Don’t get me wrong: I’m always up for listening to an American president bash the United Nations. But it helps if he does so for the right reason. The United Nations is useless not because the incumbent president considers it to be temporarily dysfunctional or unsupportive of his aims but because it is an inherently corrupt, flawed, and feckless operation that — unlike Congress — has no binding influence on the United States. If one is to submit to the U.N., which this president has generally argued America should, then one must stand by its decisions when one doesn’t like them. It should be clear to all but the most partisan and obtuse that if an institution can’t say no — for whatever legal reason — then it is not an institution at all. Instead, it is an advice column, detached from the body politic and unworthy of the attentions of the head of state.
This is all to say that this president’s reflexive view of executive power needs smashing — and smashing hard. The constitutional order of the world’s greatest republic is not to be subjected to a veto if it yields messy results, nor does it set a good example to pretend to respect international bodies but to bolt when they no longer suit. The rule of law and the integrity of public institutions are the very root of any successful society, just as their dissolution is the overture to collapse. While human nature and the apparently inexorable tendency of government to metastasize dictates that this is almost certainly not going to happen, it is fast becoming my view that the primary role of the next president will be very publicly to explain his legal limitations, and then to stick by them — perhaps even deliberately losing a couple of issues to make a point. In the name of both security and indifference, we have rendered far too much of what is ours to Caesar. Cincinnatus, where art thou?