill people – both at home and abroad – is not subject to congressional checks or legal restraints of any kind.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta pointedly refused to recognize that Congress, not the president, has the constitutional authority to commit the United States military to war overseas. Panetta provoked outrage among conservatives by claiming that the UN Security Council or NATO could authorize military intervention abroad. However, less attention was paid to the fact that Panetta’s formulation cut Congress out of this matter entirely – a logical and predictable extension of the Bush administration’s claim that the president, in his role as Grand and Glorious Decider, has plenary authority to wage war wherever he chooses, against whatever target he selects.
On the same day, FBI Director Robert Mueller was asked about Holder’s claim – made before an audience of law students at Northwestern University a few days earlier – that the president can order the execution of American citizens without trial or due process of any kind. Mueller was specifically asked if that applies to Americans living at home, as well as abroad. He artlessly ducked the question by claiming he would "have to go back" and check if it was addressed in administration policy.
The president has not been granted authority to order the assassination of anyone, of course. Doing so is (in descending order of seriousness) an act of criminal homicide and an impeachable offense. Or at least it would be considered as much by anybody other than those who subscribe to the perverse idea that the president is a figure who transcends the law, who "unassailable holds onto his rank," irrespective of the moral nature of his actions.
This was the essence of Eric Holder’s detestable claim that a presidential kill order, made in secret on the recommendation of an anonymous, unaccountable panel of underlings, satisfies the requirement of "due process." That vile notion was reiterated by Senate Majority Leader Reid in a March 11 CNN interview.
Correspondent Candy Crowley, after reviewing Holder’s spurious distinction between "due process" and "judicial process," asked Reid: "Do you understand what that means?"
"No I don’t – but I do know this – the American citizens who were killed overseas were terrorists, and if anybody in the world deserved to be killed, those three did," Reid said, his eyes bright with the murderous fanaticism that burns away all critical thought. After all, if Reid retained the capacity for skepticism he would wonder if 16-year-old U.S. citizen Abdulraham Al-Awlaki really "deserved" to be murdered while enjoying a barbecue at the home of a friend.
Crowley, to her credit, persisted:
"Are you slightly uncomfortable with the idea that the United States President – whoever it may be – can decide that this or that U.S. citizen living abroad is a threat to U.S. security, and kill them?"
"Well, I don’t know what the Attorney General meant by the term – I’d have to study it," Reid said in a moment of equivocation before the cult conditioning re-asserted itself. "But I think the process is in place, I think it is one … we can live with…."
"Do you think the president should be able to make that decision … without going to court, without going to you all, without anything?" Crowley asked in one last attempt extract a clear answer from Reid.
"There is a war going on," Reid recited, pulling his face into a sanctimonious smirk. "There is no question about that. He is the Commander-in-Chief, and there have been guidelines set. If he follows those, I think he should be able to do it."
At least some of Obama’s Republican critics are genuinely horrified by these assertions of unrestricted presidential power; some have even called for Obama’s impeachment, which would be an entirely appropriate course of action.
It should be acknowledged, however, that with the honorable exception of Ron Paul (and perhaps Rep. Walter Jones), no congressional Republican who served during George W. Bush’s administration has standing to criticize Obama’s dictatorial abuses of power. The same is true of the GOP-aligned conservative punditocracy, particularly its talk radio auxiliary. The neo-totalitarian tendencies that took root during the reign of Bush the Dumber were lavishly fertilized by the diaper filling emitted relentlessly by the likes of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and the glossy herd-poisoners at Fox "News." They cultivated the seeds from which blossomed Obama’s nettlesome regime.
Harry Reid’s nauseating praise for presidential despotism is the same paean to Leader-worship previously sung by Bush’s chorus, but pitched in a slightly different key. In fact, some of Bush’s more passionate adherents considered him to be an adjunct member of the Trinity – a delusion he occasionally seemed to share.
During a campaign stop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania prior to the 2004 election, Bush told the audience: ''I trust God speaks through me." Some of Bush’s acolytes regarded that self-description to be too modest.
"I've voted Republican from the very first time I could vote,'' Gary Walby, a retired jeweler from Destin, Florida, during a campaign appearance. ''And I also want to say this is the very first time that I have felt that God was in the White House." A New York Times Magazine account of that exchange records: "Bush simply said 'thank you' as a wave of raucous applause rose from the assembled."
Every U.S. President since the abhorrent Woodrow Wilson has used the media to create a sense of "institutionalized awe." One illustration of the Bush administration’s effort to propagate a global Leader cult was offered by an English-language textbook used by 16-year-old Pakistani students, which contained an anonymous poem entitled "The Leader." The poem's rhyming couplets, which extolled a transcendent figure who personifies every virtue, formed an acrostic for "President George W. Bush":
Patient and steady with all he must bear,
Ready to meet every challenge with care,
Easy in manner, yet solid as steel,
Strong in his faith, refreshingly real.
Isn't afraid to propose what is bold,
Doesn't conform to the usual mould,
Eyes that have foresight, for hindsight won't do,
Never backs down when he sees what is true,
Tells it all straight, and means it all too.
Going forward and knowing he's right,
Even when doubted for why he would fight,
Over and over he makes his case clear,
Reaching to touch the ones who won't hear.
Growing in strength he won't be unnerved,
Ever assuring he'll stand by his word.
Wanting the world to join his firm stand,
Bracing for war, but praying for peace,
Using his power so evil will cease,
So much a leader and worthy of trust,
Here stands a man who will do what he must.
No existing instrument can measure the infinitesimal odds that this poem reflects the spontaneous admiration of a private author, either American or Pakistani. Given the Bush regime's documented efforts, working through the Rendon Group, the Lincoln Group, and similar propaganda mills, to seed "positive" stories in both the domestic and international media, it's a near-certainty that this hymn to Bush the Magnificent was extruded by an employee of, or contractor for, his regime.
There is no ambiguity about the origins and intentions of "The Road We’ve Traveled," an Obama administration campaign film produced by Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim and narrated by Tom Hanks.
Guggenheim, who lensed Al Gore’s agitprop film An Inconvenient Truth, has become the Leni Reifenstahl of the Obama administration – a talented artist entirely devoted to the cult of the Dear Leader. His 17-minute pseudo-documentary promises to be a work of unalloyed Leader-worship in which Obama is wreathed in sanctity and his every deed is depicted in a heroic light. The clinching evidence of Obama's divinity, as portrayed in his work of cinematic worship, was the supposed courage he displayed in ordering the summary execution of Osama bin Laden, which was a precursor to the assassination of three U.S. citizens.
When CNN host Piers Morgan asked the filmmaker, "What are the negatives in your movie about Barack Obama?" Guggenheim replied: "The negative for me was that there were too many accomplishments." The only other "negatives" he could perceive resulted from what he called the "toxic environment" created by those who dare oppose the Dear Leader’s infallible will and transcendently noble purposes.
The Versailles court of Louis XIV, France’s self-described "Sun King," included hundreds of sycophants and lickspittles who shamelessly sought his favor. In his book The Great Upheaval, historian Jay Winik has described how some of them would literally fight each other for the privilege of "presenting the chair for his daily 'natural functions'."
Guggenheim is the sort of person who would fight for the privilege of hauling the king’s intestinal residue, which – he would insist – emits the enchanting aroma of fresh-cut flowers.
Louis XIV’s famous self-description was "L’etat, c’est moi" ("I am the law"). His final pre-Revolution successor, Louis XVI, offered a similar summation of his view of the law: "C’est legal parce que je le veux" ("It’s legal because I will it"). Royal absolutism of this kind, after being refined in the crucible of revolution, was eventually remolded into the basic tenets of totalitarianism – a system, Lenin said, that rested on "Power without limit, resting directly on force, restrained by no laws, absolutely unrestricted by rules."
Lenin would recognize in value of Holder’s sophistical distinction between "due process" and "judicial process" an effort to abolish any remaining legal limits on the lethal power of the State, as incarnated in the Dear Leader. He would admire the audacity displayed by the Obama administration (as well as its predecessor) in asserting the unlimited power of the executive to kill, torture, and imprison people at whim. He would covet the instruments of mass annihilation wielded by the executive branch, and its equally destructive apparatus of mass indoctrination. And he might even spare a moment of incredulous pity for a population that is ruled by such a system while clinging to the illusion of freedom.
William Norman Grigg [send him mail] publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program.
Copyright © 2012 William Norman Grigg
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