As we observed yesterday, it is most fortunate that George Bush is not the Sun King ("l’etat, c’est moi"), nor is he the Pharaoh, whose every word (Ma’at) was also law. Quite the contrary: Mr. Bush is an elected Constitutional officer and, as such, possesses certain powers, each of them limited, as are all federal Constitutional powers. Of late, many have criticized the president for claiming powers that are not accorded to him by the Constitution. There has been less attention paid, however, to another facet of his approach to power: namely, that, while Mr. Bush has abused some of the powers of the presidency, he has abdicated other central Constitutional powers and delegated them away.
Mr. Bush appears to have dimly recognized (but not publicly acknowledged), the realities that surround him, even as he continues to flail against them. Of late, the vast majority of the American people apparently consider him to be a failure. Unfortunately, instead of confronting this sad fact, he has taken several steps — actually, he has borrowed them from the Marxist dialectic — to make it irrelevant. The most prominent failures commonly attributed to Mr. Bush, you see, are actually somebody else’s fault — every one of them.
For instance, according to the Constitution, the President is the Commander in Chief. However, Mr. Bush has recognized that only a dwindling minority of Americans trust his judgment regarding the Iraq War. So the man who once proclaimed himself to be the "Decider’ has now fobbed off the crucial decisions about his war on General George Petraeus, the commander of U.S. troops there. General Petraeus has been accorded the mantle of legitimacy that Mr. Bush can no longer credibly wear.
As Congress and the American people assail Mr. Bush and insist that the disaster he has wrought in Iraq be ended, Mr. Bush smiles and says, "Let’s wait and see what General Petraeus says." Like Buddha, Mr. Bush peacefully awaits the general’s advice, which should be coming along in several months now.
On the face of it, Mr. Bush’s pretence that he wants to rely on the advice of the "commanders on the ground," is hardly credible: we know that he has blithely ignored them in the past. So what is Mr. Bush really up to? Alas, it is simply a new twist on an old neocon game: shift the blame.
Now it is Petraeus whose word will be the law of the land regarding the war in Iraq — and who will bear the blame for any "defeat." The president has essentially accomplished an illusory abdication of his role as "Commander in Chief" because he knows the people have adjudged him to be a failure in that role.
But that is not all. Sadly, Mr. Bush is also preparing the ground for laying off the blame for his own personal defeat onto the U.S. military. In effect, Mr. Bush’s desire to avoid responsibility results in the pretense that he isn’t calling the shots at all. The ultimate effect is a shabby neocon twist, to be sure, on "The Buck Stops Here" — blame Petraeus.
Mr. Petraeus, brace yourself.
But even that is not all. Mr. Bush has also abdicated to Dick Cheney many of the most essential powers of the Chief Executive — an arrangement that, while it is not strictly unconstitutional, certainly expropriates from the people their Constitutional authority to elect the person who will be president and expect him to fulfill that role.
And what has Mr. Bush been doing in the meantime? Well, while Dick Cheney has been running the country and General Petraeus has been running the war, the president has been meeting with intellectual courtiers with whom he can discuss in leisure his legacy, his place in history. The result? A neocon chorus which now proclaims that, regardless of how present-day Americans condemn this president, future historians, evidently more gifted than today’s peasants, will "vindicate" him.
In essence, Mr. Bush has abdicated the responsibility that he owes the "virtuous people" of the Founders. He has decided that he will answer instead to smarter generations in the far future that will not even exist until long after he is dead.
Note how both Marxist and Darwinian is this magical exoneration: it is Marxist, because "the future" — as yet non-existent and unknowable and unreal — becomes the superior moral standard for the present, conferring on its prophetic advocates today power without any limits. It is Darwinian because "future" generations will be smarter, more progressive, and intellectually superior to our own, and will thus crown Bush with a greatness which our own generation is too dumb, prejudiced, and ignorant to confer upon him.
Of course, Bush expects "history" to confer upon him the sobriquet of a second Churchill, or perhaps a second Lincoln. But just in case, he is rapidly divesting himself of all sorts of responsibilities, lest he be blamed for any disasters. Then, at the very least, he will be remembered as a harmless Bozo that was betrayed by incompetent generals, whose glorious dream was betrayed by people whom he entrusted with great powers and promise and who failed him and the American people.
The neocons recognize the true war: it is the war of power-lust and private agendas against sober reality and the freedoms enjoyed by Americans under the Constitution for hundreds of years. It is that war that the neocons cannot afford to lose. And so, they have arrayed the "Correlation of Forces" (Mao again) so that their failure can be laid off on anyone and everyone else. Fail to stabilize Iraq? Blame Petraeus. Fail to dominate the Middle East? Blame the Defeatocrats. Fail to recognize Bush’s greatness? Blame the benighted, backward people. Disaster today? "Don’t stop thinkin’ about tomorrow!"
Fail everywhere, blame everybody. That is the essence of the Bush charade, and at the heart of his abdication is his decision to allow the neocons, not the President and the Congress, to formulate American foreign policy. Now that their fate is on the line, the neocons preach "patience" — that is, inaction. But the American people need not wait patiently, cowed by attacks on their loyalty, their patriotism, and their honor, while the neocons labor night and day to ruin our Constitutional republic forever. Rather, the people need only reject outright the regnant ideology that rains down epithets and threats upon them, and take to heart the instructions of the moral philosophers: Think. Judge. Act.
Marxism-Leninism teaches determinism — that there is nothing we can do to avoid the tyrannical future, which will be more violent than anything that has gone before. But the Founders knew long before Marx that the virtuous people could act. And act we should.
First, in Christian charity, we must attempt to shake the president awake from his nightmares — his idle dreams and bewildered, self-exculpatory illusions of retroactive future approvals of his present-day disasters. In addition to participating vigorously in the articulation of public opinion, which the president professes to ignore studiously, we must also urge Congress to use its Constitutional powers peacefully to drag the president back to reality. He must face his responsibilities and assume them himself — take back from Cheney, Petraeus, and the neocons the duties that are his alone, and face the music: he must take the credit, or the blame, himself.
If that effort bears no fruit, then Congress must recognize that this president is, for all practical purposes, constitutionally dead. That is, he is performing primarily the functions normally accorded to Vice Presidents — meeting with thoughtful admirers, greeting foreign dignitaries, and giving speeches to carefully-screened audiences. And, of course, traveling abroad — to countries that are forced to grind to a halt for days while his entourage, which bears all the trappings of an occupying army, takes over and shuts down entire capitals to prevent any unpopular sentiment from being publicly demonstrated.
Of course, Mr. Cheney has also defied the Constitution’s definition of the office of Vice President, and is, in any case, existentially inseparable from Mr. Bush (just ask Scooter Libby). Hence, if the Congress cannot bring both of these officers of the Executive Branch to their senses, it should impeach them immediately and restore responsibility and constitutional legitimacy to the Executive Branch.