Dictator for Life: The Rise of the American Imperial President

By John W. Whitehead via The Daily Bell

“The presidency will survive. The real question is what leads American presidents into the imperial temptation. When the American presidency conceives itself as the appointed savior of a world in which mortal danger requires rapid and incessant deployment of men, weapons, and decisions behind a wall of secrecy, power rushes from Capitol Hill to the White House.”—Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

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 banned the use of the word “disagree,” as well as references to George Orwell’s novels Animal Farm and 1984. What’s really Orwellian, however, is China’s plan to use surveillance to create a “citizen score” that determines one’s place in society based on one’s loyalty to the government.

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— now plans to make its president, Xi Jinping, president for life.

President Trump 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,” said Trump to a roomful of supporters.

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.

“The system of checks and balances that the Framers envisioned now lacks effective checks and is no longer in balance,” concludes Marshall. “The implications of this are serious. The Framers designed a system of separation of powers to combat government excess and abuse and to curb incompetence. They also believed that, in the absence of an effective separation-of-powers structure, such ills would inevitably follow. Unfortunately, however, power once taken is not easily surrendered.”

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.

After all, presidents don’t give up power.

And executive orders don’t expire at the end of each presidential term.

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

We’ve been losing our freedoms so incrementally for so long—sold to us in the name of national security and global peace, maintained by way of martial law disguised as law and order, and enforced by a standing army of militarized police and a political elite determined to maintain their powers at all costs—that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it all started going downhill, but we’re certainly on that downward trajectory now, and things are moving fast.

A handful of us have been warning for years about this growing danger posed by the Executive Branch with its presidential toolbox of terror that could be used—and abused—by future presidents.

The groundwork, we warned, was being laid for a new kind of government where it won’t matter if you’re innocent or guilty, whether you’re a threat to the nation or even if you’re a citizen.

What will matter is what the president—or whoever happens to be occupying the Oval Office at the time—thinks. And if he or she thinks you’re a threat to the nation and should be locked up, then you’ll be locked up with no access to the protections our Constitution provides.

In effect, you will disappear.

Our warnings went largely unheeded.

First, we sounded the alarm over George W. Bush’s attempts to gut the Constitution, suspend habeas corpus, carry out warrantless surveillance on Americans, and generally undermine the Fourth Amendment, but the Republicans didn’t want to listen because Bush was a Republican.

Then we sounded the alarm over Barack Obama’s prosecution of whistleblowers, targeted drone killings, assassinations of American citizens, mass surveillance, and militarization of the police, but the Democrats didn’t want to listen because Obama was a Democrat and he talked a really good game.

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.

From Clinton to Bush, then Obama and now Trump, it’s as if we’ve been caught in a time loop, forced to re-live the same abuses over and over again: the same assaults on our freedoms, the same disregard for the rule of law, the same subservience to the Deep State, and the same corrupt, self-serving government that exists only to amass power, enrich its shareholders and ensure its continued domination.

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.

So if you’re looking for someone to blame when the nation eventually locks down…

If you’re looking for someone to blame when Americans are rounded up and detained based on the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, or their political views…

If you’re looking for someone to blame when law-and-order takes precedence over constitutional principles…

If you’re looking for someone to blame when martial law is eventually declared…

If you’re looking for someone to blame when there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from the surveillance state’s prying eyes and ears…

And if you’re looking for someone to blame when our constitutional republic finally plunges headlong over the cliff and leaves us in the iron grip of totalitarianism…

Blame the Imperial President, our so-called President for Life.

Blame the Republicans and Democrats who justified every power grab, every expansion of presidential powers, and every attack on the Constitution as long as it was a member of their own party leading the charge.

Blame Congress for being a weak, inept body that spends more time running for office and pandering to the interests of the monied elite than representing the citizenry.

Blame the courts for caring more about order than justice, and for failing to hold government officials—especially the president—accountable to the rule of law.

Blame Corporate America for taking control of the government and calling the shots behind the scenes.

Most of all, blame the American people for putting up with this travesty for so long and continuing to blindly pull the levers for the president of their choice instead of vehemently protesting the excesses and abuses of the White House.

So where does that leave us?

We’d better stop hanging our hopes on a political savior to rescue us from the clutches of an imperial president.

It’s possible that the next president might be better, but then again, he or she could be far worse.

Remember, presidential elections merely serve to maintain the status quo. Once elected president, that person becomes part of the dictatorial continuum that is the American imperial presidency today.

Unfortunately, the process of unseating a dictator and limiting the powers of the presidency is far from simple but at a minimum, it must start with “we the people.”

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

The first step is to start locally—in your own communities, in your schools, at your city council meetings, in newspaper editorials, at protests—by pushing back against laws that are unjust, police departments that overreach, politicians that don’t listen to their constituents, and a system of government that grows more tyrannical by the day.

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.”

This will mean that Americans will have to stop letting their personal politics and party allegiances blind them to government misconduct and power grabs.

It will mean holding all three branches of government accountable to the Constitution (i.e., vote them out of office if they abuse their powers).

And it will mean calling on Congress to put an end to the use of presidential executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements as a means of getting around Congress and the courts.

Thus far, Congress, with little spine, less integrity and too busy running their own re-election campaigns, has offered little attempt at oversight, enabling the president to ride roughshod over the Constitution.

The media—the perfect accomplice in this stealthy, bloodless coup—continues to inundate us with the latest celebrity scandal, while saying virtually nothing about these burgeoning powers.

All the while, Americans continue to cling to their out-of-date partisan allegiances, allowing themselves to be manipulated by a two-party system whose only purpose is propping up an imperial president.

Yet 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:

I would argue that what the country needs today is a little serious disrespect for the office of the presidency; a refusal to give any more weight to a President’s words than the intelligence of the utterance, if spoken by anyone else, would command… 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.


You don’t have to play by the rules of the corrupt politicians, manipulative media, and brainwashed peers.

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cougar_w Thu, 03/08/2018 - 16:39 Permalink

Americans are too wrapped up in being constantly entertained to see the presidency as anything other than another avenue of entertainment.

SixIsNinE cougar_w Thu, 03/08/2018 - 17:06 Permalink

the supremacists are just making it obvious for everyone now.

how has Whitehead forgotten about the 1933 bankruptcy and dissolution of the US Government by the Bankster Cabal that took over 20 years before that? 

the emergency powers statutes require a re-authorization each year.

we are a corporation - run by agencies.  and executive orders.   congress is corporate owned critters.

read Senate Report 93-549.

much as we have hoped for Trump - the reality is more Show & Theater for us SSN# debt slaves.  

Our city today was heavily chemtrailed from 9am to noon, dozens of low flying planes distributing their white trails across all horizons.  The man who walks around the neighborhood to read the gas meters was out when I was, while a fresh HUGE 4-lane white drop was directly overhead, very low - i said look at that and pointed to it, saying we sure are getting sprayed heavily today, then pointing at the other lines all over (much faded) - he looked up, said "Huh, never saw that before"   "Cool" . 


This guys job is to be outside walking yet he hasn't noticed it until I pointed it out to him this morning and we've been getting sprayed since 2012.   That is sadly the typical response I get when pointing it out to people here. 


In reply to by cougar_w

Betrayed SixIsNinE Thu, 03/08/2018 - 18:38 Permalink

The Chemtail's have done there job. All one has to do to confirm is try having a semi intelligent conversation with the Zombies stumbling around any metro area. They load those tankers with Aluminum and a bunch of other shit. It's quite effective. Ciff Carnicom's research leaves no doubt as to whats going on.




In reply to by SixIsNinE

NumbersUsa new game Thu, 03/08/2018 - 19:34 Permalink

"On November 21, 1962, the Department of Justice ordered the AZC (AIPAC) to begin registering as an Israeli foreign agent. This touched off an intense battle between the Justice Department and the AZC which outlasted (KILLED) both JFK and RFK. The bloodied and bruised Justice Department hid away its files on the affair until they were finally declassified and released in 2008.

The effort to register Israel’s foreign agents clearly failed. Just 42 days after the Justice Department order, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee incorporated itself in Washington and took over the AZC’s functions. Since the year it was ordered to register—as part of the AZC—AIPAC has extracted an inflation-adjusted $250 billion from US taxpayers for its foreign principals. Influencing the conduct of US policy "by techniques outside normal diplomatic channels" has never stopped."

In reply to by new game

All Risk No Reward NumbersUsa Thu, 03/08/2018 - 22:50 Permalink

Nonsense.  Stop looking at financed and promoted hand puppet Presidents.

The Money Power Monopolists have overawed politicians and government for over 100 years now.  It was House of Windsor and House of Rothschild back then, and it is House of Windsor and House of Rothschild today.  There are probably a few other top tier players as well, but those two are gimme.

IOW, for those unable to connect the dots, the dictatorship was made legal in 1913 and has gone nowhere since.

Behold - the Whore of Babylon (has illicit "relations" with all nations) is riding on the Beast Empire system.

Behold - the Supranational Money Power Monopolist Mega-Corporate Global Fascist Empire!

The bizarre thing is that John the Revelator's vision depicts the power structure (Money Power "woman" controlling the modern day Roman Empire system) better than 1 in 1,000 people living today can describe it.  The number is probably closer to 1 in 10,000.

Oh, and if you don't think and act as programmed (or imprinted, or marked) by the Money Power financed and controlled modern Roman Empire system, well, then you will find it hard to get a good job (jobs flow from money, money flow is controlled by the Money Power Monopolists, therefore, they control jobs).

Do people who face a challenge working have trouble doing any?  Like, maybe, buying and selling things?

“Universal literacy was supposed to educate the common man to control his environment. Once he could read and write he would have a mind fit to rule. So ran the democratic doctrine. But instead of a mind, universal literacy has given him rubber stamps, rubber stamps inked with advertising slogans, with editorials, with published scientific data, with the trivialities of the tabloids and the platitudes of history, but quite innocent of original thought. Each man's rubber stamps are the duplicates of millions of others, so that when those millions are exposed to the same stimuli, all receive identical imprints. It may seem an exaggeration to say that the American public gets most of its ideas in this wholesale fashion. The mechanism by which ideas are disseminated on a large scale is propaganda, in the broad sense of an organized effort to spread a particular belief or doctrine.”
― Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda

The word "imprint" is equivalent to "mark."  Roman coins had Roman "marks" on them - imprints.

Think it through, I know you can allow the dots to connect themselves.

In reply to by NumbersUsa

All Risk No Reward Slomotrainwreck Fri, 03/09/2018 - 13:26 Permalink

The President is rhetorical clerk.

I can't believe the ZH let's either the ignorant or the operative out down-vote such an obvious, even publicly admitted, assertion.

"The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ‘throw the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy.”
~Georgetown University Professor Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope, 1966.

Since the Money Power Monopolists pays for both "pipers," you better believe they call their tune.

Yes, it is hard to admit one has been punked into false beliefs and prejudices.  Most people lack that level of discernment, confidence, and courage.

"It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled."
~Attributed, perhaps falsely, to Mark Twain.  The real application of this statement relates to establishment lies being debunked with data and logic by ordinary truth seekers, especially when the truth is scary.

The two parties are fake, engineered to give you the illusion of choice.  You don't.  You have no choice.  You have OWNERS.

George Carlin: You Have Owners (The Money Power Monopolists are "Top Dog Owners" - the "eye" pyramid hovering over the "brick" pyramid on their $1 debt-based monetary note)

“In our time, the curse is monetary illiteracy, just as inability to read plain print was the curse of earlier centuries.”
~Ezra Pound

When ordinary people focus on the political "curtain," the Money Power Monopolist "Oz" efficiently wins.

In reply to by Slomotrainwreck

headhunt Thu, 03/08/2018 - 16:44 Permalink

"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,” said Trump to a roomful of supporters."

What a bunch of horseshit - this was said in a roomful of reporters as a joke and everyone in the room knew it except for this fucking moron.


You want a reset in our politics? - get rid of unions - all unions.

They are packed with commies and dump many millions into the election coffers of every leftist they can find and pack our government with these leftist wankers

CanadaGoose Thu, 03/08/2018 - 17:54 Permalink

I fixed this for the American situation: "It’s a  pseudo-democratic regime that routinely employs censorship, vote-rigging, surveillance, and  police state tactics to intimidate its populace, maintain its power, and expand the largess of its corporate elite. ".  Not that radically different from China it seems.

Old Poor Richard Thu, 03/08/2018 - 19:07 Permalink

Obama was much more obedient than Trump.  His joking about president for life is a funny joke except for someone with no sense of humor.  If we had a president Romney or McCain or Rubio or Clinton, it would look like a continuation of the Obama regime which was a continuation of the Bush regime.  Trump or Rand Paul were the only two candidates who could bring America Hope and Change, and as much as I worship Rand Paul, he's unelectable.  Trump's victory over Hillary is America's victory over the imperialist (globalist) hegemony that kept inserting puppets in the Oval Office.

Mustafa Kemal Thu, 03/08/2018 - 19:51 Permalink

I agree with all of this, but when a president begins the narrative of a President for Life, that means that

there is not even pretending any more. 

That could mean it gets locked in even further, or it could mean the beginning of a great unravelling. 

Jung Thu, 03/08/2018 - 21:39 Permalink

Very good summary of the State of the Union. Perhaps time indeed for some serious organisation instead of remaining on the sideline.

jin187 Fri, 03/09/2018 - 01:28 Permalink

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,” said Trump to a roomful of supporters.

This is an outright lie.  This was a joke Trump told to the attendees at the media correspondents roast a few days ago.  In other words, the liberal media, his worst enemies.  Probably ours too.  Needless to say, the cocksuckers turned right around, and made this one-liner from an obvious joke into some kind of statement by Trump on how he's going to have more than 2 terms.  Fucking ridiculous.  And we're supposed to be bothered reading that wall of text ranting about the illusion of choice from a stooge that can't even bother tracking down the truth behind the quotes he used to justify his rambling wall of text.

Angel Artiste Fri, 03/09/2018 - 01:31 Permalink

This site is filled with wackos and conspiracy theorists.  Focus on reality.  Our personal freedoms are being eroded by the left.  That is a fact.  Don't be distracted by sub-intelligent idiots.

fazsha2 Fri, 03/09/2018 - 03:02 Permalink

Trump was clearly joking about President for Life being a "good idea". The audio clearly showed uproarious laughter. I hope Zero Hedge takes itself seriously and stops promoting articles that grossly mischaracterize Trump's comment. If ZH just lets any nonsense get through, then when others brand ZH as just a community of paranoid delusionals, they will have evidence to back it up.


I'm much more worried about the idea that has infected both sides of the aisle, that we can spend as much as we want in DC and it won't have any negative consequences.  It surely will, althought it may take decades for the inflationary rot to grip the nation by the throat.

Economics Considered Fri, 03/09/2018 - 07:29 Permalink

As far as I know,  we haven't invaded any new country or funded the overthrow of any elected government or killed any duly elected leader since Trump took office.  All f the Obama directives that Trump reversed to the condemnation by the MSM were unlawful Obama directives where Trump refused to continue unlawful actions.   All or most of Trumps orders have directed specifically that they be carried out within current law.  Please tell me where I'm wrong .... Or I guess I'm figuring that Trump has been a really lawful President so far.  Has TDB jumped the gun ???

prymythirdeye Fri, 03/09/2018 - 08:13 Permalink

"When the American presidency conceives itself as the appointed savior of a world..."  This is laughable.  War is profitable and the US, being controlled by the bankers, has been and will be in perpetual war as long as this is the case, period.

Cloud9.5 Fri, 03/09/2018 - 08:32 Permalink

The exponential growth of government at all levels has been an ongoing process since its inception.  Every agency expands its influence and reach, generation after generation.  Once put in place, these bureaucracies never die.  If their original purpose no longer exists, they reinvent themselves and morph into something else.  They create wars on crime, on drugs, on ignorance, on poverty, and on terror to grow their agencies and expand their power.  Each of these agencies in time becomes an absolute energy sink and a dead pool.   There is no end to this process until the system collapses.

The average Roman was no doubt convinced that the Pretorian Guard through coercion, blackmail and assassination would rule the empire forever.   They never imagined that Rome would collapse and one day depopulate.   The laws of physics appear to be of no consequence while you are in parabolic flight.  Gravity can be ignored for some time.  Nevertheless, gravity is relentless.  It always reclaims its own. We have much more government than the body politic can afford.  The numbers on the debt clock are relentless. 

With the collapse comes the terror that absolute freedom brings.  Your soul objective should be to get you and yours through the bottle neck of the ongoing chaos.  Be discrete.  Look to your larder, and remain armed and vigilant.  

Pickleton Fri, 03/09/2018 - 09:10 Permalink

"Pushback "

"collective commitment to the Constitution’s principles"


LOLOLOLOLOL recycled garbage.  America is already over.  It's already in collapse.

Arctic Frost Fri, 03/09/2018 - 09:36 Permalink

God, you people are so hopelessly paranoid. Yeah, right Trump is going to attempt to take over the Presidency for life and we’re all going to sit by and let him (or anyone else) do that. What a bunch of morons to believe this crap. You seriously need to consider getting a life.

yvhmer Fri, 03/09/2018 - 12:41 Permalink

The question in this article is not whether Trump quibbed about a pfl,  but rather that a plf effectively is in position!

The mere fact that a joke provokes uproarious laughter goes to show those in attendance to the joke failed to understand that the joke is on them. 

How to return to a more modest approach to executive exhibition of power in comparison to what can now be observed? 

See the work cut out for those being members of the body politic.  

Instead of laughter these people better had cried their eyeballs out, for what was once the land of the free.