Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The Office of the President Elect
Barack Obama has been speechifying from a podium which bears the placard "The Office of the President Elect". Admittedly a minor and silly perversion of the Constitution, it signifies an emerging trend of our presidents glorifying themselves with new titles and symbols.
George W. Bush began the trend with his weird, quasi-military costumes...
But we might expect the mature form of this grandstanding to look something like this:
At least Brezhnev earned his medals in the Great Patriotic War.
Soviet diplomat Arkady Shevchenko claims in his book (Breaking With Moscow) that Brezhnev awarded himself many of those medals, and not when he was at the front in the 1940s but while he was ruling the USSR in the 1970s. Yet the point is valid: for a soldier, the uniform and its trappings are not a costume. Let us imagine a future American president ascending to the Oval Office directly (via coup d'etat) from the Pentagon or a theater command. Will he scruple to change into a business suit after he has consolidated power? Where civilian government has been discredited and overturned, the soldierly usurper enjoys solid advantages in keeping up a martial image: the distinction of himself as opposed to the "politicians", the loyalty of citizens who are sympathetic to the military, the impression of strength and severity on the minds of the discontented, and of course, the crucial support of the military establishment itself (tempered to some degree by interservice rivalries).