BILL MOYERS: I was in the White House, back in the early 60s, and I’ve been a White House watcher ever since. And I have never come across a more distilled essence of the evolution of the presidency than in just one paragraph in your book.
You say, “Beginning with the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960, “the occupant of the White House has become a combination of demigod, father figure and, inevitably, the betrayer of inflated hopes. Pope. Pop star. Scold. Scapegoat. Crisis manager. Commander in Chief. Agenda settler. Moral philosopher. Interpreter of the nation’s charisma. Object of veneration. And the butt of jokes. All rolled into one.” I would say you nailed the modern presidency.
ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, and the - I think the troubling part is, because of this preoccupation with, fascination with, the presidency, the President has become what we have instead of genuine politics. Instead of genuine democracy.
We look to the President, to the next President. You know, we know that the current President’s a failure and a disappoint - we look to the next President to fix things. And, of course, as long as we have this expectation that the next President is going to fix things then, of course, that lifts all responsibility from me to fix things.
One of the real problems with the imperial presidency, I think, is that it has hollowed out our politics. And, in many respects, has made our democracy a false one. We’re going through the motions of a democratic political system. But the fabric of democracy, I think, really has worn very thin.
BILL MOYERS: The other consequence of the imperial presidency, as you point out, is that, for members of the political class, that would include the media that covers the political class, serving, gaining access to, reporting on, second guessing, or gossiping about the imperial president are about those aspiring to succeed him, as in this campaign, has become an abiding preoccupation.
ANDREW BACEVICH: I’m not - my job is not to be a media critic. But, I mean, one - you cannot help but be impressed by the amount of ink spilled on Obama and McCain compared to how little attention is given, for example, to the races in the Senate and the House. Now, one could say perhaps that makes sense, because the Congress has become such a dysfunctional body. But it really does describe a disproportion, I think of attention that is a problem.