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Round Table Discussion

A Limited Presidency: From Cincinnatus to Caesar

The American president began as Cincinnatus, a patriot called to the temporary service of his country (a republican confederation).  The president ends as Caesar, a despot of almost unlimited power, presiding over a global empire.  Like the Caesars, in some quarters the president is even worshiped as a god.  Cincinnatus was called because of his proved ability and patriotism.  Caesar achieves power by fraud, bribery, convenient wars, and manipulation of the mob.  As with Rome, candidates for the American emperor are sometimes selected by heredity, from the decayed descendants of powerful families: Roosevelts, Bushes, Rockefellers, Kennedys, Romneys, Gores.

In order to understand what the American president was meant to be, you have to look at the long period before the American War of Independence.  For well over a century the people’s representatives struggled with royal and propriety governors, empowered agents of a centralized power with an agenda of its own.  The American Revolution (not very revolutionary) happened when the royal governors fled to the nearest British warship, and the people’s representatives in each colony-now-state remained undisputed sovereigns.

It was understood that an executive power was necessary—a magistrate to see that the laws were enforced and the safety of the state was guarded.  Unlike the royal governors, the chief magistrates created by the new constitutions...

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