Re: Presidential Modesty

by Mark Steyn

Peter, with regard to President Obama’s clarification that “I’m not the emperor of the United States”, in my weekend column I compare him with Charles the Bald, regnant 840-877 and Holy Roman Emperor for the last chunk thereof. Unfavorably, I’m afraid.

By the way, I dislike these protestations from humble citizen-executives that they’re not the emperor. In my book, I quote Tocqueville on the matter:

There was a time in Europe in which the law, as well as the consent of the people, clothed kings with a power almost without limits. But almost never did it happen that they made use of it…

Although the entire government of the empire was concentrated in the hands of the emperor alone, and although he remained, in time of need, the arbiter of all things, the details of social life and of individual existence ordinarily escaped his control.

Not now. For the advanced democratic state, no “detail of social life and of individual existence” – from light bulbs to “tooth-level surveillance” – is too minute to escape its control.