Once again all the papers are groaning under the weight of dense articles and worthy columns about the right balance between executive powers in a time of war and the need to check any president's monarchical instincts.Well, checked power... that really is one of our big ideas. We did try to distinguish ourselves from the British when we came up with that one, you know.
The Bush buddies argue that Dubya is doing what it takes to fight the war on terror. The Bush baiters charge he's behaving like a nascent dictator. This debate is as old as George Washington - who advocated a quasi-monarchical role for the president - and Thomas Jefferson, who wanted to take the "chief" out of chief executive.
It is bitter and it goes to the very heart of the American system of governance.
Personally, I am always struck by how weak the American president is compared to, say, a British prime minister, who can do more or less as he and his party please if they have the right majority in parliament.
Potus - President of the United States, as the secret service refer to the most powerful man on Earth in their briefs - is more like a Venetian doge: surrounded by the trappings of monarchy but forever checked in the exercise of his power.
January 4, 2006
"Personally, I am always struck by how weak the American president is compared to, say, a British prime minister..."
BBC Washington correspondent Matt Frei gives us some perspective on our current political struggles: