Skip to main content
  1. News
  2. Politics
  3. Nonpartisan

A government of laws, not of men, and not of men who are offended

See also

What a surprise! Our president has embraced the standard position of the liberal progressive Left. Our President has joined, what has been termed, the “the marketplace of outrage”. Yesterday October 29, regarding the Benghazi attacks, Obama said “I do take offense … with some suggestion that, … in any way we haven't tried to make sure that the American people knew as information was coming in what we believed happened …”. And also at the second debate he said, “the suggestion … anybody on my team would play politics or mislead … is offensive”.

But we shouldn’t be too surprised. We knew it was only a matter of time when the “I’m offended” mantra would be used. Being offended is the original position of those who continually find offense at the lack of fairness and perfection that is required in their worldview.

Regarding this attitude, the American writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau reminds us that, "The fault finder will find faults even in paradise."
But being offended may reveal more about a person than we realize, for being offended is a personal reaction with its own internal psychology.

In the second Presidential debate Obama said he takes responsibility for what happened in Benghazi, but only after his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said earlier the “buck” stops with her, i.e. taking the proverbial bullet for the President. So which is it? Who's really responsible?

But what does it mean when someone takes responsibility? Does it mean they admit to the deed, but don't want to pay the price? That's what it seems to mean when politicians are confronted with their mistakes. Remember, a politician is a person in public office who holds the public trust. This is an awesome responsibility. But shouldn't standards be set and adhered to?

After all, the President of the United States is in a singularly powerful position. He makes life and death decisions every day. The average person does not. The President takes the oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution”. Most people, if they are civilians, do not.

Richard Neustadt in "Presidential Power", calls the President's ability to influence members of Congress and the public "the power to persuade".
Truly great Presidents understand that the White House is a seat of power from which decisions flow to shape national destiny. George Reedy in "Twilight of the Presidency", says that mediocre Presidents, on the other hand, tend to regard the White House as a "stage for the presentation of performances to the public."

Yes, the President is the head of the Executive Branch of the government, and the 9/11 attacks in New York City, and the most recent 9/11 attacks in Benghazi focuses our attention on the Presidency as an office. In a time of need and national reassurance one looks to an individual like the President for the strength to pull through, not to a committee like the Congress.

So leadership is required. What we have learned about what happened on 9/11 in Benghazi was what makes the Presidency such a different and difficult office than all the others. If and when we make mistakes, no one suffers except us and our families and friends. But if and when the President makes mistakes, there are severe consequences which can put other people's lives in danger and the nation’s security at risk.

All this speaks of character. So what is character? How do we recognize it in a political leader? How does one acquire it?

President Clinton remarked that he wished he had had an international crisis to deal with during his presidency, because it would have affected his Presidential legacy for the better. In other words, if a President can lead a nation through challenging times, then his legacy will be assured. Think of Lincoln, of FDR.

Such challenging times are here, now.

On the other hand, is our government even supposed to be exemplified by the Presidency? The Founding Fathers thought the principles embodied in the Declaration, the Constitution, and Federalist Papers were exemplary. The principles of the separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism were foundational. The "rule of law" is the underlying subtext of these documents. This means that the American republic is one of laws, of rights, of processes. It does not mean a government of personality, of title, or of office.

The "consent of the governed" is not a mere bumper sticker.

It is good to remind ourselves that the Founders were creating a government of laws, not of men, not of personality, and not of persons who are personally and continually offended and defensive.