Mark accurately states that the Bush “philosophy” of executive power is more than Nixonian, and he is correct. So what actually to call it?
It hardly resonates politically, but at times it might be best to think of it as “Wilhelmine.” Godwin’s Law commands that we not analogize our political opponents to the Third Reich and I think that that is correct: but one fewer Reich seems accurate here.
As I understand it, in Imperial Germany, the Reichstag (the legislature) had one role: to debate the budget and other fiscal matters. Its power over the purse led to some remarkable occurrences: Prussian Chancellor Bismarck actually turned to a Jewish banker named Bleichroder to finance his wars privately. (In fairness, it’s the other way around in modern times: with Bush, the public fisc finances private contractors.)
But that was it. The Reichstag had no authority over the military or foreign policy. The Chancellor and other Cabinet officials were not responsible to the Legislature and could not be fired by it. This was why, even though by 1917, the Reichstag desperately wanted to come to a negotiate a settlement of World War I, it was simply ignored by the Kaiser–or more accurately by his military chiefs Ludendorff and von Hindenberg.
This appears to be the administration’s view. The only thing that Congress can do vis-a-vis the executive is to cut off funding. That’s it. Anything else runs afoul of the all-powerful Commander-in-Chief. There is literally nothing that Coingress can do, except the very clear power of the purse, that the administration believes that it needs to take notice of.
I should note for the record that there are some interesting parallels between Bush’s personality and Kaiser Wilhelm II’s: a tendency to like to dress up in fancy military gear without any military experience, a sense of absolute entitlement to manage the nation’s affairs, a refusal to face accountability, and of course, a need to show that he is better than his father and his father’s advisors in directing the affairs of state. (With Wilhelm it was actually his grandfather but the same principle applies).
Oh yes–Wilhelm’s rule didn’t turn out too well for Germany, either. Funny how that works.