The New York Times has a well done piece on the Article V movement today. Actual journalism from the Grey Lady. It brings back memories. I was glad to see a picture of Gary Banz, who is a good face for the cause. If you’re smart enough to read and understand that article, what part of the Article V BBA doesn’t appeal to you? Maybe in a subsequent article they could explain that the successful use, by the States, of their Article V power would result in a fundamental shift in our politics, taking power from the center and returning it to the States, and the people.
I’ve been thinking about the whole Sultan/Grand Vizier business with Trump and Pence. It’s the division between head of state and head of government. In most countries they are two separate roles, and deep thinkers say combining both functions in the Presidency is a bad idea. Too much for one person. The contrast between the roles is best demonstrated by an old Saturday Night Live skit, starring the Gipper. He’s in the situation room with his top aides, figuring out how they’e going to get money to the Contras, and he’s barking out orders. He’s in the middle of explaining the grand strategy when he’s interrupted. He’s got to go out and present some award to the Girl Scouts for selling cookies or something. So he does a complete personality flip, and becomes the kindly grandfather to the sweet little girl. Then it’s back to the situation room, and kicking ass and taking names.
The way I see it Pence is in the situation room, and Trump is with the girl scouts. It sits with each of them. Trump made the decision to get money to the Contras, but he lets Pence figure out how to do it.
It occurred to made that the way things look at the moment Obama could win a third term. Thank God for the 22nd Amendment. The Constitution wasn’t perfect, and God was not responsible for it. For starters they left out the Bill of Rights, but had the amendment process available to put things right. They should have included term limits and a balanced budget requirement. Jefferson, who wasn’t in Philadelphia, said the lack of a requirement of a balanced budget was the Constitution’s greatest flaw. As Professor Lessig says in the NYT piece, no really controversial amendment would ever be ratified. That’s why there’s nothing to fear from an Amendment Convention.
The 22nd Amendment was needed because a popular President could become a sort of king, with the enough political power to name his successor, which is not a good idea. George Washington understood this best, because he had the power to do that, or damn near anything he wanted to. The only reason the Constitution was ratified was because the office of President was designed for him. The problem of the succession of power was familiar to the Framers. The worst system was the Byzantine, later Ottoman. The Sultan didn’t govern, he stayed in the harem. Normally his first born son would succeed him, but that young man was in great danger. His stepmothers would try to kill him so their own son could take power. It was a messy way to do business. The normal practice was for the new Sultan to have all of his brothers strangled, so he would have no legitimate rivals.
Life in a harem has a certain appeal, but it’s not for everyone. One son of the Sultan was raised there, in isolation, and stayed there for 50 years. He got to wearing steel straps on the bottom of his shoes, so you could hear him coming. All the women in the harem had to scurry away when he approached. He couldn’t stand women.
At the 1964 Convention I couldn’t get in the Cow Palace to see Goldwater’s acceptance speech, but I did see Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois nominate him. Dirksen was the Senate Minority Leader, and a moderate. But Goldwater won, fair and square, and Dirksen was a loyal Republican. One of his favorite sayings was that he was a man of principle, and one of his first principles was flexibility.
With Trump, it’s time for something completely different.