The weak and helpless yet imperial Presidency

I’m reading THE DEEP STATE:  The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government by Mike Lofgren, a veteran Republican congressional staff member.   He wrote the following on pages 32-33:

DeepState51cdQwM-Z8LOther than the two-year period after his inauguration, when Democrats held both the House and the Senate, President Obama has not been able to enact most of his domestic policies and budgets.  Because on incessant GOP filibustering, not only could he not fill numerous vacancies on the federal judiciary, he could not even get some of his most innocuous presidential appointees into office.  Democrats controlling the Senate during the 113th Congress responded by weakening the filibuster, but Republicans inevitably retaliated with other parliamentary delaying tactics.

Despite this apparent impotence—and defenders of the President are quick to proclaim his powerlessness in the face of ferocious Republican obstruction—President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due process, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct “dragnet” surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented—at least since the McCarthy era—witch-hunts against federal employees through the so-called Insider Threat Program.

Within the United States, we are confronted with massive displays of intimidating force by militarized federal, state and local law enforcement.

Abroad, President Obama can start wars at will and engage in virtually any other activity without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, including the forced landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory.


MIke Lofgren

MIke Lofgren

During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling began to paralyze the business of governance in Washington and the Treasury juggled accounts to avoid breaching the statutory limit on public debt, the United States government somehow scraped together $1 billion to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French military intervention there.

And at a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air-traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to raise $385 million to keep a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least £100 million to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to buy access to that country’s intelligence (including its surveillance intercepts within the United States, which the NSA would be legally or constitutionally barred from collecting).

The imbalance is due to what Lofgren called the “deep state”—the existence of independent centers of power inside and outside the government, who are not subject to elected leaders and are mostly independent of the laws.


Controlled by shadow government: Mike Lofgren reveals how top U.S. officials are at the mercy of the “deep state”, an interview by Elias Isquith for Salon.


Afterthought “Imperial” was a good word choice.  It is the mark of rulers of empires in decline – France and Russia before their revolutions, Austria before World War One, the Roman Empire during its decline – that they have absolute power to do anything they wise, except to reform their empires.

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