Thursday, February 09, 2006

If We Want to Rein in the Imperial Presidency We Have to Grade Presidents Differently

If We Want to Rein in the Imperial Presidency We Have to Grade Presidents Differently. Laura M. Brown wrote this interesting essay on strong American presidents. She writes that, "If we want presidents to respect separation of powers and defer to Congress, then we need to reconsider our definitions of presidential leadership and greatness." She notes that strong presidents in the past like Lincoln and FDR are treated favorably by historians. Hence, she contends that the current and future presidents may also mimic these well regarded strong presidents so that they may also be treated well by future historians.

Of course, her argument is stronger and more elaborate than this. Please read the whole article. However, I think I have at least given a decent summary here.

I am not sure how much of this actually impacts presidents. Yes, they all want history to look back on them in a favorable manner. But, how many men (or women) who have personalities that will allow them to commit "extra-constitutional actions" are going to actually alter their behavior because historians may decide to downgrade them later? I think the personality of individuals who become strong presidents are mostly immune to the media and historical critics.

Despite my above comment, I think this is an interesting and though provoking essay.


Jennie W said...

I have to agree with Michael in that I don't think presidents are seriously considering what scholars in a 100 years will think about them. They are thinking about their polls tomorrow - and the American public rewards a strong president. Now maybe in certain actions do presidentis think about posterity - like when they commission a monument or a make a "historic" appointment that you wonder if only made the grade because of their "new" status - like Reagan appointing a woman to the Supreme Court. I think if we want to rein in the Imperial Presidency we need to do at the polls, but in the history books. That means people need to actually vote! This is one of my pet peeves - you can't complain about the government if you didn't vote (and yes, to my brother - I'm talking about YOU)!

M said...

Well, I always vote but most librarians wish I wouldn't as I am one of those rare conservatives in the profession.

I complain about government too but since I vote I feel entitled. :]

Jennie W said...

Many of my friends complain about my voting preferences for the much the same reason! And I complain a lot as well - and as long as we're voting, we get to! I have some very strange political opinions - some would almost say conflicting, but hey, they work for me!