Wanderer Logo

Joseph Sobran’s
Washington Watch

Then ...

(Reprinted from the issue of May 31, 2007)

Capitol Bldg, Washington Watch logo for Then ...Thomas Jefferson, composing his own tombstone inscription, didn’t see fit to mention his presidency among the three chief achievements of his life. Imagine what he would think of today’s obsession with the office, which has become, in effect, a seriously corrupted monarchy.

The modest executive role envisioned by the Framers of the U.S. Constitution now seems incomprehensibly quaint, and in the age of mass “democracy,” so does the constitutional method of electing them. The idea that the Electoral College should actually decide who shall be president strikes most Americans as so absurd that they never even bother to ask why it ever made sense.

The reason, of course, is precisely that the president was never meant to be a king. These United States, as Reader’s Digest still calls them, were to form a republic, delegating a few specific legislative powers to a Congress in which the people would elect one house and the state governments would appoint the other. Most actual power would remain with the people and the states; the president and the federal courts — particularly the federal Supreme Court — would make few if any fateful decisions.

The great horror of Americans in that age was “consolidated” (i.e., centralized) government. The presidency would be more an honor than a position of real power. It should hardly matter who held the office. It was so weak that there was no reason to fight very hard for it, or to spend much money campaigning for it; nor was there any reason to worry about assassination, since the stakes were so low. Presidents didn’t have to worry about their personal safety. They were more concerned with their personal honor. Even in Lincoln’s day any man on the street could still walk into the White House and ask the president himself for a job!

The original system was so different from today’s that the most lucid explication of it, in the Federalist Papers, has become puzzling to read, like a medieval treatise on alchemy. Its basic terms — consolidated, delegated, usurpation, confederacy, sovereignty, and so forth — form a language alien to us. Even Lincoln hardly understood them.

The original design began to unravel very early, as party politics, abhorrent (in principle, at least) to the Framers, emerged. Later Lincoln denied and then destroyed the sovereignty of the states, on which everything depended. The damage was compounded by amendments that virtually repealed what was left of the original Constitution, and it is almost nonsense, now, to speak of “strict construction.” To hear this phrase from a Rudy Giuliani is beyond all irony.

The 22nd Amendment, limiting the president to two terms, should have been entirely unnecessary; it was a desperate reaction (and a pathetically futile one) against the hypertrophy of the office by Franklin Roosevelt’s time. Neither the people nor the states are sovereign now; subject to a few vestigial limitations, the president is. The original American republic is gone irrecoverably.

... And Now

The foregoing was meant to be a brief prologue to some reflections on the 2008 presidential campaign, already as far advanced as a terminal case of bone cancer. I’m afraid my exasperation got the better of me.

Read Joe Sobran's columns the day he writes 
them!The latest wrinkle in this mess is the news that New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg may be about to enter the race as an independent, financing his run with one of his own spare billions.

Last week I offered a hopeful scenario for next year, with Ron Paul running and winning as a third-party candidate, the lone conservative against two liberal nominees offered by the major parties. It could happen, but so could this: The Democrats run Hillary, the Republicans run Giuliani, and Bloomberg runs too. That would give the voters a real choice: three pro-abortion, pro-war, pro-homosexual New York white liberals. I suppose this is a liberal’s idea of diversity. As Bill Clinton used to say, “Diversity is our greatest strength.”

With Giuliani running, Bloomberg would seem superfluous. The only difference between them is that Bloomberg isn’t a Catholic and doesn’t pretend to hate abortion, which makes him, I guess, ever so slightly preferable. Among these three, Hillary should win. (The ballyhooed Barack Obama, glib but wispy, is already fading.)

In that case, though, a principled conservative like Paul might win as a =fourth=-party candidate (the Constitution Party?), for whom the glut of liberals would surely create a furious demand. The possibilities are endless. No use trying to predict which way this ball would carom.

Rudy’s Roar

In the second Republican “debate,” Phony Rudy had the sort of big demagogic moment that usually wins these sorry contests. When Paul remarked that the 9/11 attacks were the result of U.S. meddling in the Middle East, a thought that had occurred to me before the second tower fell, Giuliani erupted in hypocritical outrage. The South Carolina Republican audience applauded wildly, and the Fox pundits scored it a triumph for Rudy. Other Republicans wanted Paul expelled from the party for blasphemy.

But much of the post-debate reaction favored Paul. Genuine conservatives recognized one of their own. Pat Buchanan spoke for many when he praised the honest Texan. The Republican Party should indeed kick him out; it has no room for men like him.

If Giuliani gets the Republican nomination next year, he will enjoy the support of the Compassionate Conservative, George W. Bush. Naturally.

Ecrasez L’Infame

National Public Television has recently outdone itself with a series of specials on “the” Inquisition (it seems there was only one) and Martin Luther, all of them relentlessly, one-sidedly, and bigotedly anti-Catholic. None of the several I saw made any serious effort to balance propaganda with any other perspective. It was all a simple liberal morality tale of Progressive heroes and victims versus Reactionary villains (i.e., the Church of Rome).

Luther’s only flaws, apparently, were a bit of intolerance (toward those who were even more Progressive than he was) and anti-Semitism. Well, nobody’s perfect. He was still “one of the great emancipators in human history.”

The obvious question was left hanging: Why on earth does the Catholic Church still exist?

“‘Though liberals talk a great deal about hearing other points of view,’ Bill Buckley once observed, ‘it sometimes shocks them to learn that there are other points of view.’” Regime Change Begins at Home — a new selection of my Confessions of a Reactionary Utopian — is culled from my most recent lucid moments. If you have not seen my monthly newsletter, SOBRANS, yet, give my office a call at 800-513-5053 and request a free sample, or better yet, subscribe for two years for just $85 and we’ll send you a free copy of Regime Change. New subscribers get two gifts with their subscription. More details can be found at the Subscription page of my website.

Already a subscriber? Consider a gift subscription for a priest, friend, or relative.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2007 by The Wanderer,
the National Catholic Weekly founded in 1867
Reprinted with permission

Washington Watch
Archive Table of Contents

Return to the SOBRANS home page
Send this article to a friend.

Recipient’s e-mail address:
(You may have multiple e-mail addresses; separate them by spaces.)

Your e-mail address

Enter a subject for your e-mail:

Mailarticle © 2001 by Gavin Spomer


The Wanderer is available by subscription. Write for details.

SOBRANS and Joe Sobran’s columns are available by subscription. Details are available on-line; or call 800-513-5053; or write Fran Griffin.

FGF E-Package columns by Joe Sobran, Sam Francis, Paul Gottfried, and others are available in a special e-mail subscription provided by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. Click here for more information.

Search This Site

Search the Web     Search SOBRANS

What’s New?

Articles and Columns by Joe Sobran
 FGF E-Package “Reactionary Utopian” Columns 
  Wanderer column (“Washington Watch”) 
 Essays and Articles | Biography of Joe Sobran | Sobran’s Cynosure 
 The Shakespeare Library | The Hive
 WebLinks | Books by Joe 
 Subscribe to Joe Sobran’s Columns 

Other FGF E-Package Columns and Articles
 Sam Francis Classics | Paul Gottfried, “The Ornery Observer” 
 Mark Wegierski, “View from the North” 
 Chilton Williamson Jr., “At a Distance” 
 Kevin Lamb, “Lamb amongst Wolves” 
 Subscribe to the FGF E-Package 

Products and Gift Ideas
Back to the home page 

This page is copyright © 2007 by The Vere Company
and may not be reprinted in print or
Internet publications without express permission
of The Vere Company.