The headline on the Drudge Report last week: “Trump Invokes Wartime Authority.” And right on cue, as the Wuhan Virus spreads across the United States, Trump suggests he is a “wartime president.”
We can all thank Honest Abe, Woodrow Wilson, and King Franklin for this nonsense.
At least in the case of Lincoln and Wilson, the United States was engaged in an actual war, but when FDR first claimed to be a wartime president, he was fighting a war against the economy.
The United States lost.
Roosevelt thought he was not only the Commander in Chief of the armed forces when called into actual service, but the Gardener in Chief, the Labor Boss in Chief, the Factory Director in Chief, and the Banker in Chief.
When the smoke cleared and Congress passed bill after bill without reading the bills–they once passed a rolled-up newspaper because the bill had not been sent from Pennsylvania Avenue just yet–the only thing clear was that the United States had been transformed forever.
Since then, several presidents have used economic or social crisis to nationalize the economy or invoke emergency powers.
There’s a dirty little secret: these powers don’t legally exist.
Now that Trump has claimed he is a wartime president, it’s all downhill from here.
This doesn’t mean that the United States is not facing a potential public health crisis, but it’s not the president’s job to become Doctor in Chief, either.
Roosevelt also attempted to calm the United States by giving thirty of his famous “fireside chats” between 1933 and 1945.
No president before FDR used the press the way he did, and no one thought they needed to jump up and reassure the public during a public health or economic problem. War was one thing; social distress another.
We now see Trump’s mug on the television every day telling people it will be okay and if we just stick to the fifteen-day play, the world will be better.
This is the natural result of executive government, and Americans have clearly decided they want more president and less Congress and the States.
But it hasn’t always been that way, and the framers and ratifiers of the Constitution certainly didn’t think it should be that way.
The president takes an oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Shelling out $2000 checks and running the economy into the ground is not one of his delegated powers.
We’ve gone into this black hole in 1933 and have never returned.
I discuss this in Episode 298 of The Brion McClanahan Show.