Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Dear Mr President,
You are the State.
Or, as Louis XIV put it, “L'Etat, c'est moi.” Louis (called “the Sun King” because everything was about him – you would have liked him) made this statement of the principle of the king’s absolute power in the 17th century, and he made it stick. When his heirs tried to act out the principle, royal affairs went into a gradual decline and dropped off suddenly at the guillotine, but that is a lesson for Mike Pence and doesn’t concern you.
Charles I had tried out the idea of personal power by saying, “Princes are not bound to give an account of their Actions but to God alone.” Less elegant than the French, the English parliament settled that theological argument with an axe.
Louis’s somewhat earlier English counterpart, Charles I, had tried out the idea of personal power by saying, “Princes are not bound to give an account of their Actions but to God alone.” Less elegant than the French, the English parliament settled that theological argument with an axe. But that was then, and this is now.
Much earlier, King John (remember him, the bad king in the Robin Hood stories?), expressed a similar concept of his power. “The law is in my mouth,” he said just before the barons forced him to sign the Magna Carta (heard of it at all?), establishing that the law was not actually in his mouth but on the tip of a sword pointed at it. But the Magna Carta is not part of the Constitution.
As recently as 1977, Richard Nixon, asked by David Frost whether a president could do something illegal if he thought it in the interest of the country, answered, “When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.” That argument ended badly for Nixon because he did not understand Modern Presidential Power.
Which brings us to your attorney and Special Assistant Tweeter John Dowd, who once gave his middle finger to CNBC on camera and now has flipped off Special Counsel Robert Mueller: “The President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under (the Constitution's Article II) and has every right to express his view of any case.”
Article II doesn’t actually name the president the “chief law enforcement officer”, but it does say that “he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”. And as I’m sure Dowd has explained to you, this also implies that he may take care that the laws not be faithfully executed – just as the power Congress gave the president to create national monuments carries with it the presumption that he can blow them away.
You are, after all, the State. For now.
Received by the White House at 6:03 AM EST, 6 December 2017
Please circulate. And write him a letter or forward this one to: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact