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tv   [untitled]    April 7, 2012 4:00pm-4:30pm EDT

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dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports calling these the great pillars of human happiness, washington makes a case for political as well as pious attention to them. interestingly, he concludes that the way to foster religion and morality is through education. the first positive command or prescription of the address states, promote then as an object of primary importance institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. washington anticipates no conflict between religion, morality, and enlightenment. the next rule of conduct is to cherish public credit. there follows sound advice on debt and taxation, although the execution of these maxims belongs to the elected representatives. washington points out that it is necessary that public opinion should cooperate.
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who abandoned their fiscal responsibilities first, i don't know, but we are so far from what washington describes that this paragraph makes for very painful reading, particularly his warning against ungenerously throwing upon postert the birthen which we ourselves ought to bear. finally, there is a lengthy treatment to foreign policy that begins with the injunction to observe good faith and justice towards all nations and includes washington's well known advice to steer clear of permanent alliances or, as jefferson more famously put it, entangling alliances. now before we dismiss this advice as obsolete, suited to a young and vulnerable america rather than a super power america, it should be said that washington was not recommending isolationism. his message, i think, was a timeless one about the conditions of national freedom of action and the danger of allowing passions, whether
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hostile or friendly towards other nations, to dictate policy. domestically we ought to cultivate bonds of affection, but internationally washington argued that it was a mistake to act on the basis of sympathy or gratitude or to expect other nations to do so. the more sober formula that washington offers is that we act as our interest guided by our justice shall counsel. washington closes the farewell address by anticipating a retreat beyond even his retreat to mount vernon, namely, his journey toward the mansions of rest. the line is said to have brought tears to the eyes of his readers. four decades later a young abraham lincoln delivered a remarkable speech that revisited washington's theme of the perpetuation of our political institutions arguing, just as washington had, that perpetuation depends on a firm
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foundation in public sentiment and appealing to the nation's fixed admiration of washington as a compass point to keep us true to washington's principles. the address closed with a poetic flourish by imagining a sort of second coming of washington. lincoln's hopes for that day of judgment can still serve as our own, that we improved to the last, that we remained free to the last, that we revered his name to the last, that during his long sleep we permitted no hostile foot to pass over or des is he crate his resting place shall be that which to learn the last trump shall awaken our washington. thank you. [ applause ]
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thank you. i'm to talk on washington as an exemplary president. i guess one way he was exemplary was he didn't take interns to the white house pool. slaves either. but i think he had three achievements, three very important things that he did, which i want to talk about. and the first of those was that he did everything for the first time. when he was inaugurated in april 1789 there were very few precedents to guide him. there hadn't been many republics in human history, and almost all of them had been small. they had been city states in the ancient world or in the renaissance. there were swiss cannons. the one republic that had grown large was rome, but that had become the roman empire so that
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example was not very encouraging. washington did have a guideline. he had the constitution. he was very familiar with that because he had been the presiding officer of the constitutional convention in 1787. he had attended every session, heard every argument. he followed the ratification debates very closely. he knew all three authors of the federalist papers. they were friends of his. and he had the federalist papers reprinted in richmond so it could influence the ratification debate in virginia. so he was about as informed about the constitution as anyone could be, but the constitution has a lot of gaps in it. for instance, it says that the president may negotiate treaties by and with the advice and consent of the senate.
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consent is spelled out. it means 2/3 vote of the senate. what is the advice of the senate? how does the president get the senate's advice? the constitution does not say. so in washington's first year in office he is preparing to negotiate a treaty with the cherokee indians who live in western georgia, what's now alabama and mississippi. this is a powerful, aggressive indian nation. they had sided with britain during the revolution. it was very important to make nice with them. so the senate is meeting where congress is, which is where federal hall now is on wall street in new york city. washington comes to the senate with his secretary of war who handles indian affairs. vice president john adams lets washington occupy his seat and then adams reads the draft of the cherokee treaty to the
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senate article by article asking for their advice, for their approval. now as he's reading one senator interrupts to say that there's too much noise on the street, he can't hear what the vice president is saying, could they please close the windows. this is done. then a second senator interrupts and says, this draft treaty is referring to previous treaties that we've made with other tribes of indians, and if we are to give informed advice, we ought to have copies of those treaties so that we know what is being referred to. a third senator says, if we have to read all of these previous treaties, that will take too much time. we should appoint a committee to read the treaties and report to us on what they say. a fourth senator says, well, committees take the business of everyone and give it to the hands of a few. we are all responsible for this treaty so, therefore, we should all see the text of the previous
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treaties. a fifth senator says, this is nonsense. committees are used in every legislative body of the world. we should form a committee to deal with this situation. now at this point one senator looked at washington and saw him muttering this defeats my every purpose of coming here, but then he quieted down. the senate debate went on for the rest of the day. the next day was sunday. everybody had off. then on monday the senate reassembles. washington in attendance and the senate concludes its debate and gives its advice, but as washington leaves the room the door keeper overhears him say he would be damned before he came there again. and no president ever has. some presidents have asked for written advice on treaties from the senate. wise presidents may consult
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informally with powerful senators, but no president has ever gone himself to the senate to ask for their advice. and this is just one example of dozens, dozens of could he none drums drums that faced washington that he had to face because it was the first time. he did it very judiciously. the second thing he did, something that every present has to do, he had to navigate the politics of his administration, which for him is the politics of the early and mid 1790s. and they were as savage as american politics has ever been. now consider his first cabinet. the first secretary of state is thomas jefferson. the first treasury secretary is alexander hamilton. the first secretary of war is henry knox and the most important offstage advisor is representative james madison.
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washington has known all these men for years. they know each other. jefferson and madison are dearest friends. madison and hamilton are federalist papers co-authors. hamilton and knox are fellow war veterans. what could go wrong? well, the two things that almost immediately go wrong are arguments over finance and foreign policy. the financial arguments have a lot to do, i think, with the backgrounds of the parties involved. hamilton, the treasury secretary, started life as a merchant's clerk in the virgin islands. he knows international business and finance from the inside, from the ground up. he likes it. it gave him his opportunity be at this in life because it was business men in saint croix who sent him to new york to get a college education and then that's where he joins the army and the american revolution. jefferson and madison are
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virginia planters. their dealings with international business and finance are with middlemen in england who buy them their luxuries and never seem to pay them enough for their crops. so they look at hamilton's plan with alarm and suspicion and they think they're probably also unconstitutional. foreign policy becomes an issue because washington is first inarg gur rated in april of 1789. the bass steel falls beginning the french revolution and very soon a series of revolutionary wars which then become the napoleonic wars which won't end until waterloo. the early republic exists in the shadow of a world war that's longer than world wars 1 and 2 put together, as violent as either of them, and as ideological as the cold war. and washington's advisors take
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sides in this conflict. early on hamilton has a conversation with a british asian. he tells him we think in english, meaning the united states and britain. what he means by that is we are traditional trading partners. this has been good for both of us, let's try to keep this going despite our former conflicts. jefferson and madison are lifelong frankfilse. they stick with the french revolution through the rein of terror. when jefferson is secretary of state he writes to the american charzez in paris, he says, rather that the revolution should fail, i would have seen half the earth devastated. this is how passionate he is about the french revolution. now how serious were these disagreements of opinion? they were serious enough that people killed each other. the founders did not set up guillotines, but they fought duels.
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two founders were shot and killed in duels. when he becomes president he puts a due elon the supreme court. when dick cheney shot that guy it was an accident and he lived, but the founding fathers shot to kill so this is the political world of the 1790s. washington's achievement is to navigate this. he mostly sides with hamilton, but he does it in such a way as not to drive jefferson or madison to despair. they become disaffected. jefferson, while he's secretary of state, he puts an anti-administration journalist on his payroll at the state department so the guy can have access to government documents and cover his expenses, but he stays in the washington administration through the end of 1793. washington is following the principle of keeping your
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friends close but keep your enemies closer, and it's a great achievement to washington's cunning and to his tact that he was able to keep jefferson as little unhappy as possible. the third thing that washington does is he goes home. now this has become a matter of course for every president, but washington made it a matter of course. he had done it for eye long time. as the revolutionary war was ending he had his portrait done by benjamin west. the king asked him what did he think washington would do after the war and west said, well, your majesty, i believe he will return to his farm. and the king said, if he does that, he's the greatest man in the world. washington did it. now he's doing it again in the farewell address. we've heard the passages from it
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and we've heard the discussion of the address itself. the end of the address, in the very last paragraph he's talking about his own retirement and he says he expects to enjoy good laws under a free government which will be the happy reward of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers. that's our mutual cares, labors, and dangers. he's stressing at the end of this address that it hasn't just been him, it's been all of us. and after he goes, it will be left to all of us. that was the assignment that he gave america in 1796 and the assignment that we still carry. thank you very much. [ applause ]
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thank you, ladies and yes. i come to you from harvard. now known as the lincubator of great basketball. many bad puns of which i hope this is the worst. my task is to describe the office that george washington assumed for the first time. george washington was the first president in the first republic that had a strong executive. it's something we take for granted today, but at that time it was new. a strong executive smacks of monarchy and it is against the genius of republican government which says that power is safest when it's in the hands of many as opposed to one or a few.
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the republican tradition had been dominated by the republican genius which was very hostile to the sign of any one man rule. so the demagogues of the ancient republics, the modern republics in holland and britain, especially britain, the example of oliver kromwell was considered very disgraceful for republics. the modern thinkers of republicanism who took the side of the republics in the 17th century english civil war took the side of republics as opposed to the moderate monarchy of great britain. people like james harrington and eldernon sidney. they were all against a strong president. and with us, the idea of a
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strong president came rather late in the constitutional convention of 1787. there were, at that time, you remember two original plans, the virginia plan and the new jersey plan, with which the convention began. and neither of them had a strong executive. the virginia plan, an executive who was elected by the legislature would, therefore, be a creature of the legislature. in the new jersey plan, it had an executive by committee so that no single person was responsible, and the members of the committee could blame one another if something went wrong. and after the constitution was formed or framed, a strong executive was opposed by the anti-federalists who represented the republican tradition, the
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republican genius. now the idea of a strong executive was also new. that was an invention of modern political science traceable to machiavelli. execution as carrying something else, following it out to its end. in that sense executive is doing the will of someone else besides you. so it's a subordinate function. the second sense of execution is still the same in english as well as italian is killing. capital punishment. an independent exercise of will by the executive. to execute a law is not enough to say please. you may meet resistance.
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you have to overcome this resistance, possibly even execute a resistor. the number one meaning of executive means a weak executive and the number two one means a strong one. this is the ambivalence of executive power. it can represent a strong and independent action but as in number two, it can merely execute with the will of somebody else, the will of congress, the will of the courts, the will of people, the statement of the law. sometimes government can be stronger if it pretends to be weak, if it pretends to be carrying out the will of someone else beside itself and not the
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initiator or the author of the imposition of whatever it is that the executive is doing. now the federalist as a strong executive muses energy. energy in the executive also has two uses there. in the first place, to face an emergency so to have energy the executive must be decisive and he must use secrecy so that what he does is a surprise, even today when a congressional meeting -- committee meets by itself in secret, that's called executive session. executive goes with secret. this is a short term task of energy. but also the executive has the opposite function. in the long term to execute what
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hamilton -- alexander hamilton called extensive and arduous enterprises. to plan ahead. to carry out a consistent policy over a long time always buffed to be very difficult for republics. an example would be the bipartisan foreign policy of the united states going from presidents trueman to reagan, of containment of the soviet union. in the end, a success. somewhat surprisingly to us. this word energy is a word out of physics that was brought into political science at this time. you find it in the very first uses in the federalist. you heard it in leon kass's reading of one of the excerpts from the farewell address from
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george washington. it's a new term to describe the american presidency. now this energy was derived from another word, prerogative, which is to be found in the political philosophy of john locke, the great founder of liberalism. understanding liberalism in a generic sense, which includes both liberals and conservatives today, a philosophy of rights, even a philosophy of rights, needs, prerogative according to locke. he defines prerogative as doing public good without a rule. beyond the law. even against the law. now when you have prerogative like this in a constitution you set up a distinction between what is constitutional and what is for the public good. the american founders thought that that was not a wise distinction to put about. it's better to have the public
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good within the constitution, therefore, it's better to have a power within the constitution than can act for the public good without a rule, beyond the law, or even against the law. you can get the same result as locke's prerogative if you bring the discretion inside the constitution, then when you exercise discretion you're not disobeying the constitution when it is necessary to do that, as sometimes it is. energy is needed not only to execute the laws but also to act when laws are in the way or not applicable. in this way a strong president is also a check on the legislature, the overbearing character of the legislature, which was the great fear of the framers of the constitution.
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they thought that republics were governments of the people and governments of the people, in governments of the people the power that was closest to the people in the legislature would always be the most powerful, and this was a danger. so the american constitution wisely installed a separation of powers that contains both rule of law and discretion and allows them to contest for supremacy in every particular situation. both are necessary, law and discretion. but you can never have one without the possibility of the other. you always need a law and you always need to be able to get around that law. the separation of powers in the american constitution allows both viewpoints to compete for popular favor and success.
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each branch as a point of view, a bias. the presidency for discretion. congress and the judiciary for the rule of law. no formula exists for a universal solution. this much of one, that much of the other. sometimes one is right, sometimes the other. the supreme court presidents are divided. koramatsu in favor of the president and youngstown in favor of the congress against the president. the office can expand and contract. it can be strong and it can be weak. but we won't always have george washington. this is my favorite statement in the federalist, enlightened
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states men will not always be at the helm. they are now but they won't always be. the question arises, is it better to follow george washington? like most of our presidents showing the modest wisdom of knowing that one is not wise or is it better to imitate abraham lincoln whom we also celebrate. thank you. [ applause ] well, i drew the assignment to offer some reflections on the modern presidency and how it has departed from the example of washington and from washington's republicanism and a convenient, if somewhat cheesy opportunity to flak my new book, the
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politically incorrect guide to the presidency. it starts with wilson. it struck me that if whole foods sold books, they'd surely sell harvey's books and richard's books. this politically incorrect guide to big sales at costco and walmart, which is useful because what it really is is an attempt to use a populus format to argue against presidential populism. i'm finding myself with the hope that mack can i a developly would have approved of this device but i will wait for professor mansfield's approval as well. now often when you consider when does the modern presidency begin, if we were to refer to henry adams famous equip that the presidency of george washington to ulysses s. grant single hand deadly disproves evolution. this isn't right. although you can mark out the
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evolution of the office and things with shadings that are brought to the office by jefferson, andrew jackson, of course, lincoln, and especially theodore roosevelt. i think that woodrow wilson clearly marks out the line for two reasons above all. the first of which is open disdain for the constitution. professor mansfield noted some time ago that wilson is notable for being the first president to criticize the constitution, and that was merely of a piece with his dismissal of the political philosophy of the american founding which he thought was no longer relevant to the 20th century. his second original sin of the modern president si was his conception that the president should be someone who ought to be a leader with a capital "l" not in the ordinary sense of, say, a sports team coach or even a chief executive of a company or of a military leader, but someone with a lofty transformative division taking the american people to new des city tagss that the people themselves might not be entirely

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