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Electing Our Dictator


The debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton over Iraq, along with the positions on Iraq taken by the Republican presidential candidates (except for Ron Paul) reflect what the presidential race is all about. It might not be politic to say so but the fact is that what Americans will be electing in November is not just a president but also a dictator.

Look at Clinton’s position on Iraq. She says that she signed on to the resolution authorizing President Bush to use force against Iraq because she was under the impression that the president only intended to use it as a negotiating tool. Clinton says that she was shocked when the president actually went to war against Iraq and would never have agreed to a resolution to go to war against Iraq if she had known that the president actually intended to go to war against Iraq.

Obama’s position is simply that it was a bad decision to go to war against Iraq. He says that he would not have made such a bad decision. As president, he would exercise only good judgment as to when to go to war against another country.

Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Mike Huckabee all believe that the president exercised sound judgment in going to war against Iraq. They’re just unhappy with how the war and the occupation have been handled. If they had been in charge, they would have exercised better judgment in managing the war and the occupation.

Do you notice something significant here? Notice that everyone — including all of the mainstream pundits — make an important assumption: In the United States, the president wields the power to send the entire nation into war.

If that’s not dictatorial power, what is?

How many times have you seen any questioner in the presidential debates say, “Candidates, the Constitution requires a congressional declaration of war before a president can send the nation into war. Do you believe that that constitutional provision is outmoded and, if so, do you believe that the president should nonetheless be required to obey it until the Constitution is amended to modify it?”?

That’s the problem with the mainstream press. Their mindset is stuck in the same paradigm of democratic dictatorship that holds the various presidential candidates (again, except for Ron Paul) in its grip, at least when it comes to war. The feeling is that president should be the Decider when it comes to war no matter what the Constitution says.

That’s why there is so much fuss over which candidate has more “experience” and which one has sounder judgment. When you’re electing a dictator, you want the one who will will exercise the best judgment and also be the most benevolent toward his own people.

In principle, the matter is no different on the domestic scene. Notice how the mainstream pundits always ask the candidates’ for their plan to “run the economy.” Yet, what could be more dictatorial then having a ruler with the power to “run the economy”? The notion that the president shouldn’t have the power to “run the economy” doesn’t even enter their minds. It’s just taken as a given that whoever we’re electing will be “running the economy.”

Thus, is it any wonder that the debates inevitably revolve around which candidate is best equipped to be dictator? Yes, I know that it’s not phrased like that. Nonetheless, that’s the reasoning that is taking place.

Thus, is it any wonder that the other candidates and the mainstream commentators and pundits feel so uncomfortable whenever Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul speaks? Sometimes when he makes a point, the others behave as if he were appearing at a party that he wasn’t invited to. The reason is that Paul speaks in the context of an entirely different paradigm — one in which the president’s powers are strictly limited. That’s why Paul continually mentions the Constitution.

The Constitution, as Paul rightly points out, is the higher law of restraints and constraints that we the people have imposed on the president and Congress. If they are entitled to break this higher law, then what’s the point of having the higher law? Equally important, if they’re free to violate the constraints of the higher law, how is that different from a dictatorship?

Those are questions that are not supposed to be asked in polite mainstream political circles, as Paul’s experience in this presidential race has shown.

Since the Constitution says that the power to go to war lies with Congress, not the president, how is it that the president is deciding whether to go to war or not? Since it’s the law that Congress, not the president, makes this decision, aren’t both the president and Congress supposed to obey it? Isn’t that what they expect us to do with the laws they impose on us?

Since the Constitution doesn’t vest power in the president to “run the economy,” does it really matter whether the president or Congress think it’s important that the president “run the economy”? They might not like the law that we have imposed upon them, but is that any excuse for them to break it? Do they permit us that excuse when we break the laws they impose on us?

For decades, Latin Americans have mocked their own democratic elections by admitting that the only freedom they really have is the freedom to elect their dictators every four years. In doing so, at least the Latin American people have a grip on reality. The problem Americans have is that they honestly believe that because they have the freedom to elect a president who wields dictatorial powers, including the power to ignore the higher law of the Constitution, that proves how free Americans are. The American presidential campaign brings to mind Goethe’s famous quote, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.