For you they call, the swaying mass,
their eager faces turning,
Here Captain! Dear father!
In politics we are often victims of illusion; like people who step into a house of mirrors at a Carnival. Day after day, during the Watergate disclosures, one could feel this: the images of people changed to tall and short; they were fat and trim at the same time. They looked handsome and ugly, sinister and sincere. It was crazy and if we had a "sick society" to begin with, you can be sure that it became sicker as events progressed. We begin with an image that I believe the public will understand better after the experience with the Watergate Affair.
"IMAGINE, IF YOU WILL, an official body provided for by the Constitution and set up in Washington. It is composed of several hundred men who come from all over the United States. They have large powers. Although they are disciplined by some leadership, particularly expressed in one man, and must direct themselves therefore at certain given national ideals, most of them have their own jobs to think about and are reaching for their own way in life. Though sometimes they act in unseemly haste, they usually take a long time to resolve an issue. They are not necessarily responsive to the 'popular will,' though they swear by it frequently. Individuals among them have often very little information of what others are up to; even the most powerful and best informed among them may be unaware of what is happening either in the group or in the government and outer world." Such is the presidency of the United States.
The illusion comes from expecting the statement to refer to the Congress of the United States, which would also be correct. We do not ordinarily imagine the presidency in such terms. Yet the presidency is a collective organ of the government; and the President is part man and part myth.
By myth is meant that a number of qualities are given to every President that are either quite fictitious or large exaggerations of the real man. The myth is not alone the property of the untutored mind, but of academicians, scientists, newspapermen, and even congressmen.
In fact, much of the difficulty with the institution of the presidency is the overlay of myth and magic on the President. The fatal need for personification of society, animation of ideals, and worship of heroes introduces continuous disorder into the matter-of-fact problems of running a country.
Be it as it may, the Constitution has provided a single chief of state who is both the ceremonial and expressive monarch and the active executive head; the democracy has provided that he be elected by direct popular vote; and it is up to each generation to contain him.
In some commonwealths where the legislative is not always in being, and the executive is vested in a single person who has also a share in the legislative, there that single person, in a very tolerable sense, may also be called supreme.
John Locke, Of Civil Government (1690)
In a hundred places the President-at-work is described. The description usually contains a listing of his duties and powers. The implication is that he takes care of these matters personally. Actually, the President does almost nothing by himself. He is surrounded by staff. The Executive Office numbers over update persons, of which a third pertain to the White House, and another third to the Bureau of the Budget, the rest falling in various special agencies such as the Council of Economic Advisers, the National Security Council, and others.
The Central Intelligence Agency is usually included in the Executive Office of the President and numbers some thousands of employees. But then also the heads of agencies and just about anyone else in the executive establishment and a number of outside consultants are at the beck and call of the President. Thus the decision-making of the President can take on the aspects of crowd behavior, or, when organized, the conciliar decision-making of Congress.
On a normal issue that comes before the "President" some dozens of persons are involved. It might be presumptuous to say that more of a collectivity is engaged than when the same type of issue would come before the Congress; but it would be equally presumptuous to say that fewer persons were taken up with the matter. Stephen Horn shows, for instance, how dozens of executive officials became involved in the development of a White House position with respect to Senator Kefauver's bill to set up a question period in Congress. All the while, World War II was going on, but the President and cabinet officers became seriously involved too.
To take another example, despite the gross haste with which it was actually designed, the anti-poverty bill of 1964 was proudly described by Sargent Shriver, introducing it in congressional committee hearings, as the product of dozens of informed opinions in the executive agencies.
In the Watergate affair, the public watched in astonishment at how many persons came tumbling out of the executive offices as the investigations of illegal election activities proceeded.
On the whole, probably more persons occupy themselves with the executive's policy than with the legislature's, and for longer periods of time. But the character of their involvement differs greatly. Ordinarily executives file politely aboard the boat of public policy the congressmen seem to swamp the boat in launching it.
It would perhaps be permitted to say that the President has a determinative voice on the usual issues before the presidency, while on the other hand, the top oligarchs of the Congress pay more courtesy to one another's power. (Yet President Truman did say: "One word from me, and everyone does as he pleases!" And President Nixon did, for obvious reasons) claim that he had no voice in the decisions of the Watergate conspirators to conduct illegal political espionage and underground activities against the Democrats.
It might also be permissible to say that the President is the step-up transformer for more initiatives than any one of the congressional oligarchs; that is, one can say a little more accurately "to get a new national policy, get the President's support" than "to get a new national policy, get the Speaker's support" or "to get a new national policy, get the support of the Speaker and the Majority Floor Leader." Still, the President is an image of power to get things done, the Congress is not, no matter how carefully these ideas may be phrased, they are bound to appear incredible to the vast majority of people in America and the world outside.
The President is a Congress with a skin thrown over him. Let us suppose that we have a gymnast executing various movements that end in a good round of applause. As he appears to the naked eye, he seems well-coordinated, graceful, smooth, tireless, and properly directed. But let the eye of the watcher perceive the true action of the muscles, the organ, and the mind beneath the skin, and he will observe all the near-misses, the strains, the compensated inadequacies, and the poisons formed, gathered, and discharged through the system under exercise. The hesitancies of muscle and mind that must accompany even the best performance will be visible. Should he be harsher in his judgment of the athlete exposed than the athlete covered? The President is the athlete covered; even the presidency, the collectivity, is the athlete covered because it operates under all the fictions of the single person. The Congress is of course the athlete exposed.
Presidents can come from private life, from Congress, and from governorships. If they are medicore before they become President, they immediately lose that quality and become heroes. It is doubtful that the average President is of greater education, oratorical ability, IQ, experience in governmental affairs or physical beauty than the average Congressman. In fact, Lord Bryce, the well-known commentator upon American institutions at the end of the last century, thought fit to write an answer to the question: why great men are not chosen Presidents. Perhaps he begged the question. It can be argued far into the night that Presidents are no less "able" than Prime Ministers of England, French Premiers, and Russian Czars and dictators. Since such arguments would be more than likely to become completely confused, it would be best to eschew them. The only point of consequence here is that the office makes the man, very much as in the slogan "clothes make the man."
And the President plays to the office. His first term is filled with reelection politics: he is primarily creating a personal image that might dwarf any potential opponent in the reelection compaign to come. Congress responds with resentment, and the build-up of paranoia in the legislative branch commences, so that the business of government can never be conducted in a matter-of-fact way. Each branch must fortify itself and perceive in the other not the normally cooperative or conflicting humans, but a spiteful menace.
The President, one personalized being, has the advantage with the mass media and the general public. Under the tutelage of journalists and historians, they speak of him as the author of the years of government in which he serves--the Administration of Jefferson, of Jackson, of Buchanan, of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It would not only be psychologically more healthful, given republican premises, to reduce American national history to congressional periods rather than presidential ones, but it would be scientifically more accurate in that the more regular changing of Congress each two years produces greater effects typically, even given the same presidential incumbent, than the change of Presidents. That this is so little done, except precisely among those expert in government, is indicative of the connection between personification and reputation for power.
The myth of the President is thus wrapped up in the fictions of a single heroic leader, which defies the truth of the normalcy of the typical President and the collectivity of his behavior. Many more myths are related to the central one and derived from it, creating a veritable fairyland.
One myth begins with the Constitution. It has it that the President is responsible for seeing that the laws shall be faithfully executed. We do not speak here of the growth in the legislative power of the President. It is well known that every last opportunity for leverage in the constitutional powers of the President has been used to increase his powers. This is no myth; the Constitution has simply been stretched and interpreted to accommodate the development. We speak rather of the fiction that the President executes the laws. He cannot do so personally, of course. Once he might, today he cannot. The President in a real sense is no longer the President.
There is a grand irony. The more powers that are put to the President to swallow, the less of a constitutional President he can be in reality. But not in fiction. The law of agency is a marvelous and mysterious creation of the human mind over many centuries from its birth in the great Roman legal system. By its operations, people are said to do things that they not only do not do but that are actually not known to them as having been done by anybody else. The trouble caused by this situation is not so much that it develops, because indeed it must develop out of the plethora of business activity, but that it is believed not to develop and therefore people act in terms of its "truth" rather than in terms of its utility.
In part the President is an office, the presidency, whose head knows what is going on in government and has something to say about it. Secondly the President is an office whose head knows what is going on but has nothing to say about it. Thirdly, the President is an office whose head does not know what is going on and has nothing to say about it. There is a little of the first in the presidency, a good deal of the second, and a great amount of the third. It is well to understand this fact. The Constitution provided for the President; it did not provide explicitly for the presidency; nor could it provide for an all-seeing all-doing executive. The President should be seen as a person furnished with a license to capture as much as he can, and as Congress will let him, of the flora and fauna of a gigantic reservation. He should not be regarded as a highly efficient omniscient commander of a vast country.
The artistic ability of Thrasymachus seems to me to have gained him victory in the field of pathetic expressions on old age and poverty. Really, he has acquired ability to stir a whole crowd of people at one and the same time to frenzy and then to charm them out of it by magic, as he said. He has become very good, too, at attacking or answering allegations on almost any basis.
Many feel regretful that the President cannot oversee and do everything. The President is the only true representative of the people they believe. If he does not command the apparatus of the government and society, he should. So says for example, Theodore Roosevelt. Woodrow Wilson from whom the theory of the omnipotent President sprang full-blown puts the case appealingly:
His is the only national voice in affairs. Let him once win the admiration and confidence of the country, and no other single force can withstand him, no combination of forces will easily overpower him. . . If he rightly interpret the national thought and boldly insist upon it, he is irresistible; and the country never feels the zest of action so much as when its President is of such insight and caliber. Its instinct is for unified action, and it craves a single leader. . . . A President whom it trusts can not only lead it, but form it to his own views. . . . If he lead the nation, his party can hardly resist him. His office is anything he has the sagacity and force to make it. Woodrow Wilson, Constitutional Government in the United States (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1900), pp.67-69.
Wilson rightly placed the President as potential popular idol, and declared that even the political party would bow before the people's anointed. Ordinary reasoning and logical behavior are useless before the rush of public emotions. The President represents by his personality and by a free choice of issues to place before the country. Unlike Congress, he can conceal his doubts in his inner office and behind seeming action. For so powerful is the amplification of the press behind the President that his expressions are taken for action itself and an expressed will to save the country from Disaster X is taken, in the absence of vivid proof to the contrary, to actually saving the country.
Despite all of this force, on many occasions the President cannot be said to represent the nation but is asserted to do so by those who command the written word. Such occurrences are common when the nation is well-off and the attention given politics is small or an issue is abstract or principled and discourages mass participation. Examples would be found in Truman's efforts to repeal the Taft-Hartley Act, and F. D. Roosevelt's attempt to increase the Supreme Court's membership. Strenuous presidential efforts could not raise a great favorable public. Yet since the President is "liberal" by the nature of his office and the character of his constituency, and since the writers about politics and government are largely liberal, the President is alleged to have a pipeline to the great people that he in fact does not have.
In a literal sense, in fact, no American President has been the proven choice of a majority of the people. Suffrage restrictions, indirect election of the President, apathy among potential voters are only several reasons why this is true. On a dozen occasions, among them Lincoln in 1860 and Wilson in 1912 and 1916, the winning presidential candidate received less than a majority of votes cast. J. F. Kennedy won ---% of the popular vote cast for President in 1960; Richard Nixon won ---% in 1968. But what begins non-logically cannot be destroyed by logic. Where a majority cannot be found, a plurality will do, or in the end just a bigger crowd.
If the President represents the whole people, he would not so often represent the minorities; yet the latter is the reputation that he also bears. The President does represent some minorities, like everyone else, but under- represents other minorities. He may have felt a majority pulse in going into the first World War, but he did not feel the pulse of the German-American minority who saw the war as a conflict of self-interested European powers, with America as a dupe of England. He may have supported the aspirations of Negro minorities a generation later in civil rights matters but could not be said to express the views of other urban minorities who wished to check the liberties of Negroes. Nixon traded off any potential black support preceding his re-election campaign of 1972 in an effort to win over the anti-blacks of the Wallace following. Because Wallace was wounded and withdrew before the elections, he did succeed, and a new fragile "Republican majority" seemed to be occurring before the scandal of his second term brought down the whole structure of support. Again the scientific and educational sector of opinion is usually president-oriented; Nixon pushed them away from the policy table, too, with the hope of accommodating larger members of "little men." All of this is said without need to mention the many sectional minorities that have been represented or not represented by the presidency in history, such as the South.
One must conclude that far from representing the majority or the minorities, or for that matter the "little people" who through the ages have always looked to remote ruling figures for succor, the President represents now one and now another and then again both at the same time. He is the champion of the minority when the minority is angry, critically positioned, and uses its votes (perhaps for lack of other weapons of social justice). Or, at least, he champions it if another stronger or larger opposing group does not take to the field. He is the champion of the majority when the majority is alert and demanding.
He is the representative of the "little people" in any case, and of the minority and majority in all cases except the above, too, whenever he engages in the thousands of act and expressions of daily life that show the head of state to be not only ordinarily human but superhuman. This large residue in his favor reveals itself in a considerable fraction of people, who, no matter how badly he is doing on the sum of specific matter, will affirm to a Pollster that "the President is doing generally a good job."
Of the three forms of government, the democratic form, in the real meaning of the word, is necessarily a despotism, because it establishes an executive power; for the "all" which is not really all decides concerning, and sometimes against, the one who has not participated in the decision. The general will is a contradiction to itself and to freedom.
Stemming no doubt from his image as representative of the whole people is the prevalent myth that the President's views constitute the public interest or the national interest. We shall show below that the idea of a national interest is approximately the same as that of the public interest with the national security element added, and that the public interest is whatever one asserts to be good for the country and is agreed with by others. The others, of course, can be few, many, or practically everybody. To say that the President is custodian of the public interest or of the national interest is presumptuous. The President is custodian of a public interest, his own, and that may be popular or not, shared by Congress or not. In short, he is no better off than any other citizen in supplying a public philosophy, except that he has more power to implement his view.
Actually, if anything is meant by the slippery expression, it is that, because of how he is chosen and because of his role in the system, the President will emphasize certain policies and propound certain ideas. It appears, for example, that it is very difficult for a federalist, "voluntarist," decentralizing, "isolationist" politician to be elected President, or if elected President to espouse such policies. Neither Robert Taft nor Dwight D. Eisenhower could move ahead at the presidential level with his original notions.
On the other hand, it is perfectly possible for a man to rise to eminence in Congress with such views. Robert Taft, Howard Smith, Styles Bridges, and William Knowland are several of many cases that could be offered in proof.
At the same time, opponents of such views may likewise lead Congress: one thinks of Rayburn, Humphrey, McCormack, or Lucas. Does that mean that Congress lacks the key to the public interest that the President has? Not at all. It means that congressional leadership may be coming up with an alternative conception of the public interest, which may be accepted or rejected by citizens as they please. Was President Jackson acting in the public interest when he wrecked the United States Bank? Should Grant have annexed Santo Domingo? The secret service policy of Theodore Roosevelt, the cabinet appointments of Hayes, the denial of access to public papers by Cleveland-in these and many other cases Congress and the President clashed vehemently.
Take the Cleveland incident. Congress must have a relatively unrestricted access to public agency information if it must legislate. Cleveland dismissed over 600 officials without cause and by denying Congress access to the papers on their dismissals prevented it from judging the reasons for or even the legality of the dismissals. The aware public apparently supported Cleveland. One might reasonably argue that Congress was the defender of the public interest.
All of which should be obvious, save that even well informed people are often shortsighted and uninterested in indirect consequences. Few of the many dozens of books written about Congress and the President suggest that the Congress may be as amply expressive of the public interest as the President. This becomes indeed a great hurdle in achieving a permanent balance of power between the executive and legislative.
The President, Congress, and legislation (New York: Columbia University Press, 1946). Professor Lawrence Chamberlain some time ago prepared an analysis of leading legislation over a fifty-year period, in an endeavor to see what were the origins of the laws. They are listed below as they were found by him to have originated in the Congress, in the office of the President, in both equally, or through the efforts of lobbyists. We shall comment upon the origins of the laws later. The important conclusion to be suggested here is that only the most presumptuous of partisans would be able to see in the list of laws a correlation between the presidency (or the Congress for that matter) and laws in the public interest.
An asterisk indicates that one or more bills dealing with this subject had been introduced without administration support and had received substantial consideration of Congress before the administration took a definite position.
|PRESIDENTIAL INFLUENCE PREPONDERANT|
|Agriculture||1||Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933.*|
|Banking||3||Silver Purchase Repeal Act of 1893; Emergency Banking Act of 1933; Gold Reserve Act of 1934.*|
|Business||3||Securities Act of 1933;* Securities and Exchange Act of 1934;* |
Public Utilities Holding Company Act of 1935.*
|Credit||3||War Finance Corporation Act of 1918;Reconstruction Finance Corporation Act of 1932; |
Home Owners' Loan Corporation Act of 1933.*
|Labor||1||Second Employers' Liability Act of 1908.*|
|National Defense||6||Militia Act of 1903; |
General Staff Act of 1903;
Selective Service Act of 1917;
Naval Construction Acts of 1901-1905;
Naval Construction Act of 1916;
Navy act of 1938.*
|Tariff||2||Underwood Act of 1913; |
Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1934.*
|CONGRESSIONAL INFLUENCE PREPONDERANT|
|Agriculture||2||Capper-Volstead act of 1922;* |
McNary-Haugen bills, 1924-1928.*
|Banking||6||Currency Acts of 1873;* 1878;* 1890;* 1900;* 1908;* |
Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.*
|Business||1||Sherman Act of 1890.*|
|Credit||3||Federal Farm Loan Act of 1916;*|
War Finance corporation Revival Act of 1921;*
Agricultural Credits Act of 1923.*
|Immigration||9||Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882;* |
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1892;*
General Immigration Acts of 1882;* 1903;* 1907;* 1913;* 1917;* 1921;* 1924.*
|Labor||3||Department of Labor Act of 1913;* |
Second Child Labor Act of 1919;*
Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1932.*
|National Defense||4||National Defense Act of 1916; National Defense act of 1920; |
Selective Service Act of 1940;*
Naval Disarmament Act of 1920-21.*
|Natural Resources||2||Carey Act of 1894;* |
Act of 1897.*
|Railroads||3||Interstate Commerce Act of 1887;*|
Valuation act of 1913;*
Transportation Act of 1920.*
|Tariff||2||Wilson Act of 1894;* |
Payne-Aldrich Act of 1909.*
|JOINT PRESIDENTIAL-CONGRESSIONAL INFLUENCE|
|Agriculture||3||Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929;* |
Soil Conservation Act of 1936;
Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938.*
|Banking||4||Federal Reserve Act of 1913;* |
Thomas Silver Amendment of 1933;*
Silver Purchase Act of 1934;*
Banking Act of 1935.*
|Business||2||Clayton Act of 1914;* |
National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933.*
|Credit||2||Federal Home Loan Bank Act of 1932;* |
Emergency Farm Mortgage Act of 1933.*
|Labor||4||First Employers' Liability Act of 1906;* |
First Child Labor Act of 1916.*
National Labor Relations Act of 1935;*
Wages and Hours Acts of 1938.*
|National Defense||3||Army Act of 1901;* |
Naval Construction Act of 1929;*
Naval Construction Act of 1934.*
|Natural Resources||7||General Revision Act of 1891;* |
Newlands Act of 1902;*
Weeks Act of 1911;*
Migratory Bird Act of 1913;*
Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918;*
Migratory Bird Refuge Act of 1929;*
Taylor Grazing Act of 1934.*
|Railroads||4||Hepburn act of 1906;* |
Mann-Elkins Act of 1910;
Emergency Railroad Transportation Act of 1933;
Transportation Act of 1940.*
|PRESSURE GROUP INFLUENCE PREPONDERANT|
|Labor||1||Railway Labor Disputes Act of 1926.*|
|Natural Resources||1||Clarke-McNary Act of 1924.*|
|Railroads||1||Elkins Act of 1903.|
|Tariff||4||McKinley Tariff Act of 1890;* |
Dingley Tariff Act of 1897;*
Fordney-McCumber Tariff Act of 1922;*
Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act of 1930. (See below, pages 00.0 for a discussion of the origins of Laws)
Of the ninety major laws studied, approximately twenty per cent fall to the credit of the President; roughly forty per cent were chiefly the product of Congress; about thirty per cent fall into the joint presidential-congressional category; and slightly less than ten per cent are identified as primarily the handiwork of external pressure groups.
Two major reasons for the continued association of the notion of the public interest with the presidency may be suggested. One is that Congress passes a great number of private bills and bills affecting localities. It constantly rises, too, in support of individuals being abused. This gives the impression of localism, and partialism. The fact that the executive branch of government from day to day engages in hundreds of thousands of similar actions, as part of its obligation, does not reflect back upon the President. The Congressman cannot turn down even some dubious cases and must fight for many an unromantic petitioner; the President can confine his personal and special acts of giving medals to heroes, a hero by definition being a person already certified to be in the public interest.
At the other end of the spectrum of actions, the President derives identification with the public interest from the fact that he is concerned with foreign affairs and military security. Naturally, here in a vast area where there are no constituents, the national interest appears plain, and the President is its custodian. This image seeps back into the domestic areas of policy and lends a convincing quality to presidential pretenses here as well.
Furthermore, the government, the public, and the nation are tied up together semantically; as words they hang together and permit any one of five million federal employees to impress a private citizen with the allegation that only the nation, that is, the national employee, can define what the national interest is, and only the public, that is, the public servant may define the public interest. These distortions of meaning are none the less effective for being childish; the vast presidential constituency is not the best educated constituency to be found. It operates on a rather low level of political awareness, information, and skill.
Shell game. A sleight-of-hand swindling game in which a small pellet, the size of a pea, three walnut shells are used, and the victim bets as to which shell conceals the object; hence, any game in which the victim has no chance to win.
Webster's New International Dictionary
If the President lacks a monopoly of the national interest, may he not still be the center of responsible government? "The Buck Stops Here," said the little sign by President Truman's desk; no matter who may "pass the buck" to someone else in an evasion of responsibility, the President -luckily for the nation-cannot evade final responsibility.
This is another myth. What are election campaigns but at least large-scale efforts at claiming credit, that is responsibility, and disclaiming blame, that is "passing the buck"? And on a smaller scale, the campaigning goes on all the time. The President, it is true, is charged with signing certain documents, cutting various ribbons, and even with the giving of an indubitable (momentarily) order to fire a great missile volley upon an enemy. But only the veritable acts in themselves are inescapably his. Everything else about them may be passed off, concealed, distorted, parcelled off, and denied. An equally true little sign could read "If it's bad for us, kick it around until it gets lost." The Watergate slogans of 1972-3 were "Cover-up" and "Protect the President."
In days of old, it was both a childlike belief and a formal myth of the law that "the king can do no wrong." All mistakes were ascribed to officials and outsiders. One must not imagine of course that the king always escaped political blame. The myth had its limits of acceptance, depending upon conditions, and so with the President. Indeed, the President, though better situated to receive the benefits of this myth than anyone in the country and far more its beneficiary than anyone likes to admit, is more readily blamed than many a chief officer of American business corporations such as the General Electric Company, or benevolent associations such as the ford foundation. Yet blame is not lightly ascribed to the President: it is rare indeed that a public opinion poll of the nation will show a majority who will not say: "The President is doing a good job."
Devotees of the presidency are fond of the phrase "Strengthening the responsibility of the President," by which they mean usually "making the President more powerful." If the idea is that of trying to gather together all of the mistakes that several million federal employees can make all over the world and laying them upon the presidential doorstep, it is mad. If the idea is one of making the presidency so strong that it can suppress and control the evidences of malfeasance and neglect from all over, the idea has possibilities.
If the idea is to make the President "who is responsible to the people by election" now "responsible in fact for all that the people elect him for," we must ask what in fact the people do make him responsible for. The "people's mandate" is a term that may satisfy newspaper editors and even many congressmen, but rarely a careful scholar or expert upon opinion. When the people's mandate is boiled down, what remains is "get in" or "get out." And in the case of Presidents, no matter what they have done in their first term, it usually says "stay in." Such general expressions are scarcely calculated to assist the President in being "responsible."
It is probable that the more sophisticated advocates of "placing greater responsibility" upon the President and "making the government responsible to the President" are actually urging a greater coordination and integration of governmentin the departments, the separate independent commissions, the Congress, and the state governments. Again the President is to be given greater power. He is pictured as the Great Coordinator and Integrator.
Yet the President is already charged with so many responsibilities that he has enlarged his staff by several hundred times in the last century. If he is to be given even more extensive powers of making determinations for the agencies, for the Congress, and for the country as a whole, it stands to reason that he will not make the determinations himself but will turn them over (if he ever received them personally at all) to subordinates. These are not and would not really be "subordinates"; they make the final determinations in a great many important cases and only by fiction and by courtesy are called "subordinates."
If we are to confine our analysis only to the present, we do not see in the operations of the presidency a degree of coordination and integration of work that is higher than that to be observed in Congress. Nor do we discuss the larger executive establishment here. Confining oneself to the thousand-man Congress-plus-assistance body and the thousand-man President-plus-staff-and-associates, that is, the presidencywhich body functions in a more integrated, coordinated, and efficient way? To answer such a question, it must be asked, what are the veritable measures of such performance? These are not impossible to devise.
1. Which body's members know more about what their co-members are doing?
2. Whose members know more about what the other body is doing?
3. Whose members know more about what the bureaucracy is doing?
Whose members know more about what is going on in the country?
In which body does an idea have the greatest chance of being born, and once born, of achieving some consideration?
In which body does an idea that is to be ultimately adopted pursue a path that a group of outside scientists and experts on logic, intelligence operations, and administrative procedure would say bring to bear the more powerful interest and instruments of intelligence?
In which group does an order by the top leadership obtain the quickest response throughout the group?
Which group's ordinance obtain the quickest response in the country and in the executive establishment at large?
In which group is a policy originated and processed into final form most quickly?
Which group can give the most ready and thorough response to problems arising out of the operations of the executive establishment?
Here are ten criteria of coordination, integration, and efficiency, three terms that are almost useless and certainly dangerous unless they are qualified. To every one of these ten questions, the general answer may very well be: "Congress." And if such is the answer, then a serious indictment may be read to the numerous contingents of experts upon government who over many years have played upon these supposedly neutral and scientific terms to transform the nature of American society and government from a republican form to an executive system.
It is untrue that congressional work is generally undertaken in confusion, without expert knowledge and planning, and without consideration of all points of view. Sometimes when this happens, as with the "War on Poverty" Bill of 1964, the faults lie with the President. It is a myth that the presidency embodies more discipline, foreknowledge and expertness.
The scientific planning, technocracy, and scientific management movements in America have in this century produced an image which, transferred to the presidency, has provoked this myth. Rational foresight, long-range planning, and full and deliberate consideration of alternatives are supposed to be features of the top executive. If they are not already, they would be, save for an obstructionist attitude on the part of old-fashioned congressmen. In a fat work which is good on details but short on general order and intelligence, Professor Arthur N. Holcombe has written, "The experience of the generations under the Constitution has taught that can only Presidents, and candidates for the presidency, can conveniently produce plans for the effective use of the legislative powers of Congress." Arthur N. Holcombe, Our More Perfect Union: From Eighteenth Century to Twentieth Century Practice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press,1950), p.26.
Holcombe himself gives examples of the contrary and there is no firm basis for his conclusion. In fact, both the presidency and the Congress plan for the most part unscientifically. Their capacity to use applied social scienceeconomics, sociology, and administrationis poor. Yet that Congress is worse in this regard is doubtful. Holcombe might more accurately have said that "the teachers of the constitution have lately taught that only Presidents. . . etc."
So far as sheer knowledge is concerned (and knowledge is after all one concern of good planning), Congress is superior to the presidency. As much is admitted by writers who may be in the course of appealing for more permanence in the high offices of the executive branch. As the Second Hoover Commission reported: ". . . Men of long experience just change places in the Congress in taking over the important committee posts. The Congress continues to have men of experience in its important positions, and a large pool from which to draw these people, while the executive branch tends to get a group of limited political experience in the highest political positions of secretary, under secretary, and assistant secretary."
Commission on organization of the Executive Branch of the government, Personal and Civil Service (1955), p. 220.
The President himself and his immediate staff may or may not have extensive governmental and political experience. Still there are and will always be a group of congressmen who know more about any single agency than does the Chief Executive. They are the only people, these congressmen, who know any considerable amount about the agency outside of the civil servants running the agency. Their potential great value must be admitted, even if their realization of it for the national good be doubted.
But is knowledge used for planning? Individual congressmen may be experts, but does the whole Congress have a program? The answer must be
first a question: "What is a plan?" And what are the limits of planning? So that we have four questions from one. Congress has only a very limited notion of planning and programming. The noblest effort in that direction in recent history, and perhaps since the Radical Republicans of the reconstruction period, was that of Senator Robert Taft in the Eightieth Congress, 1946-48. He had several proposals, inter-related and consistent generally with his philosophy. But this was not treated too well by his colleagues and only part of it was enacted.
Holcombe records that "only two congresses, the Fifty-first (1889-1891), which was republican, and the Fifty-third (1893-1895), which was Democratic, were able to execute comprehensive party programs. Both of these programs the voters promptly repudiated at the polls." [Holcombe, op. cit., p. 210.] It cannot be ventured that a certain way to political success is a program, even a successful one.
In consequence, it is not surprising that Presidents, too, lack comprehensive programs in the valid sense of the term. [Richard Neustadt suggests that the President, while he "needs to be an actor" may instead be "pre-eminently a reactor." That he may typically "choose" other than "originate." See Neustadt "Presidency and Legislation: Planning the President's Program "American Political Science Review (December, 1955), 1014.] A program, or plan, is ordinarily defined as a group of proposals connected by a set of consistent underlying principles. If this is too strict a definition, it may at least be said that a program cannot be whatever the President may wish at any given moment. But that in fact is the way in which the word is used by the presidential party and to a large extent adopted by the press and Congress. The President's program is more a smorgasbord than a diet, but whatever he wants is called part of his program.
It is actually his calendar, that is, those matters that he hopes at any given moment to get congressional action on before the next time he revises the calendar. Thus in 1962-64, a strong Civil Rights bill was part of the President's "program"; it was accelerated or decelerated with changing conditions, and at times was bypassed by other bills such as agricultural support bills.
When the President, as has been the practice for the past several terms, presents to the country at the beginning of each year in his State of the Union message, a long list of goals, he again does not present a program and certainly not a plan, at least not by our terms. For his program is a stringing-together of a great many things that he would like to do for the countrya few of which are concrete enough to be legislative proposals and fewer still of which would be enacted into law. Therefore, one would not be doing the presidential system an injustice to say that the President's program is another myth of the Presidency.
It is even doubtful whether the President should be conceded to have more initiative than the Congress, although the impressive sort of listing of goals that was just referred to would seem to clinch the title of the Great Legislator for him.
It has become the pattern in the last generation for Presidents to have rousing, if childish, slogans. "The New Deal," "The Fair Deal," "The Great Crusade," "The New Frontier," "The War Against Poverty" and "The Great Society" help create the impression that the president has creative ideas, energy, and a program. Sober reality testifies to the contrary. Becoming President is too much a merry-go-round to fix a program in mind. Staying President is too dizzying a job to remedy the lack of a program.
Neither Congress nor the presidency produces programs in the logical long-range sense. Individual laws are another matter.
Lawrence Chamberlain's documented survey of the origins of major legislation shows, for example, that the Congress was the source of many more important laws over a period of half a century than the presidency. (See above pages 81-82.) A large group of laws was, to be sure attributed to the joint efforts of both congressmen and the President. Perhaps the situation has changed to give the President more of the initiative in the past few years.
Between 1953 and 1963 less than 50% of the legislation proposed by the President were enacted into law. Those enacted were only one-third of all laws enacted. These were the findings of a Congressional Quarterly survey. [Congressional quarterly almanac, V XIX (Washington: Congressional Quarterly Service, 1963), p. 102.] For instance, in 1959 Congress approved 93 of the 228 proposals submitted by President Eisenhower; in 1963 it passed 109 of the 401 proposals of President Kennedy. Still these are only surface indications: the President often proposes hopeless bills; further, his ideas often come from congressmen originally. The Peace Corps, for example, would be remembered by most people as President Kennedy's creation. Actually, its creator might better be said to be Congressman Reuss of Wisconsin.
Yet the image of the President as the main initiator of important legislation is firmly entrenched in both the public and scholarly minds. Most scholars would be likely to agree with James A. Robinson's conclusion that an "extension of Chamberlain's study from 1945 to 1965 would show that this collaboration (between the president and Congress) has now yielded to virtually exclusive initiation by the executive." [In Alfred de Grazia, (Ed.), Congress: The first Branch of government (Washington: The American enterprise Institute, 1966),p. 263.] Hard data is not available to support this conclusion and we would not wish to subscribe to it for the time being.
Probably the belief that the President has monopolized the initiative in lawmaking is partly the result of his increasing use of the executive order to legislate, and the waging of executive-directed foreign policies with occasional military accompaniments, as in Lebanon, Cuba and Vietnam.
However, although, we may agree that the president's initiative with a variety of instruments of power has increased in recent years, it has not done so in proportion to the image of its increase. I have noted elsewhere that "even The York Times, the world's bulkiest newspaper, carries as much material on the presidency as on the Congress and the executive branch combined. The proportion is so huge that not even the most naive person could imagine that it would correspond to the actual power of the President." [Arthur Schlesinger, Dr. and Alfred de Grazia, The Role of Congress and the President (Washington: The American Enterprise substitute, 1967), p. 43.]
The story of Congress, though that of a marvellously organized machine from one perspective, is, from an equally valid perspective, a set of biographies of legislative heroes, men who have by themselves or a couple of colleagues worked strenuously and brilliantly to originate, research, develop, and enact into law through the tortuous mazes and disheartening obstacles of the legislative and executive process some vision of a better arrangement of human relations in society.
Banded together as they areworking a system which, like all systems, necessarily proceeds in great measure by fixed rulesthe official body are under the constant temptation of sinking into indolent routine, or, if they now and then desert than mill-horse round, of rushing into some half-examined crudity which has struck the fancy of some leading member of the crops.
J.S. Mill, On Liberty
It is also a myth that more time is wasted in Congress than in the presidency. The President's time is "wasted" in many ways, some of them impossible of reform, as the time he must spend with numerous minor potentates, and in signing a great many letters and documents as Head of State, might be described as "wasted." He may spend a great deal of time on petty matters, taking a day to name a boat, or three days to appoint a postmaster of Pittsfield, to use examples from the schedule of John. F. Kennedy. Actually, it may be offered for consideration that the President is so much needed for the petty ceremonials of government that he cannot possibly be an executive and should not be given the more serious tasks of running the great agencies and studying the processes of legislation on numerous substantive questions.
Since the President's time is so occupied, it is likely to be a myth also that "speed and dispatch are the characteristics of the presidency" in contrast to Congress. A new idea born in a bureau will normally take several years to grow to acceptable maturity in a budget message of the President. Another year for the test of the legislative process is required for final acceptance. If the Congress were eliminated from the process, the idea would simply move more slowly through the executive offices. An idea born in congressional circles often shortcuts or speeds through several bureaucratic echelons. What passes for "speed and dispatch" in the presidency is usually emergency actionreferred to variously as "fire-fighting," "trouble-shooting," "crash programs," "disaster relief," etc. And of course there are the prompt responses to foreign aggression against American interests, which the presidency has the power to make, with or without simultaneous consultation with congressional leaders. This species of emergency action, civil and military, has produced an unwarranted reputation for speed and dispatch on affairs in general.
To expand the domain of the presidency further, the whole area of governmental powers has been opened up by the doctrine of the age of crisis. The "age of crisis," the "permanent crisis," the "cold war," the "critical times"all demand mobilization of the country for decisiveness, speed and dispatch. Again occurs the premise that these abilities are incorporated in the presidency, which is quite doubtful. But the other premise is doubtful too. The problems of today are perhaps grave and critical, but none of them are likely to be solved by collapsing the decision making process by some months to save time. The French had a decade to save the whole of Indochina from the Communists; the United States had another decade to save South Viet Nam. Never during this period could it be said that the executives of either government revealed some intrinsic advantage over the legislature, or were compelled to act urgently and without recourse to deliberative councils.
Almost invariably "time save" is time wasted: important decisions are badly made, consequences are not foreseen, opposing views are not taken in account, and remedial measures are sooner called for. The attempt in 1961, directed by the presidency, to unseat the Cuban government of Fidel Castro resulted in the Bay of Pigs invasion, which on authority, Theodore Draper, wrote is generally considered to be "one of those rare politico-military eventsa perfect failure." [Theodore Draper, Castro's Revolution, Myth and Realities (New York: Fredrick A. Praeger, 1962), p. 59. ]
Crisis is where one seeks it. It is everywhere, if one feels it. The age of anxiety is itself a potent cause of the age of crisis. The presidency is in this sense much more excitable than Congress. It is by the same token the focus of the anxious crowd of the age.
The story of how real crisis has in the past brought power to the presidencypower that was not to be relinquished thereafterhas been often told. The presidency rides tall in the saddle with every American military adventure. The bigger the war, the larger the shift of power from Congress to the presidency, and the longer the period required for partial recovery. Laws and practices of World War II inimical to Republican principles, as they will be defined later in the book, still rule the country even some that are poorly translated into civilian terms.
The main reason why the presidency grows in wartime is psychological, not administrative. The conduct of war by the presidency is not impressively efficient by comparison with war conducted by Congress. History is biased as it is read on this point. The Continental Congress gave General Washington no more trouble than Lincoln and his cabinet gave his generals, or Truman and his advisors his. The confusion in the presidency during World War II was as astonishing as any in the history of the country; by contrast, except for its initial over-enthusiasm, the conduct of Congress was decorous, matter-of-fact, and effective.
Congress was too modest in fact. This has been a constant trouble in times of emergency. Congressmen, being only human, are themselves subject to the man-on-horseback hallucinations. The releasing of powers in generous and vague terms to President Johnson in 1965 to deal as he saw fit with the Viet Nam conflict was typical; congressmen were stuck between their feelings of patriotism and their rational role as initiator and critic of policy, and surrendered completely to the former. And they are pushed by many of their constituents. Any remedy for presidential aggrandizement during military emergencies has to circumvent the psychological paramountcy of the President; this cannot be challenged directly without further exciting popular demands for dictatorship. The procedures in wartime for the Republican Force must be marked by coolness and careful constitutionalism; when peace comes it must be prompt and complete reversion. When war and peace are undistinguishable, both procedures must be continuously undertaken.
In this age, which as well as being an age of anxiety and an age of crisis is an age of applied social science, it is a growing practice to create crises. And at creating crises the presidency has no peer. It has the instruments. It can stir up the press, call White House conferences, begin "crash programs," point with alarm to underprivileged people of different sorts, and altogether discover innumerable pockets of crisis in the world.
Each crisis can mean a new program and increased functions for the government, that is, the executive establishment. The crises of today are the programs of tomorrow. The presidency is almost always then a permanent beneficiary of crises that it may discover at home or abroad, for from them it achieves powers and personnel in abundance.
The crisis myth lends support and substantiation to the myth of the lonely and overworked President. A European writer, Roberto Michels, long ago pointed out that the complete picture of the "duce" required the alternation of periods of frenzied sociability with periods of equally intense loneliness. The American President is rarely alone but it is said that he is lonely, made so presumably by "the terrible weight of decision only he can make."
Apart from the fact that the President need take no decision himself, there is the question of how many presidents have made up their minds along how many times, and whether when such occurred a feeling of loneliness was imparted. One might submit that every man and woman, unless deficient in normal mental qualities, makes decisions of equal relative and subjective weight in life, and often feels misunderstood and afraid, which gives rise to a feeling of aloneness.
With a million-dollar income, in cash and kind, and a huge staff and retinue, the President need be neither lonely nor hardworking. If he wishes to drive himself into a state of fatigue and desperation from working, he may of course do so. But he has less excuse for so doing than, let us say, the small businessman, the writer, the newspaper editor, or the congressman, all of whom lack the bolstering environment the President inherits and the luxurious resources for easy decision-making that he has. Every busy person has to protect himself from pestering and self-pity. It is probable that in this recurring legend of the President lies an attempt to aggrandize the person and office; in it lies a risk of making him nervous at the thought of overwork and fearful of appearing indecisive to himself.
The latter would be bad, for, goes the myth, good Presidents are strong. Said Woodrow Wilson in 1898, "Other Executives lead; our Executive obeys." But he did his best to change this lamented condition. So the "good" Presidents manipulate Congress, bulldoze Congress, set the people upon Congress and achieve their ends. Ipso facto this is the public interestand really the writings of Woodrow Wilson, Wilfred Binkley, Water Lippmann, and other authorities on the President say no more than this. On the other hand, when congressional groups overpower the President or frustrate his demands, Congress is said to be recalcitrant, obstructive, and incompetent.
Actually, can it not be said that a "weak" President is good when inaction, cooperation, etc., is desired, and a "strong" President is good under other circumstances? Presidents are of many types, and even if weak and strong were used objectively, they would be terms far too simple for the reality of presidential-congressional relations.
There are passive Presidents, such as Eisenhower, Coolidge and Hoover, who usually let Congress alone and hope for the best. There are positively principled Presidents such as Wilson and Truman, who believe and act on the idea that they should present a large legislative program to the Congress for enactment, but exert pressure from a fair distance. Some Presidents see Congress as a body to be dominated and exploited, as the two Roosevelts. Jefferson and Kennedy worked to win over Congress to their proposals by party intervention and continuous liaison. These categories and others can be distinguished. They are useful principally to underline how varied the sets of relations between Presidents and Congresses can be.
The background of Presidents is far from uniform and leaves little hope of generalities. No one type has a monopoly of "better relations" (a meaningless phrase in itself) with Congress. The presidency has sometimes been a means for outside forces to push through into the top policy levels of the federal government against the will of the professionalized, long-tenure congressional oligarchy. The cases of Eisenhower, Grant, and other generals, not to mention unsuccessful candidates such as John W. Davis and Wendell Willkie, come to mind. A military man is ideal for the spearhead of such a movement to reorganize a party against its regular congressional faction or to get a new contingent of managers at the top in Washington. Yet success does not necessarily attend such efforts. Congress usually finds that a general, perhaps because of his West Point education and his eternal concern over funds in his military experience, is deferential to it.
The development of the institution of state governor as the proving ground for presidential candidates in a way accomplishes the same purpose. In the last two generations, Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt exemplified the supposed trend, which, it must be admitted, is scarcely detectable since Roosevelt, except among potential and actual candidates for the President's office. Whether it be military men or governors under consideration, it is not at all sure that any dominating influence over Congress and congressional government must be met facing outward. Congress itself has its own complement of men who would gladly "reform" it drastically.
I happen, temporarily, to occupy this White House.
Given the numerous types that occupy the presidency, is it not possible to have a long-term cyclical balance that will produce eternal equilibrium? A strong President and a Complaisant Congress would be followed by a weak President and a domineering Congress, and so on indefinitely. And occasional lapses from this situation would be more than made up for by the untidiness of historical waves, so that the very uncertainty of events would prevent any stabilizing of a new order of executive supremacy or dictatorship.
This might be the case if it were not for the growth of the executive establishment. As in the Roman Empire and the French Republic, the bureaucracy provided all the background cushioning that was needed to accommodate the weak executive chiefs who happened along. We are getting ahead of our story here, but it is well to appreciate how dictatorial revolutions happen and what they signify.
It seems absurd to the average American to contemplate a presidential dictator. It seems absurd for three reasons. First he thinks of the genial past incumbents who appear to have been capable of no evil. Secondly, has had a little experience with governments that challenge his root ideas. And, finally, he dreams that a dictatorship is a government that is disliked by the people (and by himself who identifies with the people). When a foreign authority like Dennis Brogan calls the President "an elective emperor," the American smiles; he believes that he knows better.
Concerning the geniality of presidents, the "average American" can be logically refuted, though actually he can not be changed. From a small schoolboy, he has been taught to respect the President, particularly the dead Presidents, and the text writers have taken to heart as nobody else has the ancient injunction, de mortuis nil nisi bonum. The harsh, violent Jackson recedes and the thoughtful liberal, Jackson emerges at the hands of a liberal modern historian. So no matter how reviled the live politician, the dead president is revered.
As Professor Charles Bear pointed out once, the authors of the Constitution and most early Americans were not so sure of the automatic virtue of the President. Wrote Hamilton in Number 22 of The Federalist, "In republics, persons elevated from the mass of the community, by the suffrages of their fellow-citizens, to great stations of preeminence and power, may find compensations for betraying their trust. . . . Hence it is that history furnishes us with so many mortifying examples of the prevalency of foreign corruption in republican government." And American history since Hamilton shows that this suspicion was justified to some extent. In The Republic Beard concludes that "with few exceptions, the great political scandals. . .have appeared in the Executive Department, not the Legislative Department." [ Charles Beard, The Republic (New York: The Jiking Press, 1943), p. 202.]
Indeed, when it came time to explain why the President was not given complete power to make treaties with foreign powers, Hamilton wrote, in Number 75 of The Federalist, "The history of human conduct does not warrant that exalted opinion of human virtue which would make it wise in a nation to commit interest of so delicate and momentous a kind, as those which concern its intercourse with the rest of the world, to the sole disposal of a magistrate created and circumstanced as would be the President of the United States."
We need not rest with theoretical writings, no matter how sound. Just before the Civil War, it might have happened that a President was elected who had confederate sympathies and who might in a subsequent conflict have joined his interests with the seceding states against a presumed majority; who would have been the traitor, who the would-be dictator, if the secession had been made unnecessary by his partisanship with the confederate cause?
Franklin D. Roosevelt would probably have gone as President for so long as he lived , a kind of American salazar as the ideas of the New Deal receded in originality and importance in the new America.
We may recall the peculiar circumstances of American relations with the Soviet Union during and just after World War II and their relation to presidential politics and candidates. Henry Wallace was dropped from the Democratic ticket in 1944 in favor of Harry Truman. Of course, Wallace would have become President in 1945 upon President Roosvelt's death if he had been kept on the ticket. Wallace subsequently ran against Truman in 1948 as the presidential candidate of the Progressive Party. The American Communist Party played a leading role in the Progressive Party. Obviously, Wallace in 1948 was not the same Wallace as in 1944 or 1940. Obviously, Wallace himself was not a communist. But our "obvious" is not so obvious to a great many people who watched the same events. And perhaps the point on which we may all agree here is that presidential personalities can play strange roles. Therefore, the script must be tight and the stage management close.
And then there was Aaron Burr. His name rings ominously in American ears. They must remember who he was. He was a man of "impeccable" background, intelligent, well-educated, son of a University President and minister, handsome, adroit in human relations, admired by men for his virility, courage and skill, and by women for his courtliness and sweetness of disposition.
He tied Jefferson in the vote for President of the United States, and was eliminated only after unprincipled bargaining that might have elected as well as defeated him. He thereafter seems to have engaged in a conspiracy to seize the western territories of the United States and to form a new nation with himself as President. Tried by the Supreme Court for treason he was acquitted for lack of two witnesses to the overt act. The founding fathers, in their anxiety to protect the rights of individuals at the bar made it difficult to accomplish full protection against treasonable officials, even though they may have perceived such possibilities.
Thus, the average American, thinking of past Presidents, exercises a selective memory. With historians to help him, he represses unfavorable experiences. Not so much the Southerner, who has had them in unerasable abundance. It is simple to educate a Southerner to the dangers of presidential tyranny because he believes that his ancestors were suppressed under Lincoln, and to a lesser degree under other Northern Presidents.
Most Northerners, of course, will dismiss this illustration as wrong. What they may ignore, in their haste to dismiss, is that dictatorship has to do with loss of freedoms and it is illogical to dismiss another man's view of freedom as inconsequential when seeking to determine whether a dictatorship exists. They further conceive that a "good" man cannot be a source of despotism. They finally forget, in their enthusiasm over Lincoln for having saved the Union, that a number of serious blows were directed at republican institutions during the course of the war. If they wish in fact to venerate Lincoln, they might most fittingly do so because, in Charles Beard's words "his violations of the Constitution, if such they were in fact, were trivial in comparison with his fidelity to the mandates imposed on him by the supreme law of the land." (Op. Cit., p. 62.)
It is impossible to make great largesses to the people without great extortion: and to compass this, the state must be subverted. The greater the advantages they seem to derive from their liberty, the nearer they approach towards the critical moment of losing it. Petty tyrants arise who have all the vices of a single tyrant. The small remains of liberty soon becomes insupportable; a single tyrant starts up, and the people are stripped of everything, even of the profits of their corruption.
de Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, Bk. VIII, ch. 2
Again and again in discussions of dictatorship it appears that people reject its possibility because of their notion that despots must be evil men. They are quite wrong. The opposite is the case. Despots are usually well loved. And to say that the American people cannot love a despot shows little knowledge of American history, the American character, and the nature of despotism. The American states and cities have had a goodly number of bosses. Characters such as Huey Long of Louisiana, Stephenson the Ku Klux Klan Governor of Indiana, Boss Hague of Jersey City and Talmadge the Elder of Georgia.
Imagine, then, the "freedom boss," as he can be called. He becomes dictator by giving people freedom. He gives to 30,000,000 old people greater security by national welfare schemes, and "security is freedom." He champions Negro rights and ingratiates himself to 12,000,000 Americans to whom "rights are liberties." To the intelligentsia-writers, artists, architects, and performing artists-go grants and subsidies and understanding; another million people who believe this to be in support of "free expression" will admire him.
A million scientists too will pocket their subsidies, enjoy their new laboratories and approve, in the form of a quietly reasoned dogmatism, his "understanding of science" that enables the free world to grow great in knowledge. Large grants to educators from the federal treasury and cordial "acknowledgment of their important role in American life" through a multitude of well-financed conferences, fellowships, and research projects will bring applause and support from 5,000,000 more who need these "tools of freedom."
Such activities give ample scope to the ambitions of a great many bureaucrats; society will now award them greater respect, and to the bureaucrat "respect is freedom to do a useful job with dignity." To 2,000,000 civil servants are added three millions of the armed forced whose energies are needed (respect again) and freed for many missions throughout the world. There remains but one more necessary ingredient and here the presidential dictator must make a choice. He may decide on the one hand to give to unions "freedom of association" (the Peron formula). On the other hand he can give employers "freedom of management" and "every worker's right to a job" (the Mussolini formula). In the first case he will gain 30 millions and in the latter 20 million adherents.
Some 74 to 84 millions of adults are included in the previous calculations out of a total adult population in the United State of about 110,000,000 persons. Thus about two-thirds of the American people are caught in the net of "the Freedom Boss." A great many ideological opponents, cynics, sceptics, apathetics, and hostile interests can be eliminated from these larger groupings, and from the remainder of the population, and still there would be an ample basis for a popular dictatorship in the name of freedom. In a country of "nice guys" a dictator should be a "nice guy" too; but that quality is easy to find and, if not found, to create.
An advantage of our speculative analysis is that the interweaving of the executive establishment with the presidency is to be perceived. The problem of dictatorship in America is linked up with an administrative revolution. Unless we are treating of a "banana republic," it is the bureaucracy that finally creates the conditions of dictatorship in a land-not economic conditions, wars, corruption, "bad leadership," popular apathy, or lunatic fringes.
That is, there must be the essential conditions of centralization, integration, a monolithic concept of the public interest, a welfare or socialist state, and a prepared uniformity of opinion, if a President is to become dictator. The congressional and other elements of the Republican Force will tend to resign and disintegrate under the steady wearing power of the great state. And there is a dictator only because the bureaucratic state must have a face. It wants a personality to supply blood and guts to the form of rule. It needs the President as the frozen pond needs a skater to make a winter scene perfectly human.
This natural royal law is conceived under this natural formula of eternal usefulness: since in free commonwealths all look out for their own private interests, into the service of which they press their public arms at the risk of ruin to their nations. To preserve the later from destruction a single man must arise, as did Augustus in Rome, and take all public concerns by force of arms into his own hands, leaving his subjects free to look after their private affair, and after just so much public business and of just such kinds, as the monarch may entrust to them.
Giambattista Vico, The New Science (1725)
The last sticking point of the person who will not believe that we have a permanent problem of dictatorship by an Executive Force in America is in the precise imagining of the machinery of transition. That is because he personalizes the process excessively-vaguely but excessively. The transition is accomplished in a hundred guises that in the end amount to a complete set of transfers from old institutions to newer ones, from republican to bureaucratic ones. The personality element is minor; whether the Head is hated or loved is relatively unimportant. The institutional change is major. That institutional change is well on its way too; at least two-thirds of the necessary transformations have been accomplished. They need to be routinized and expanded.
As to the physical achievement of a permanent head of the Executive Force, along, say, Soviet lines, where indefinite tenure is the rule, this may come through an elected President, or in the line of succession to a resigned President (forced by a presidential-executive party in Congress allied with elements of the executive branch). The transition might even be accomplished by a person who has been called in or elevated in position to act as arbitrator of a deadlock between the President and Congress. A military man of courage and prestige, such as the late General MacArthur, would be the type sought out for such a role. He would then maintain his position as "Trustee of the Nation" afterwards, for the "duration of the crisis."
That the Constitution might not carry such a title and give it powers is not an insurmountable barrier. If only that which the Constitution prescribed were in being, half the apparatus of Government would have to disappear. The President himself is mostly a non-Constitutional creation. If George Washington had decided to become Speaker of the House instead of President under the new Constitutional government, the whole history of the institution of the presidency and Congress would probably have been changed. In any event, amendments to the Constitution are no longer thought to be as difficult to bring about as they once were. They will be much easier for the presidential party after the reorganization of the state legislatures and Congress brought about by the Supreme Court in the decisions of Baker vs. Carr and Wesberry Vs. Sanders. And finally, even if an amendment to repeal the 22nd Amendment and permit a President to succeed himself were desired rather than one creating the Trustee of the Nation, but were politically impossible to bring about, the law of the Constitution might not interfere with an incumbent President from remaining on and on in office.
For the Supreme Court as constituted and as it has laid down that law, has shown a capacity for admitting interpretations of the Constitution far at variance with the language of the document but in accord with the existing pattern of political power. If the President ran for reelection, only the Supreme Count could deny him the right under the Constitution, and the Court would have to take up the case in the first place, and then, if it did so, might well decide the question was too political to handle (for it has but it also has not denied itself that luxury in recent months) and the 22nd Amendment itself might be found in conflict with other powers granted the presidency under the Constitution and therefore declare invalid or strictly limited.
There is little use to further conjecture on how the Amendment might be repealed, cancelled, or ignored. It is not difficult to reason how, with or without the Constitution, a determined and powerful move to keep a President or Trustee in the highest position of power indefinitely can succeed. The more critical problem is how the Executive Force manages to triumph over the Republican Force. This is the salient question of sociological history, retrospective and prospective. The other, a minor sociological problem, descends into petty legalisms and personalities and neither protects a nation from disaster not prepares it for glory.