Dictator For Life: The Rise Of The American Imperial President

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

I’m not a fan of Communist China.

It’s a vicious totalitarian regime that routinely employs censorship, surveillance, and brutal police state tactics to intimidate its populace, maintain its power, and expand the largesse of its corporate elite.

Just recently, in fact, China - an economic and political powerhouse that owns more of America’s debt than any other country and is buying up American businesses across the spectrum - announced its plan to make its president, Xi Jinping, president for life.

President Trump jokingly thinks that’s a great idea.

Trump thinks the idea of having a president for life is so great, in fact, that America might want to move in that direction. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday,” joked Trump.

Here’s the thing: we already have a president for life.

Sure, the names and faces and parties have changed over the years, but really, when you drill down under the personalities and political theater, you’ll find that the changing names and faces are merely cosmetic: no matter who sits on the throne, the office of the president of the United States has, for all intents and purposes, become a unilateral power unto itself.

Although the Constitution invests the President with very specific, limited powers, in recent years, American presidents (Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc.) have claimed the power to completely and almost unilaterally alter the landscape of this country for good or for ill.

The powers amassed by each successive president through the negligence of Congress and the courts—powers which add up to a toolbox of terror for an imperial ruler—empower whomever occupies the Oval Office to act as a dictator, above the law and beyond any real accountability.

The presidency itself has become an imperial one with permanent powers.

As law professor William P. Marshall explains, “every extraordinary use of power by one President expands the availability of executive branch power for use by future Presidents.” Moreover, it doesn’t even matter whether other presidents have chosen not to take advantage of any particular power, because “it is a President’s action in using power, rather than forsaking its use, that has the precedential significance.”

In other words, each successive president continues to add to his office’s list of extraordinary orders and directives, expanding the reach and power of the presidency and granting him- or herself near dictatorial powers.

So you see, we have been saddled with a “president for life”—i.e., a dictator for life—for some time now.

This abuse of presidential powers has been going on for so long that it has become the norm, the Constitution be damned.

The government of laws idealized by John Adams has fallen prey to a government of men.

As a result, we no longer have a system of checks and balances.

All of the imperial powers amassed by Barack Obama and George W. Bush—to kill American citizens without due process, to detain suspects indefinitely, to strip Americans of their citizenship rights, to carry out mass surveillance on Americans without probable cause, to suspend laws during wartime, to disregard laws with which he might disagree, to conduct secret wars and convene secret courts, to sanction torture, to sidestep the legislatures and courts with executive orders and signing statements, to direct the military to operate beyond the reach of the law, to operate a shadow government, and to act as a dictator and a tyrant, above the law and beyond any real accountability—were inherited by Donald Trump.

These presidential powers—acquired through the use of executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements and which can be activated by any sitting president—enable past, president and future presidents to operate above the law and beyond the reach of the Constitution.

These are the powers that will be passed along to each successive heir to the Oval Office.

This is what you might call a stealthy, creeping, silent, slow-motion coup d’etat.

Donald Trump has already picked up where his predecessors left off: he has continued to wage war, he has continued to federalize the police, and he operates as if the Constitution does not apply to him.

As tempting as it may be to lay all the blame at Trump’s feet for the totalitarian state of the nation right now, remember that he didn’t create the police state.

He merely inherited it, along with the dictatorial powers of the presidency.

If we are to return to a constitutional presidency, we must recalibrate the balance of power.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the only thing that will save us now is a concerted, collective commitment to the Constitution’s principles of limited government, a system of checks and balances, and a recognition that they—the president, Congress, the courts, the military, the police, the technocrats and plutocrats and bureaucrats—answer to and are accountable to “we the people.”

As historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. points out, “Holding a President to strict accountability requires, first of all, a new attitude on the part of the American people toward their Presidents, or rather a return to the more skeptical attitude of earlier times: it requires, specifically, a decline in reverence… The age of the imperial presidency has produced the idea that run-of-the-mill politicians, brought by fortuity to the White House, must be treated thereafter as if they have become superior and perhaps godlike beings.”

Schlesinger continues:

If the nation wants to work its way back to a constitutional presidency, there is only one way to begin. That is by showing Presidents that, when their closest associates place themselves above the law and the Constitution, such transgressions will be not forgiven or forgotten for the sake of the presidency but exposed and punished for the sake of the presidency.”

In other words, we’ve got to stop treating the president like a god and start making both the office of the president and the occupant play by the rules of the Constitution.



Ajas Zero Point Wed, 03/07/2018 - 04:02 Permalink

Never immune from tyranny, but in the history of civilization we're probably top 1% freedom. 

Neither Trump nor Obama had unilateral power. People misunderstand the advantage of a democratically elected president over a monarch.

Our advantage is the *peaceful transition* of power, not the singular quality of the recepient. Two oceans and congress have afforded us the luxury of some bad presidents...however much you hate congress. 

In reply to by Zero Point

JRobby Ajas Wed, 03/07/2018 - 06:20 Permalink

Agree, in "some" countries, when there is a change in power, many go to jail or are never seen again so they can't work against the new regime.

Do you see that happening in the US? It remains deeply divided. The events leading up to the 2016 elections and the aftermath should be a clue.

Many do not "get" Trump's sense of humor. Many indicators show his base will "forget to vote" in November which shows a lack of both education and committment which is what got the US into the shit in the first place.

In reply to by Ajas

HRClinton I am Groot Wed, 03/07/2018 - 00:02 Permalink

Has it occurred to anyone, that if the Chinese call in our debt and we cannot pay it, that they will demand compensation with real assets?

They might just want the ownership of specific companies, or ownership of vast tracts of land. Maybe part of the West Coast or Alaska?

If that were to happen, fly-over America would object, and resist with arms. Maybe that's why they want our guns now. 

In reply to by I am Groot

Koba the Dread HRClinton Wed, 03/07/2018 - 00:29 Permalink

It hasn't occurred to me "that if the Chinese call in our debt and we cannot pay it, that they will demand compensation with real assets." It hasn't occurred to me because that's not how it works. US Treasury bonds are sovereign debt. All the government has to do is to walk away from the debt, just not pay it. The only impact on not paying off sovereign debt is that you can't borrow any more money.

In reply to by HRClinton

Al Gophilia HRClinton Wed, 03/07/2018 - 01:34 Permalink

Just the advantages gained in selling all their US Treasuries would be enough compensation. I'm not too sure (is anyone?) about the debt situation in China, apart from the snippets I hear about their own burden, re under-reporting of debt, rehypothication of hard assets and failing loans, but we do know that they have been buying bundles of gold and probably under-reporting that as well. When it all turns into shit sandwiches, something has to be offered as settlement for purchases other than more IOUs.

In reply to by HRClinton

mabuhay1 Wed, 03/07/2018 - 00:03 Permalink

Trump's remark was a joke.  Only Congress can vote in such a measure, and that by changing the Constitution.  Changing the Constitution is very difficult, even if you have a strong majority in control over both houses.  The only President who wanted to be President for Life has been Obama, who thought he was a dictator and acted like it.  Most all he did was illegal.  He was not called on his lawbreaking because he was Black, a Liberal, and a Democrat.  Democratic Liberals do not need to follow normal laws or social mores, only Republican Conservatives do.

The President has very limited powers if they follow the law like President Trump does.  They are only dictatorial when allow to act so by a compliant Congress and Supreme Court, such as during the Obama time frame.  The Supreme Court Chief Justice was under control of the Liberal Democrats through what most likely was blackmail of so sort during the Obama administration.   Not so now that Trump is President.

greven40 mabuhay1 Wed, 03/07/2018 - 00:19 Permalink

Trump has already usurped the war powers delegated solely to the Legislature.  Your claim that he follows the law is false on its face.  The Legislature has not declared war on any of the nations it has invaded and occupied since WW2, and under Trump this has continued.  Lawlessness.  The truth is, the Constitution was breached under the Lincoln regime, the Republic was replaced by a "Federal Union", and the regime controlling that "Union" is beyond any Constitutional restraint.  They have a permanent police and military force across the States to ensure their control is total.  Any real resistance is met with deadly force.

In reply to by mabuhay1

mayhem_korner greven40 Wed, 03/07/2018 - 00:34 Permalink

Did you get those talking points off a teleprompter?  Does "the people" include you?  Does "the children" include yours? Does "the property" include yours? 

Is the totally controlling central govt allotting you time to punch your keyboard coiled up in your sister's closet?  Or are you skirting its total control?

I'm just wondering what you are really trying to say.

In reply to by greven40

stacking12321 mayhem_korner Wed, 03/07/2018 - 02:27 Permalink

i agree with you that the systems of control are not total, but they are definitely in place, and they are backed up by the violence of the praetorian class (army, police, FBI, NSA, ATF, BML, DEA, IRS, etc)

the systems of control include government, media, finance, communication, education, healthcare, and pervade all aspects of daily life.

the systems of control do not come from government itself, but by the deep state, which is a parasite which is deeply entrenched within the government. as well as the corporate owners of the deep state.

just because their control over our lives isn't total (yet!) doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

wake up and look around you, it wasn't this bad even 20 years ago.



In reply to by mayhem_korner

PitBullsRule Wed, 03/07/2018 - 00:31 Permalink

Trump will be the president for life, his life.

Once some lucky shooter plugs that fucker, his life and his presidency will no longer be a burden to us.

quasi_verbatim Wed, 03/07/2018 - 00:55 Permalink

If Trump wants to be President for life he must machinegun the swamp critters and get on eye-to-eye terms with Putin.

That's a matter of life and death for all of us.

nationstates Wed, 03/07/2018 - 01:17 Permalink

To quote The Bard

3 points:

1: This was the cusp, when Rome went from being a Republic to Imperial Rule. Its like watching it happen again. History repeating itself.

2: That it needed tribute from the conquered to expand, then maintain Pax Romana, Where will Imperial USA find the willing contributors?

3: Who is yet to be crowned Augustus Caesar?


Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;

I come to bury Caesar not to praise him.

The evil that men do lives after them;

The good is oft interred with their bones;

So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus

Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:

If it were so, it was a grievous fault,

And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.

Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–

For Brutus is an honourable man;

So are they all, all honourable men–

Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.

He was my friend, faithful and just to me:

But Brutus says he was ambitious;

And Brutus is an honourable man.

He hath brought many captives home to Rome

Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:

Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?


Yen Cross Wed, 03/07/2018 - 01:30 Permalink

  There's no fucking volume in the f/x markets but the $usd is being relentlessly sold vs the majors as the yuan strengthens vs the $usd.

 Gee, I wonder who the fuck is selling $usd?  /s

  Gee I wonder who's buying Treasuries as they simultaneously sell $usd


U.S. 10Y2.852-0.025-0.88%

  Trump better get a handle on this shit, or his tariffs are going to be symbolic.

Blue Steel 309 Wed, 03/07/2018 - 02:29 Permalink

BS article. I can summarize in 1 sentence: The office of the president is too powerful, because the most powerful branch (congress) keeps giving it more power in the form of expanded government, because that branch is too fucking corrupt to want to deal with any issues directly.

rgraf Wed, 03/07/2018 - 03:17 Permalink

This is nothing new. Patrick Henry warned about this: king, conscription, taxation, empire. That was before the bankruptcy reorganization/takeover called the conjobstitution was even ratified. And only the notion of empire wasn't fulfilled during Washington's term in office. Hamilton wanted the president appointed for life, and congress appointed (not for life, however), as well. Washington, who was basically appointed, and voluntarily retired, put on his uniform to crush the Whiskey Rebellion with 13,000 conscripted troops. The president wasn't empowered to lead the troops into battle. but they had to put on a show. That's something a king would do. The Washington administration also paid the king of England 600,000 pounds sterling, in reparations, so the citizens were taxed to pay for the land the wealthy had been granted by royal charter. Patrick Henry also warned about them using 'national security' as a reason for secrecy. He knew the people who wrote the conjobstitution. He refused to attend the convention, saying he smelt a rat. Thirteen of the attendees left, in protest.. Three stayed on to get a bill of rights included, but the motion was defeated unanimously, 10-0, without discussion. Patrick Henry and George Mason were instrumental in forcing a bill of rights on the federalists, as articles 3-12 of the first congress.

Onehundredperc… rgraf Wed, 03/07/2018 - 07:12 Permalink

Henry was my favorite founder! And yes, he warned us about what is happening right now over 200 years ago.

Had these principles been adhered to, we should not have been brought to this alarming transition, from a confederacy to a consolidated government. We have no detail of these great considerations, which, in my opinion, ought to have abounded before we should recur to a government of this kind. Here is a resolution as radical as that which separated us from Great Britain. It is radical in this transition; our rights and privileges are endangered, and the sovereignty of the states will be relinquished: and cannot we plainly see that this is actually the case? The rights of conscience, trial by jury, liberty of the press, all your immunities and franchises, all pretensions to human rights and privileges, are rendered insecure, if not lost, by this change, so loudly talked of by some, and inconsiderately by others. Is this tame relinquishment of rights worthy of freemen? Is it worthy of that manly fortitude that ought to characterize republicans? It is said eight states have adopted this plan. I declare that if twelve states and a half had adopted it, I would, with manly firmness, and in spite of an erring world, reject it. You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government.

In reply to by rgraf

BrownCoat Wed, 03/07/2018 - 05:01 Permalink

NO! John Whitehead (author) got it wrong!   

He claims the president has "become a unilateral power unto itself."
To some extent that is true. Although, the author would have difficulty explaining Trumps failure with a temporary moratorium on immigration from enemy states and the recent DACA fiasco.

The confusion lies with the US police state. The president is the top official of a totalitarian police state. 
One can expect dictatorial powers from a top official of an autocratic government.


"The presidency itself has become an imperial one with permanent powers." Completely false!
The Deep State has permanent powers. Corrupt mafia dons can manipulate the Deep State to get amnesty for their organization's crimes. The mafia has corrupted public officials in the past. Hillary just did it on a national level.

Atlas Crapped Wed, 03/07/2018 - 06:26 Permalink

Their dictators do it in the open. Our dictators do it behind a velvet curtain of propaganda, lies and virtue signaling. The world prefers transparency. The US prefers it's American Dream. Our dictators give it to them.

Andrew-Winter Wed, 03/07/2018 - 08:26 Permalink

This is a well researched article, but there is one point, the critical point in my opinion, that I totally disagree with.   This,

" The powers amassed by each successive president through the negligence of Congress and the courts—powers which add up to a toolbox of terror for an imperial ruler—empower whomever occupies the Oval Office to act as a dictator, above the law and beyond any real accountability. " (emphasis added)

The negligence lies with The People, not the courts, not congress.  Those are just the tools of The People.  Failing to use them properly is the fault of The People. And, the first failure of The People was to allow the adoption of the 16th amendment to the Constitution.   

16th Amendment. The power to levy a personal income tax.

Allowing the Federal Government this power was like removing the keystone from the arch of democracy.   The only real power the people have left now is the right to keep and bare arms.