Since I wrote a book on the rise of presidential power back in April, I’m tempted to say “I told you so.” As it turns out, 2014 was a good year to publish The Once and Future King.
But even then, I didn’t quite anticipate the inability of some of my friends on the Right to get it. Obama’s amnesty was lawful, they say, what’s your problem. In a way, they’re right. The amnesty is lawful, I believe, in the sense that (sadly) I don’t think the Supreme Court will set it aside. But that doesn’t begin to describe what happened—and the best way of explaining that is to invoke an old puzzler from Greek philosophy—the sorites paradox.
Here’s how it goes. Imagine a hill composed of a bunch of pebbles. Take a pebble away and it’s still a hill. Do it again and the hill remains. You can always take one more pebble away without materially altering the hill. Until the last pebble is removed and there’s no more hill. But you did this without at any one time removing the hill. That’s the paradox. The hill is removed, but no one removed it.
Obama’s expansion of presidential power is like that. Through a series of discreet steps he takes on more and more power, until one day the Constitution has been entirely overturned. And at each step there’s a useful idiot saying “nothing’s changed.”
Only something has changed.
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