Of Presidents and Emperors

Former constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz posited on Fox News on November 25 that the “president’s not the king; the president’s far more powerful than the king. The president has the power that kings have never had.”

This is not an argument the former scholar offered for any previous occupant of the White House in Alan Dershowitz’s long life, so one wonders what renders this an argument worth pursuing on Fox News or anywhere that is not a mere public park with wooden crates available to stand on and bellow from. But he did so anyway.

The United States of America has three coequal branches of government to run its operations; our constitutional arguments usually concern which branch ought to run which operation. Our executive branch is one of those three, and we have not been ruled by a king or an emperor for a very long time. America’s last emperor died in 1880, after all, and we have not had a monarch since (or since 1776). (1880? Needle scratches on record as the music stops.)

When Emperor Norton I died in San Francisco in 1880 he left no offspring and no claimants to his (our) throne. We have been a republic ever since, although Alan Dershowitz seems to think that the current executive in the White House has the most legitimate claim to the American throne since Joshua Norton, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, last occupied it.

Come to think of it, Mr. Dershowitz may be onto something when he asks us to compare the current occupant of the White House and Emperor Norton I.
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One Hundred Billion Versions of Silence

Will these names be spoken by American officials this weekend in Saudi Arabia: Raif Badawi, Ali Mohamed al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, Abdullah al-Zaher, Ashraf Fayadh?

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The president of the United States will have one hundred billion reasons after this weekend to ignore the facts about the nation he chose as his first foreign destination: Saudi Arabia. He and his already embattled administration chose Saudi Arabia as the location of his first summit abroad—rather than Canada or Mexico, which U.S. presidents traditionally visit first—for a photo op: the president with King Salman and a game-show-style giant check between them.

The United States and Saudi Arabia will announce this weekend that Saudi Arabia will purchase at least $100 billion worth of military equipment, software, and ongoing expertise from American military contractors. Some military business experts estimate that after a decade the deals will be worth three hundred billion dollars.

“The customer is always right,” goes the old retail cliché, and there are two parts to a customer’s continual rightness: the customer has a right to complain about the product purchased or the service in the store no matter what, and the service has a duty to remain silent about the customer’s behavior, even when it is offensive.
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