On Sept. 19, 1796, President George Washington issued his Farewell Address. It started with “Friends & Fellow Citizens” and gave inspiring advice to a newfound nation as a “parting friend.”
On March 4, 1797, 215 years ago, Washington left office. Rather than expand the powers of the presidency through perpetual succession toward eventual ascension as a monarch, Washington went in the opposite direction.
Even though it could have been, his presidency was never about him. It was about a citizen servant to the people — the American people – and their common bond through the United States Constitution — a document that indeed began with these three words – “We the People.”
Washington’s selfless act of voluntarily relinquishing power was one of the most important foundations for a new nation just starting out as a republic of the people, by the people, and for the people. As history shows, other countries were not so fortunate. Instead, history books are full of revolutionary leaders who could not give up power — with all its lure. For them, power begat more power — steadily tempting them with even more power, until caesars, tsars, kings and führers emerged. In the end, each was consumed with greater and greater power until the center of his universe was him.
Indeed, it was the concentration of power that Washington and the founding fathers of the United States feared most. Undoubtedly, any other man as America’s first president might have converted these very real fears into a harsh and unforgiving reality. After all, the transition from commander of the armies to perpetual president to king would have been an easy one. But, Washington chose a different path.
Against this backdrop, the United States finds itself today at the other end of the spectrum. Since 2009, neither the Constitution, nor Congress, nor the laws of the United States, nor even the people, have served as a boundary for this president. His presidency has been well-defined by a steady, insatiable expansion and acquisition of unbounded political power with never a passing thought about yielding or relinquishing power to anyone.
The will of the people, or the consent of the governed have meant little to him. Indeed, on multiple occasions, he has acted in open defiance of the opinions (and beliefs) of the American people — including, notably, his insistence on his version of socialized healthcare.
Mounting and consistent public opposition mattered little to him, even with midterm election defeat in Democratic strongholds like New Jersey and Massachusetts. It was his will that it be done — even behind closed doors with backroom deals and procedural maneuvers, all in disregard for the boundaries of the Constitution.
Even after Americans wrestled control from him and his party in the United States House of Representatives in 2010, he continued his steady march toward expansion and exercise of power. According to him, even the Supreme Court would overreach if it struck down his Obamacare law.
But, it is not just the will of the people, the boundaries of the Constitution and the decisions of the Supreme Court that he so readily ignores. He gives the same indifference to the Congress and laws of the United States.
Notwithstanding his oath to uphold and defend the laws of the United States, he started his presidency by ordering his solicitor general not to defend a law with which he disagreed. He continues his Presidency by instructing his Homeland Security secretary not to enforce the laws of the United States regarding immigration.
When the Congress attempted to call him into check on a program like the “Fast and Furious” program, he invoked executive privilege to ignore their requests. These are but a few illustrations amidst a sea of examples of his grip on unchecked power.
Any one of these acts by a leader in power would worry “Friends & Fellow Citizens” fearful of the concentration of such power in one man. This is especially true for a man who so eagerly seeks, systematically, and steadily works to increase his own power.
Yet, it is the open callousness with which he flaunts his exercise of power, notwithstanding the boundaries of the rule of law and the checks and balances of the Constitution, that is so worrisome.
Eventually, such power grows beyond political games and legal skirmishes to matters of life and death and the future of the republic. Make no mistake, this is a president who proudly boasts of his power, including the right to actually kill people — including American citizens – with the stroke of a pen.
These are indeed dangerous times. Unfortunately, Barack Hussein Obama is no Washington. He is the man who would be king.
Randy Evans is an Atlanta attorney with McKenna Long & Aldrige LLP. He is the former General Counsel of the Georgia Republican Party and remains active in the party on both the state and national level. He can be reached at www.mckennalong.com or McKenna Long & Aldrige LLP, Suite 5300, 303 Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30308.