Discussion Forum

Join News Letter

Iraq War

Peak Oil

Climate Change

US Imperialism











Gujarat Pogrom



India Elections



Submission Policy

Contact Us

Fill out your
e-mail address
to receive our newsletter!




King George: George Bush,
Divine Right And Majority Rule

By Linda Ford

03 February, 2007

As an historian, I’m compelled to say that we are in a major constitutional crisis. Recently, on “60 Minutes,” President George Bush grinned boyishly as he responded to the (gently phrased) charge that perhaps he was ignoring the wishes of a large majority of the American people by persisting in a war that they adamantly oppose. Well, …sometimes he had to be “educator in chief” as well as “commander in chief.” He leads and we follow. We’re to have no choice.

The issue of how much power the executive should have was a very important one to our country’s founders. They set up a government of checks and balances very specifically to guard against the executive’s having too much power vis-à-vis the will of the majority. The major grievance against Great Britain which eventually caused a revolution to sever ties with the mother country was that the sovereign of Great Britain—King George III -- ignored the wishes of his American colony, giving them no voice or representation in the decisions affecting them, most grievously in issues regarding waging wars (against the French) and then asking the his colony to pay for them.

Thomas Jefferson said that we should be constantly on guard about monarchical tyranny again raising its ugly head. Ever the revolutionary, he even warned that every few years “…the tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” He was always cognizant of the danger of too much power being vested in an established government, and quite willing to wage war to retain liberty. George Washington, when approached about setting himself up as a sovereign king—King George—absolutely refused, knowing full well that it would be completely opposed to the principles on which the nation was founded.

Throughout our history controversial issues have been fought out between President, Congress and the courts, with no one branch holding complete power. But as we entered the end of the 20th century, presidents began to amass more power and grew impatient with the necessarily slower pace of government of a democracy, responsive to the wishes of its people. What historian Arthur Schlesinger called the “imperial presidency” began with President Truman and then Johnson’s desire for quick cold war action, and by the time President Nixon came to power, this desire led to an unprecedented concentration of power in the White House to pursue executive domestic and foreign agendas in disregard of Congressional wishes. Under Nixon’s mantle, political operatives went to extreme lengths to find dirt on political opponents and media enemies, and then the president, with a paranoid certainty that he was surrounded by enemies and just as strong a certainty that only he should rule, secretly taped all his dealings, lied to the public, and then refused to release his (even expurgated) tapes or any other evidence to Congressional investigators of his presidency, citing executive privilege. “Great Communicator” Ronald Reagan was also apt not to communicate truth to the American people. The most dramatic instance of abuse of executive power during his administration was the “Iran-Contra” scandal, which saw his national security and CIA people doing an end-run around a recalcitrant Congress, secretly selling weapons to Iran so that that money could be given to the anti-Sandinista contras in Nicaragua to help them pursue their (“anti-Communist”) war.

President Bush II is very reminiscent of Nixon and Reagan in his certitude that he alone is somehow meant to be President at this time. But his actions are unprecedented in his baldly declaring himself alone “The Decider,” particularly in matters of war and peace. The founders did not want one supreme ruler as “the decider” which is why James Madison’s careful system of checks and balances of power was instituted in the Constitution. And the ultimate “deciders” in a democracy, were to be the citizens of the United States. Only in authoritarian and/or fascist governments do you have power invested in one person or small cadres of people. The amount of evidence is incredibly vast, and growing, that the Bush administration considers itself above the law, above criticism, and above any responsibility to govern as the representative of the American people. Additionally, Bush apparently does not feel behooved to act as a civilized –and equal--member of the world community, acting with consultation rather than threats. In fact, President Bush reputedly told a startled Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that God had told him to fight terrorists in Afghanistan and tyranny in Iraq. [1] So apparently George Bush, authorized by the Divine Right of Kings, has decided to lead the United States on a mission to pursue a new empire secured by extreme violence and utter lawlessness, based on lies, manipulated and faked evidence, and maintained by an occupation characterized by the Abu Ghraib prison, by torture, by assassination, and by mass killing.

So on the world stage, King George has led us to be a rogue nation and on the domestic front, he has, in concert with a corporate-owned Congress and courts, shown blithe unconcern for dealing with the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Katrina or for the down spiraling economic condition of both blue and white collar workers. He is sinking us deeper into total control by a shrinking number of corporate interests, making impossible reform of health care, drug costs, environmental crises—or just about anything. If Congress manages to pass any sort of reform bill, he doesn’t need to veto, the king need only issue a “signing statement” with his own interpretation which can make null and void any law he doesn’t care to execute. President Andrew Johnson was impeached for that in the 1860s. Any move in the impeachment direction at present, has been “taken off the table” by newly empowered “opposition” Democrats in Congress, who seem likely to also ignore the will of the American citizenry.

At the January 27th antiwar rally in Washington, numerous speakers crowed about how “this is true democracy at work.” When the populace has to take to the streets to try to make itself heard, it is frustrated and failed democracy. That rally was done to remind elected Congressional representatives why they were elected. That rally was done to show King George that the people may not always be willing to be patient, to be fooled, and to let their country’s ideals be forgotten.

1. “God Told Me To Invade Iraq, Bush Tells Palestinian Ministers,” BBC, October 10, 2005, http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases

--Linda Ford is an historian who has taught American history at a number of college including Cornell, New Mexico State and most recently, Colgate University. She is the author of Lady Hoopsters and Iron-Jawed Angels: The National Woman’s Party, 1912-1919. She is also currently co-owner of Half Moon Books, an antiquarian bookstore in Madison, NY.

Leave A Comment
Share Your Insights


Get CC HeadlinesOn your Desk Top



Search Our Archive

Our Site