Obama and Francis: Authoritarianism is Bad, Until it’s Fine

Obama and Francis: Authoritarianism is Bad, Until it’s Fine December 18, 2014

So, I’m watching Obama single-handedly alter our relations with Cuba, and we’re reading from Politico that the president is feeling liberated and ready to be the president he always wanted to be — that is, a president who doesn’t deal with Congress and pretty much does as he damn pleases.

I used to say Obama didn’t want to be president, with all of its haggling and jawboning; he just wanted to be the ceremonial prince, making speeches about end-results. Seems, though, that what he has always really wanted — if recent actions (and this report) are to be believed — is to be either a King or a Dictator: someone who decrees something and then briefly tells the world why it should be grateful, before heading off to the links.

Anticipating Christmas as we are, someone should remind Obama that “savior of the world” is a title long-bestowed elsewhere, in case his head is turning that way.

What’s interesting to me about all of this is not really Obama. I identified his presidential-singularity a long time ago, so nothing he does surprises.

No, what’s interesting to me are the people who are captivated and energized by his authoritarianism, and utterly silent on questions of constitutionality or collegialism.

They’re interesting because — by and large — the people who are cheering Obama’s moves to stop talking and simply push his wishes through, are the same people who gush over the collegiality that Pope Francis is bringing to the leadership of the church.

The pope is reaching out, drawing bishops into discussion; he is bringing them to advisement committees; respectfully hearing them out as first among equals — he’s doing all he can to eliminate the old perception that the papacy is a dictatorial, authoritative office — out of touch with either the leadership or the people he serves.

In general, people think this is a good thing, as do I.

Obama, on the other hand, will not reach out; he will not draw legislators into discussion or bring them in for advisement; he is not respectfully hearing anyone as, as “first among equals.” Rather, he is doing all he can to redefine the presidency as a dictatorial and authoritative office, not only out of touch with either the leadership or the people he (ostensibly) “serves”, but prone toward telling them to eat their peas and take what’s good for them, unless they’re Goldman Sachs.

In general, most people think this is a bad thing. The president is supposed to lead, which means practicing the art of persuasion, of bringing people around; he is not supposed to simply rule.

There are some people out there who are strangely competent at holding two opposing thoughts in their heads: Pope Francis is a collegial consensus-builder, and that is an unqualified good. Obama is an uncollegial consensus-shredder, and that…is also, somehow, an unqualified good.

Something profoundly dishonest in that, don’t you think?

For the record, I don’t especially mind there finally being some movement on the long-stagnant immigration front, even if the action is insufficient and does nothing to actually reform the ineffective National Immigration bureaucracy that I have been long-arguing requires a dramatic, energetic and creative overhaul. I just don’t like how he did it.

And I don’t especially mind that there is some movement on Cuba, although I am not sure what we get out of it, and even less sure about what the people of Cuba will get out of it. Cuba has good diplomatic relations with almost 200 countries, and that doesn’t seem to have done a damn thing to help the Cuban people.

But just because Obama has made two dictatorial moves that I don’t “mind” about, so much, doesn’t mean I support this trend toward Presidential Rule. I most emphatically do not.

And neither should anyone else, because the more comfortable the country gets with the idea of a president — any president — doing what he damn pleases without oversight or correction, the more encroaching and dictatorial that office will become.

Obama is feeling “liberated” is he? If you don’t feel constrained in equal measure, you’re not paying attention.

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