As we survey the American political landscape, it’s become increasingly clear that both parties love their living Constitution. Structural originalism is dead. Congress is no longer the supreme branch of the government. It’s supine before the presidency. The federal courts are no longer the “least dangerous branch.” The president’s hand-picked judges often dominate American politics.
The president is now the true colossus astride the American political scene. He commands an immense federal bureaucracy that—in direct defiance of America’s founding principles—makes more law than Congress. He wields the awesome power of the world’s greatest military, and he’s long ago determined that the constitutional imperative that Congress declare war before that power is deployed is but a suggestion, something that might sometimes be politically wise but is never constitutionally necessary.
The president makes the law. He executes the law. He chooses the people who interpret the law. It’s good to be king.
But then we need the king to be good. If no one is going to require him to put the national interest over his personal interest in international diplomacy, we need him to choose the right course. If no one is going to require him to tell the truth under oath, then we need him to possess a modicum of integrity and decency. If Congress won’t command him to seek its approval before waging war, then we need the president to set a positive precedent.