Divine Rights of POTUS
May 23, 1952 — The Spokesman-Review

The Mossadegh Project | January 18, 2019                             

U.S. President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)

Upholding checks and balances, this Spokane, Washington newspaper surmised that President Truman’s decision to have the government take control of the U.S. steel industry was motivated by a certain monarchial presumption.

Harry Truman editorial archive

Where Did Truman Acquire His Right?

Although he promises that he will abide by the supreme court’s decision in the steel case, President Truman’s press conference remarks yesterday were somewhat contemptuous of the court.

He said he did not believe the court would deny his authority to seize and operate the mills of the steel industry.

As the supreme court now has this under consideration, having heard arguments of both sides, it is presumptuous of the President to forecast their decision so confidently. If it does not constitute an implied threat to the justices, all of whom were appointed by Truman or Franklin Roosevelt, then it is at least contemptuous in that it anticipates their decision. In some states and countries newspapers can be charged with contempt of court for doing exactly that; it would seem much worse for a man in the high office of President to do so.

There is sure to be widespread discussion of Truman’s declaration of his rights. He has the power to seize private industries in an emergency and nobody can take it away from him—that is the way interviewers report his statement.

By “nobody,” the President included the people’s congress and the courts among those who he thinks cannot take the power away from him. Where, then, did he acquire this power? A federal judge already has ruled that neither the Constitution of the United States nor any law of congress ever gave it to him; the supreme court, the highest tribunal we have—unless Truman thinks he is higher—never has given him the power and still may deny that he has it, regardless of his prediction to the contrary.

Where, then, did Harry Truman get a power that never was given him by his fellow men nor their ancestors? Perhaps he has revived the ancient theory of the divine right of kings. Just as royalty for centuries successfully asserted they had a God-given right to rule their fellow men, and could pass that right on to their offspring, so Truman may be convinced that Presidents like himself have divine rights which no mere men, nor courts, nor charters can limit or interfere with.

That is dangerous doctrine that he is preaching.

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Related links:

An Object Lesson For All Americans | Spokesman-Review, June 20, 1952

Path to Dictatorship | The Reading Eagle, May 8, 1952

It Can Happen Here | The Milwaukee Sentinel, Oct. 17, 1951

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