‘I’m Not the Emperor’: Just the Sentiment for Presidents’ Day

Mark and Peter, there undoubtedly came a time early on with Barack Obama, like with Bill Clinton, when many of us tuned out the incessant whinging and self-pitying. However, his latest lament (“This is something I’ve struggled with throughout my presidency. The problem is that I’m the president of the United States. I’m not the emperor of the United States.”) is particularly ironic given that he uttered it just days before Presidents’ Day.

Who can forget Obama’s oft-expressed disdain for the democratic process or the give and take of politics that might be appreciated by someone who had spent a modicum of time actually legislating instead of simply running for the next office? This isn’t the first time Obama has unfavorably compared being president to being an autocrat. I understand that he thought a Google Hangout was the ideal place to pretentiously discourse on political philosophy, but can you imagine any other president (even Bill Clinton) being so obtuse as to say that being president was the “problem”? No doubt many believe that the problem precisely is that Obama is president, but hey, those are the risks of democracy. Yet for the president himself to be so dismissive of his position that he would phrase it that way, uncaring how churlish he would seem in his ingratitude for the extraordinary privilege he has been given? And as for the condescending “I’m not emperor” comment, I’d expect a teenager, maybe, to be artless enough to believe such a thought was even illustrative of anything other than the poverty of his argument. We’ve come a long way from George Washington (whose birthday we celebrate today), who strove to distance himself as far as possible from kingship.

Michael Auslin — Michael Auslin is a resident scholar and the director of Japan studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he specializes in Asian regional security and political issues.

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