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Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Unrestrained President

Published on Wednesday, January 4, 2006 by TomDispatch.com
by Tom Engelhardt

  
As 2006 begins, we seem to be at a not-completely-unfamiliar crossroads in the long history of the American imperial presidency. It grew up, shedding presidential constraints, in the post-World War II years as part of the rise of the national security state and the military-industrial complex. It reached its constraint-less apogee with Richard Nixon's presidency and what became known as the Watergate scandal -- an event marked by Nixon's attempt to create his own private national security apparatus which he directed to secretly commit various high crimes and misdemeanors for him. It was as close as we came -- until now -- to a presidential coup d'etat that might functionally have abrogated the Constitution. In those years, the potential dangers of an unfettered presidency (so apparent to the nation's founding fathers) became obvious to a great many Americans. As now, a failed war helped drag the President's plans down and, in the case of Nixon, ended in personal disgrace and resignation, as well as in a brief resurgence of congressional oversight activity. All this mitigated, and modestly deflected, the growth trajectory of the imperial presidency -- for a time.
 
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