Mudcat Café message #1384666 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #62901   Message #1384666
Posted By: Amos
21-Jan-05 - 04:54 PM
Thread Name: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration
Subject: RE: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration
Excerpted from a thoughtful essay in the Christian Science Monitor, To the Founders, Congress was king

By John Dillin | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor



AMERICA'S expanding involvement abroad, and the need to maintain a large peacetime US military force in dozens of other nations, has also added to presidential power. Berkin says America's modern presidency, with all its trappings, would be "unimaginable" to men like Madison, Washington, and Franklin. Of all those historic figures at the 1787 Convention, perhaps only Alexander Hamilton would relish today's playing of "Hail to the Chief."

The great concern of the Founders was tyranny. After all, they had just barely escaped the clutches of King George, who would have happily drawn and quartered Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, or George Mason if his Redcoats could have seized them during the American Revolution. The last thing they wanted was a power-hungry president, a domestic King George, to replace the English one. The Founders did not trust men's natural inclinations.

As Berkin notes, the chief "truth" that guided the Founders was "that men were corruptible and that power always corrupted." They believed that "greed and lust for power ... were inquenchable in mortal men." Although he was ordinarily known for his buoyant optimism, Franklin observed during the debates that even with good fortune, the new government might succeed for only a decade. Franklin warned of the "inevitable decline" of the Republic "into a tyranny of one, a tyranny of a few, or a tyranny of the majority."

Jefferson, who was ambassador to France, and Adams, the ambassador to Britain, did not attend the Convention. But each shared this concern over tyranny. For Jefferson, the chief concern was the "tyranny of one." For Adams, the tyranny of the aristocracy, or the monied classes, was the great risk.

Looking at today's politics, Berkin says: "The Founders would be appalled, perhaps the most, in that the president presents a program to the Congress, and the Congress is expected to argue over it. This is the tail wagging the dog. Their view was just the opposite - with the president executing [the policies proposed and approved] by Congress."

Yet most "modern Americans" assume the president is the leader, Berkin says. This was reflected in a comment this week on Washington's CBS-TV affiliate, where anchorman Todd McDermott said authoritatively, "On Inauguration Day, the president sets the path for America's future."

Franklin would hardly believe his ears.

Berkin says the two major political parties have been a driving force in turning the original system upside down. Big, strong parties reduce the effectiveness of the check-and-balance system, in which Congress and the president are supposed to watchdog one another. Instead, parties "weave together all three branches of government. Even the [Supreme] Court is subject to the influence of parties."