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BURNET, Texas (Oct. 29) – When someone runs for office, the first question they’re asked is: “Why are you running?” No matter how lowly or lofty the office, the question is the same. Most of the time the answer consists of a series of promises, things the candidate says he will “do” if elected. It doesn’t matter if the promise has anything to do with the function and authority of the office; the only thing that matters to the politician is that promises gets him or her votes. Unfortunately for the voting populace, it is easier for the politician to make a thousand promises than it is to keep just one.
For a lowly office, this is a harmless charade because whatever the promises they are generally forgotten as soon as the election is over. But when the candidate is seeking the most powerful office in the world, that of President of the United States, it’s a very, very dangerous practice. It’s a sad commentary on American liberty that the presidential election process has degenerated into a show dominated by candidates who wantonly engage in a populist parody of promises and pandering.
Gene Healy, author of “The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power” called this “messianic campaign rhetoric.” He says it merely reflects what the office has evolved (I would say devolved) into after decades of public clamoring. “The vision of the president as national guardian and spiritual redeemer is so ubiquitous it goes virtually unnoticed. Americans, left, right, and other, think of the ‘commander- in-chief’ as a superhero. And with great responsibility comes great power,” he observes. The grave danger, or course, lies in the “great power” the majority clamoring to be saved bestows in one man, in complete disregard of James Madison’s warning that “all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”
When I first announced I would seek the Libertarian nomination for president, I answered the “why are you running question” with the simple statement that I wanted to stop all war. That remains the motivation and focus of this campaign. But I would like to take it a step further and tell you why I am not running for President of the United States.
I am not running for president so that I can continue to spend a trillion dollars a year being the world’s police. I am not running for president to put people in jail for non-violent crimes. I am not running for president to kill American citizens who I alone decide are dangers to national security. I am not running for president to bail out automakers, banks, or insurance companies. I am not running for president to give you a job, pay your mortgage, provide for your health care for life, teach your children, or to pay off your student loans.
The Founding Fathers would be horrified at what the office they so carefully crafted has become, an office with more power and far more dangerous than the tyrannical king they revolted against. James Madison, author of the Constitution, wrote in Federalist No. 48 that the “executive magistracy is carefully limited, both in the extent and the duration of its powers.” The Founders deliberately gave the president modest authority and limited responsibilities, just as they established a federal government with specific, enumerated and limited powers.
Yet today the President of the United States has virtually unchecked and unlimited power, and is arguably the most powerful human being who’s ever walked the face of the earth. “The chief executive of the United States is no longer a mere constitutional officer charged with faithful execution of the laws,” wrote Healy. “He is a soul nourisher, a hope giver, a living American talisman against hurricanes, terrorism, economic downturns, and spiritual malaise. The modern president is America’s shrink, a social worker, our very own national talk show host. He’s also the Supreme Warlord of the Earth.”
That is not the way it is supposed to be. The President of the United States as the “Supreme Warlord of the Earth” is disgraceful and dishonors the memory and legacy of our Founding Fathers. If I am honored to take the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2013, I will begin the process to restore that honor when I make my one and only promise to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
As I have said before, my first act as president will be to issue a Declaration of Peace; I will tell the world that the United States of America is not at war. Then I will take my presidential duty to “take care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” very, very seriously to begin dismantling the Imperial Presidency. I will order the members of the executive branch to cease enforcement of any unconstitutional law. I will let them know that the guiding principles of my administration will be the view that the Bill of Rights is an absolute and literal document, and that the “unalienable rights” granted by the “Creator” spoken of in the Declaration of Independence means that no person has to prove he or she has them. Accordingly, I will make it clear to federal government employees that if they violate the Bill of Rights by treating anyone as guilty until proven innocent, searching or seizing property without due process, or treating people as servants, they will be censured, dismissed — or prosecuted — according to the severity the offense. There will be no exercise of the sovereign immunity defense under my administration.
I also expect to use the presidential authority to “grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States…” quite often in my first days in office, especially to release persons convicted of non-violent crimes from federal prisons. As a result of these and other actions I will take, I expect the U.S. Supreme Court will be very busy for a while. In fact, I expect the Supreme Court to be the busiest branch of government throughout my presidency.
The creation of the Imperial Presidency did not occur overnight; it cannot be dismantled overnight. Nor is the obscene concentration of unchecked power in the hands of one person solely the scheme of dishonorable or dishonest men seeking to increase their power. The process was fueled, fed and nourished by the complacency, acquiescence, and encouragement of “the people” yearning to be saved, eager to be guarded, willing to be led, or simply wanting to be told what to do because it was too hard to decide for themselves.
As president, I will carry out my duties by simply acting as the Founders intended, as the republic’s “chief magistrate,” an administrator and executive, not a headmaster, healer, Lord Protector, or Superman. That part will be easy. The more difficult task will be to convince “the people” to once again assume the responsibility for their own lives, and not look to government, especially the federal government, to solve all their problems. We need to educate people how it is better to look to themselves, their families, their friends and to their neighbors for solutions. Simply put, I am not running for President so I can do things, I am running so I can undo things. The goal of the Wrights administration will be to fulfill the dream of Harry Browne, to have a federal government small enough to fit inside the Constitution.
R. Lee Wrights, 53, a libertarian writer and political activist, is seeking the presidential nomination because he believes the Libertarian message in 2012 must be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war. To that end he has pledged that 10 percent of all donations to his campaign will be spent for ballot access so that the stop all war message can be heard in all 50 states. Wrights is a lifetime member of the Libertarian Party and co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Born in Winston-Salem, N.C., he now lives and works in Texas.