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Harvard Professors are Right–sometimes

February 3, 2020

Writers sometimes get a big surprise, especially when the book you open was written by a Harvard professor who wrote a three volume study of FDR and two books about the Kennedys; one on JFK and a second on Bobby Kennedy. But even if you are passionate, research must be conducted dispassionately.

My passion at this moment is about a transformation of the American political order from a democratic, representative, government into an Empire. I’m about finished writing this and read Amity Shlaes exciting new book, Great Society. That concept was promoted by an American president who is responsible for creating the infrastructure of an American Empire. That, in turn, led me to President Lyndon Johnson whose ambitions affected my life.

As a senior in college in 1964 I worked on the Goldwater for President campaign and watched LBJ when he pressed the flesh of a throng of voters on a commercial street in downtown Pittsburgh. LBJ was standing upright in his Presidential limousine wearing a raincoat that shielded body armor from public inspection. After the assassination of President Kennedy, American Presidents didn’t ride in open vehicles. Had Barry Goldwater won that election, I would not have gone to Notre Dame where I earned a Ph.D. in Government and International Studies.

The Harvard professor who captured the meaning of LBJ’s presidency was Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and his book is titled The Imperial Presidency. Though America’s first brush with Empire occured during the Spanish-American war, Schlessinger writes that “Americans are simply not competent imperialists…” and points to our invasion of Iraq by George W. Bush. Despite the common sense of the American people and our “live and let live” attitude toward others, American Presidents have fashioned a doctrine of “War Powers” that expands their power as “Commander in Chief” (according to Article II, Section 2, Clause I of the Constitution, the president of the United States is “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States) into a claim of right to act without Congressional consent.

That claim of an Imperial President is what we face today in the actions and claims by President Donald Trump.  Fortunately, Arthur Schlessinger exposes the falsity of those claims.

 

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