Ron Paul: Nixon’s Vindication

NIXON’S VIEW OF PRESIDENTIAL POWERS NOW WIDELY EMBRACED BY RULING CLASS By Ron Paul || Forty years ago many Americans celebrated the demise of the imperial presidency with the resignation of Richard Nixon.  Today it is clear they celebrated too soon.  Nixon’s view of presidential powers, summed up in his…


ron paul is freaking people outBy Ron Paul || Forty years ago many Americans celebrated the demise of the imperial presidency with the resignation of Richard Nixon.  Today it is clear they celebrated too soon.  Nixon’s view of presidential powers, summed up in his infamous statement that, “when the president does it that means it is not illegal,” is embraced by the majority of the political class.  In fact, the last two presidents have abused their power in ways that would have made Nixon blush.

For example, Nixon’s abuse of the Internal Revenue Service to persecute his political opponents was the subject of one of the articles of impeachment passed by the US House of Representatives.  As bad as Nixon’s abuse of the IRS was, he was hardly the first president to use the IRS this way, and the present administration seems to be continuing this tradition.  The targeting of Tea Party groups has received the most attention, but it is not the only instance of the IRS harassing President Barack Obama’s political opponents.  For example, the IRS has demanded that one of my organizations, Campaign for Liberty, hand over information regarding its major donors.

Nixon’s abuse of federal power to spy on his “enemies” was abhorrent, but Nixon’s abuses of civil liberties pale in comparison to those of his successors.  Today literally anyone in the world can be spied on, indefinitely detained, or placed on a presidential “kill list” based on nothing more than a presidential order.  For all his faults, Nixon never tried to claim the power to unilaterally order anyone in the world detained or killed.

Many today act as apologists for the imperial presidency.  One reason for this is that many politicians place partisan concerns above loyalty to the Constitution.  Thus, they openly defend, and even celebrate, executive branch power grabs when made by a president of their own party.

Another reason is the bipartisan consensus in support of the warfare state.  Many politicians and intellectuals in both parties support an imperial presidency because they recognize that the Founders’ vision of a limited executive branch is incompatible with an aggressive foreign policy.  When Republicans are in power “neoconservatives” take the lead, while when Democrats are in power “humanitarian interventionists” take the lead.  Regardless of party or ideological label, they share the same goal — to protect the executive branch from being constrained by the constitutional requirement that the president seek congressional approval before waging war.

The strength of the bipartisan consensus that the president should have limitless discretion in committing troops to war is illustrated by the failure of an attempt to add an article dealing with Nixon’s “secret bombing” of Cambodia to the articles of impeachment.  Even at the low point of support for the imperial presidency, Congress still refused to rein in the president’s war-making powers.

The failure to include the Cambodia invasion in the articles of impeachment may well be the main reason Watergate had little to do with reining in the imperial presidency.  Because the imperial presidency is rooted in the war power, attempts to rein in the imperial presidency that do not work to restore Congress’ constitutional authority to declare war are doomed to fail.

Repealing Nixon’s legacy requires building a new bipartisan coalition in favor of peace and civil liberties, rejecting what writer Gene Healy calls “the cult of the presidency,” and placing loyalty to the Constitution above partisanship. An important step must be restoring congressional supremacy in matters of war and peace.

Ron Paul is a former U.S. Congressman from Texas and the leader of the pro-liberty, pro-free market movement in the United States. His weekly column – reprinted with permission – can be found here.

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Number 256 September 8, 2014 at 9:02 am

Isn’t Ron Paul something like the last man in the NFL draft, “Mr. Irrelevant?”

CNSYD September 8, 2014 at 9:26 am

He doesn’t understand the word “former”.

Mini True September 8, 2014 at 9:30 am

You’re right, let’s ignore what he has to say on the basis of his current position. No need for thought.

Number 256 September 8, 2014 at 9:36 am

Actually, I thought about it when he had a position. I thought he was Mr. Irrelevent even then.

ausscyn September 8, 2014 at 10:13 am

LOVE you, Ron!!! I was in my 20’s during the Nixon debacle & I voted for McGovern. I was so proud Nixon went down for his crimes. Thank you for reminding people of how far we’ve sunk, how the bar that was once so high is now laying on the ground. If only you had been elected POTUS Ron, the troops would be home & our economy recovering.

Bible Thumper September 8, 2014 at 10:54 am

Nixon was well respected for his foreign policy. Seems that Jimmy Carter would be Ron Paul’s foreign policy hero.

euwe max September 8, 2014 at 11:00 am

The “Law and Order” President.

Rocky September 8, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Oh for Christ sake. Ron, did you get the memo – Rand is running.

ELCID September 8, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Statistically, Nixon was one of the best Presidents the United States ever had.
He’d be considered a liberal Democrat today.
I voted for him twice and would do it again if he were alive and ran for President today.

Manray September 8, 2014 at 11:05 pm

By which statistics? The number of administration figures indicted? To this day Dick Nixon is the only U.S. president named an “unindicted co-conspirator” by a federal prosecutor.

Manray September 8, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Most presidents since Nixon have contributed to the perpetuation of the Imperial Presidency. Why? Because of the fecklessness of Congress. They will not assert their prerogatives — that takes time, effort, dedication, guts and thoughtfulness. Our professional political class is obsessed with retaining their positions and, by many accounts, spend 40-70 per cent of their time begging for money. This is our fault. How do they keep being re-elected? The electorate should demand change. We need the balance of powers intended in the Constitution, but we won’t have it again unless the status quo is upended.


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