Anthony Gregory says that presidents are widely respected when they should be seen as grave enemies to freedom:
Every year in mid-February, tens of millions of Americans take the Monday off in celebration of the presidency. And while the average civics teacher will tell you that we do not appreciate our national political heritage nearly enough, the typical American is not only too respectful of the presidency on this day; he is far too enamored of the institution all year round.
The president of the United States has far more power than any office in the history of humanity. It is trite even to make the comparison. The current president claims the right to detain, torture and kill anyone on earth and to start wars and occupations in any nation of his choice. He claims the right to levy taxes on anything, prohibit anything, mandate anything, spy on anyone, and demand that all jurisdictions on the planet bend to his will. While the laws of economics limit his actual power to alter reality, the pure destructive potential of the modern presidency is beyond unspeakable. Nuclear holocaust, prospectively amounting to the greatest atrocity ever, is generally within his reach.
No matter who is president, it ends up costing many people their lives. Practically all US presidents go to war and kill foreigners. Even the best modern presidents, like Warren G. Harding, violated the Bill of Rights and acted at times like a despot. Even the great Grover Cleveland gave America an income tax, the Interstate Commerce Commission, and some questionable precedents in foreign diplomacy and federal police powers. He was arguably the best. Another fairly decent one was Martin Van Buren, but his conduct on the Trail of Tears is unforgivable. The revered Jefferson administration was in many ways a big mess.
This is the best it gets. The worst presidents, for their part, rank among the greatest political criminals in world history. (And these tend to be the ones we're supposed to admire most.)
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