The Press and the Presidency

Current Affairs

PressThink: Dick Cheney Did Not Make a Mistake By Not Telling the Press He Shot a Guy

“The public visibility of the presidency itself is under revision, Marvin. More of it lies in shadow all the time. Non-communication has become the standard procedure, not a breakdown in practice but the essence of it. What Dan Froomkin calls the Bush Bubble is designed to keep more of the world out. Cheney himself is almost a shadow figure in the executive branch. His whereabouts are often not known. With these changes, executive power has grown more illegible under Bush the Younger— a sign of the times in Washington.”

This is a quote from an article that tries to analyze the meaning behind this week’s contretemps between the Vice-President’s hunting accident and the press’ reaction to the way that accident was communicated.

I’ve seen other articles that seem to be arguing that the presidency under the current administration is being re-invented. Certainly I am hearing more and more the idea that Congress is getting “uppity” and needs to be more respectful of the president.

That is a frightening concept. The authors of the constitution were very clear that the powers of the presidency needed to limited lest a tyrant assume the office and wreak havoc. Congress was designed to have the primary role in the government. But over the last 200 years it seems that the executive branch has rejected this and originally fought its way to parity with congress and is now pushing for supremacy.

It’s not surprising that this is happening. Government is all about the effective exercise of power. And those who govern tend to try to accrue power to themselves. But putting power into one persons hands runs the danger of inviting that person to (for the best of reasons probably) try to change the structure of government so that we shall live more orderly lives. The thing is that historically speaking, it’s a short walk from this desire to tyranny. (I cite the history of Europe in the 19th and early 20th century as proof.)

The American system was meant to stop this from happening by intentionally limiting power so that one person could not easily exercise it. It’s inefficient and slow, but that’s by design. It’s a compromise that we live with because of the danger that comes of a government that has too much power to effect the lives of the governed.

Anyway – it’s worth thinking about.

(Via PressThink.)

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Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...