Inauguration and Empire, and Goodbye, Mr. Bush

statueofliberty-288See Justin Raimondo’s article about how far we have sunk since the days of Jefferson’s inauguration. “Having long ago morphed into Jefferson’s worst nightmare, the closer we get to the end, the more glamorous our inaugurals become,” writes Raimondo, who sees in this celebration of presidential power the signs of a bipartisan consensus on more war. And here’s Robert Higgs looking back on another imperial inaugural.

Four years ago, Bush’s critics raised objections to the lavishness of his second inaugural, while his supporters tended to defend the ostentatious celebration. I identified the modern presidency, with all its power, as the real problem, and argued that maintaining the inauguration in all its glory would be no controversy if the power of the presidency were scaled back to no more than what’s in the Constitution. The Jeffersonian and anti-Federalists were skeptical even of the power granted to the president back in the late 18th-century; since then it has been expanded and aggrandized so many times (Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, FDR, Truman, Bush) as to render it completely unrecognizeable by constitutional standards.

There is a silver lining this time, which is that tomorrow marks the end of the Bush era. This was the presidency gave us:

• Two undeclared, unwinnable imperial wars, with hundreds of thousands of dead, including thousands of Americans, and many tens of thousands of Americans wounded, with the violence and occupations continuing to this day;

• Detention without trial or habeas corpus;

• A torture scandal and the institutionalization, from the top down, of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that offend basic standards of human decency;

• New precedents on “extraordinary renditioning,” whereby U.S. intelligence and military agencies hand off detainees to foreign countries where they are interrogated in ways that even the U.S. at Guantanamo will not use;

• Warrantless wiretapping of the citizenry conducted by the military wing of the government;

• Spying on peaceful political activists and putting many names on no-fly lists;

• The modification of Posse Comitatus and insurrection law to empower the president to order the military and national guard to impose order on the domestic population;

• More signing statements than any president before;

• Credit expansion that helped bring on the greatest financial crisis in many years;

• The largest expansion of welfare spending since the Great Society, specifically in the area of prescription drugs;

• The biggest bailout ever, so far, with frightening moves toward economic fascism in the financial sector;

• A doubling of the deficit and debt;

• The nationalization of airline security and the introduction of the color-coded terror system;

• The Department of Homeland Security;

• Sarbanes-Oxley and other posturing corporate regulation that hurts small firms while doing nothing to improve the economy;

• Signing McCain-Feingold into law, despite knowing it violating the First Amendment;

• The further nationalization of education;

• The 21st century version of the “unitary executive,” which concentrates ever more power into the presidency;

• Massive protectionism, secrecy, duplicity, socialism, corporatism, and growing reliance on police-state tactics;

• Terrible diplomatic blunders with North Korea, the Midle East and elsewhere;

• The failure to catch Osama bin Laden.

That’s all I’ll mention for now, but I might update this with more gems from the Bush years. It will be hard, in any event, for Obama to beat this record. But we shall see.

Source: Campaign for Liberty

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