One of my favorite stories about our first President, George Washington, concerns the period immediately after the victory at Yorktown in 1783. At long last the hated Redcoats were packing up and leaving, and the Yanks could see about putting their plan for an independent America into peacetime practice. The story goes that a grateful Continental Congress wanted to crown George Washinton as the first King of the United States, and made the offer not once but three times, before General Washington made it clear that he would wear no crown. “No kings here”, he said plainly.
George Washington was a brilliant and charismatic leader, but he also understood that the nation needed a broader leadership than a monarchy could provide. Too few people realize that the Constitution of the United States was not drawn up until long after the War for Independence, and Washington’s decision was one of many critical choices that proved the United States different from so many other rag-tag revolutions. The leaders of the French Revolution did not choose nearly so well in their structure and form of government, for example.
Now here comes Barack “The Messiah” Obama, and with him all manner of arrogant assumptions. Arrogant, because nowhere in these fantasies does he accept limits to his authority or whims. At best, Obama’s supporters have a very poor grasp of the role of the President of the Uniited States, and at worst they mean to ignore the job’s clear limits. For all the whining about imaginary abuses by President Bush, Obama’s supporters expect him to be in complete control, without regard for the Constitutionally defined limits to the roles of the office. Already we are hearing how Obama will address domestic economic issues, military decisions and diplomatic overtures, taxation and spending. We have heard how the Kennedy family is ‘America’s Royalty’ and Obama is somehow heir to a crown of indisputable right to lead the country as he chooses, without obstruction or opposition. And that scenario ought to scare anyone with a grasp of history, anyone who understands the need for the checks and balances which were carefully built into our system of government.
The President of the United States is an executive, yes, but he remains essentially an employee of the citizens of the United States, working in a position which role is limited to specific responsibilities and limits of authority.
Someone should advise Mr. Obama that there are no kings here.