Sunday, November 02, 2008

Remember: the president works for you, not the other way around

Speak on, my brother:

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago (see the last few paragraphs): if I could be granted one small political wish, it would be the permanent elimination of this widespread, execrable Orwellian fetish of reverently referring to the President as "our commander in chief." And Biden's formulation here is a particularly creepy rendition, since he's taunting opponents of Obama that, come Tuesday, they will be forced to refer to him as "our commander in chief Barack Obama" (Sarah Palin, in the very first speech she delivered after being unveiled as the Vice Presidential candidate, said of John McCain: "that's the kind of man I want as our commander in chief," and she's been delivering that same line in her stump speech ever since).

This is much more than a semantic irritant. It's a perversion of the Constitution, under which American civilians simply do not have a "commander in chief"; only those in the military -- when it's called into service -- have one (Art. II, Sec. 2).

Worse, "commander in chief" is a military term, which reflects the core military dynamic: superiors issue orders which subordinates obey. That isn't supposed to be the relationship between the U.S. President and civilian American citizens, but because the mindless phrase "our commander in chief" has become interchangeable with "the President," that is exactly the attribute -- supreme, unquestionable authority in all arenas -- which has increasingly come to define the power of the President.
Amen! The president is not the boss of us! (Unless you work in the executive branch, in which case the president is the boss of you.) This goes just as much for Obama as it does for McCain. The president works for us. The president is a public servant. I am a member of the public. So I expect good service from my employee. This is the attitude we should have towards everyone in government.


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