By Dwight Owen Schweitzer
Ironically some of our greatest presidents have come to power as a result of a fluke. Were Abraham Lincoln not a third party candidate who was elected by a plurality, not a majority of the voters, it is likely that Stephen Douglas would have been elected President on the eve of the Civil War and our nation would be a very different place today as a result. Similarly, Theodore Roosevelt became president because President William McKinley was assassinated, and as a consequence, Roosevelt profoundly changed the economic landscape of the United States.
Woodrow Wilson, too, would never have occupied the White House but for the fluke of a three-way election pitting Teddy Roosevelt against fellow Republican William Howard Taft, and yet it was Wilson who gave us Louis Brandies on the Supreme Court, a League of Nations (which a Republican controlled senate refused to let us join) s and workers’ compensation. .
But for the deepening depression, it is also unlikely that Franklin Roosevelt would have had the chance to reorganize the way our government interacted with our society and economy and indeed our entire way of life. Similarly, the chance of Harry Truman occupying the Oval Office was beyond imagining but for the premature death of his predecessor. Truman’s occupancy in the White House altered history in ways we can only imagine, with the crowning achievement of the Marshall Plan, in addition to his galvanizing support of the formation of the state of Israel. The election of William Jefferson Clinton as well was a fluke of a three-way election that, but for Ross Perot, would have resulted in a vastly different economic landscape than the one we now enjoy.
Which brings me to George W. Bush and the ability to say that the pendulum apparently swings. Republican appointees to the Supreme Court of the United States, whose party loyalty substantially exceeded their intellectual integrity, made him a winning candidate. As a result, a wind of change has emanated from the Oval Office every bit as profound in its implications for our future as a nation and indeed the future of the world as the Emancipation Proclamation or the New Deal or even the Marshall Plan. .
With the announcement of a first strike doctrine, Bush has wiped the Cold War blackboard clean and made the United States the sole arbiter of peace and war, largesse and isolation, and set forth the goal of being the undisputed leader in world power offensively and defensively, to be used not reactively but preemptively, to make the world ‘safe for democracy.’
A possible Pax-Americana has been announced to the world that may be the most significant event in our history since the Civil War. Until that history is written however, let us be mindful to guard against the admonition of Seneca, an ancient Roman senator and philosopher, who upon seeing the growing might and power of Rome, foretold that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This thought must never be far from our weighing what we do and our praying for what we want to become.