Ducks, Both Lame and Dead

There are two kinds of legitimacy when it comes to political rule. The first is the obvious — when the rules are honored, and the procedures followed. The second is not so obvious, and I want to get to a detailed discussion of it in a minute. But for the purposes of the set up, this occurs when the mojo is just flat gone. By this I mean something far more serious than the ordinary second term doldrums.

In a fair election, and with everything above board, the result is that everybody knows that this person is the president, fair and square. Under normal circumstances, the second kind of legitimacy flows out of the first one — but it does not always go that way.

There is a good argument to be made that Kennedy stole the election from Nixon with some monkeyshines in Cook County. I am not making assertions here, but rather just illustrating a point. If that was the case, then Kennedy became president illegitimately — but was accepted afterwards by the country (and by Nixon) as the legitimate de facto president. Even if he did not have the first kind of legitimacy, he was still given the second kind. We can illustrate it another way by one of the conspiracy theories currently making the rounds. If LBJ had anything to do with the Kennedy assassination, then he obviously came to power illegitimately, but was given legitimacy nonetheless by the general consensus.

But the opposite thing can also happen. Someone can be elected or appointed in a completely legit fashion, but still have the bottom fall out in such a way as makes it impossible for him to govern. This is what David was praying would not happen to him. In his psalm of confession, he prayed that God would not take away His Spirit.

“Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11).

He is not praying that he not lose his personal salvation. In the next verse he asks that the joy of his salvation be restored, not that his salvation would be. What he is actually praying for here comes from the fact that he knew that his predecessor, King Saul, had forfeited his right to rule through his disobedience, and the Spirit was taken away from him. And when the Spirit was taken away, his dynasty came apart in his hands. David knew that he deserved this divine rejection of his rule, and he asked God that it would not happen. He was seeking political mercy.

God is the one who permits and gives the second kind of legitimacy. De facto legitimacy, in other words, is a gift from Heaven. But when it goes, it goes like the whistling wind. There are men who rule like Charlemagne, and there are men who rule like Ethelred the Unready.

What goes for legitimacy also goes for greatness. Some men are given legitimacy, but they are frankly a charisma hole, and their only ultimate contribution is to occupy a space in the memorization lists of future school children. Other men are very competent, but greatness is not given to them. Solomon, for example, was not only given the gift of legitimacy, but also the gift of greatness and majesty (1 Chron. 29:25).

Now it happens that I believe that it is quite possible that Obama did not have the first kind of legitimacy going into his second term. The brazenness of the high Chicago style, on so many fronts, makes me think that the normal levels of cheating that occur in our elections were far surpassed, and were surpassed in ways that affected the outcome of the election. There are many ways to discuss this, but I will use just one illustration because my next point will be that it does not really matter. The IRS scandal — still not properly dealt with — shows that opponents of the president were prevented from organizing in crucial places like Ohio. Had they been permitted to organize, and had Ohio gone the other way . . . you know the drill. So we should all know that Obama cheats like crazy, but it is a matter of debate whether it affected the outcome. But bear with me, and pretend that Obama became president because of such behavior. That doesn’t matter, because he nevertheless entered his second term with his supporters and opponents both accepting the fact that he was president of the United States. And he was and is. Regardless of any cheating, he came in with the second kind of legitimacy. The “powers that be” are ordained by God (Rom. 13:1).

At first, it looked like Obama was going to have a case of the second term saggies, like pretty much all other two term presidents do, but now it is beginning to look like something far more serious might happen. What will happen if a lame duck presidency turns into a dead duck presidency?

Because Nixon was crippled by Watergate, all the work he had done to extricate us from the Vietnam quagmire had to be flown out of there on helicopters. That domestic disaster was directly connected to the foreign policy disaster. Things like this are like grapes; they come in bunches. It seems to me that Obama has to spend whatever capital he has left on presiding over the moon crater of Obamacare. While he stares glumly at that particular hole, if I were an Iranian or North Korean despot with my wits about me, I would figure out in about fifteen minutes that whatever should be done, ’twere well if it were done quickly. In other words, we have all the fixings for a harmonic convergence of disasters and scandals.

What will happen if Benghazi testimony, and the IRS scandal, and Fast and Furious, and the next round of Obamacare insurance cancelations, and war in Asia, and Iraq and Syria and Egypt blowing up all together, and Israel attacking Iran, and that . . . and other stuff . . . all converge on the same intersection at high rates of speed?

Try to imagine Richard Cromwell in charge of the United Federation of Planets in the middle of a Klingon invasion. With Ronald MacDonald as vice-president.

Theology That Bites Back



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  • Robert

    Klingons to the Left of You, Romulans to the right and the Cardassians coming from down below.  Space is 3D after all. 
    Os supporters only want to destroy what was and enslave the populace to the state. Consequences are irrelevant. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. (That is how they think, anyway.) Lots of good Star Trek analogies

  • Tim H

    There seems to be some confusion here between de facto and de jure, for example, Kennedy “was accepted afterwards by the country (and by Nixon) as the legitimate de facto president.” But I think you mean to say “as the legitimate de jure president” (though then “legitimate” is a bit redundant); de facto president is what he would have been whether or not he was “accepted by the country.”

  • Bruce Byrne

    “With Ronald MacDonald as vice-president.”
    If only we were so lucky.

  • Kimberley

    Ronald McDonald is too charitable.

  • DCHammer

    Ah, but war has always been a good distractor from domestic chaos. A convenient tool used by left and right.

  • St. Lee

    DC just made a preemptive strike using my thoughts.  Only yesterday I was pondering whether another episode of “wag the dog” might be on its way.  I am not enough of a Star Trek follower to get the full effect of Pastor Wilson’s last line, but the Ronald McDonald reference was hilarious …and sadly true.

  • Robert

    Benghazi and Fast and Furious are nothing. Imagine O calling the roops to attack Israel. What will the Dem Senate do?

  • Frank

    I know everything about Star Trek, but very little about Cromwell, so I didn’t quite understand the reference. But it sort of sounds like Richard Cromwell might have been a leader in the mold of Barney Fife?

    Live long and prosper.

  • Kirsten Miller

    Tom’s uncle, Benjamin Adamowski, was the Cook County States Attorney running for re-election in the 1960 election.  He was a popular Polish-Catholic politican who had been a fellow Democrat and ally of Daley and, sickened by the corruption, switched parties and did a lot of anti-corruption investigation and prosectution of the Chicago Police Department in the late fifties.  He was popular and a thorn in Daley’s side, and the election fraud also got him out of office.  He died shortly before we got married, but I remember one of his sons saying that years after that election, Daley told Ben that he had really won it.  

  • Robert

    It doesn’t matter what the truth is. It matters who is in power.That is why the Senate just took out he filibuster, so they can stock the courts over the next three years. He Reid will then whine and try and reinstate it, the minute the Dems lose the Senate.

  • timothy

    What is different this time around is that the loss of legitimacy will not  stop them. The evil in the White House will double down and multiply its attacks. It never quits, apparent retreats turn out to be misdirections and  it is always on offense.
    The practical effect of this is that the American people will have to act to stop this. Unlike Nixon, the moral power of our political norms is not enough to end this.

  • jigawatt

    I’m disappointed, Pastor. You missed a golden opportunity to work in the phrase “Dead Duck Dynasty”.

  • Matt

    It’s hard to say.  Continuing problems with Obamacare could sink Obama and possibly (much less likely) the Democrats, though there are a couple of mitigating factors.  One is that Obama is still very popular personally.  Two is that the Rs are still a basketcase party with no sense of themselves.  Three is that I haven’t done the analysis of which Senate seats are up in 2014 and which are safe and so forth.  It may be that even a complete Ocare disaster won’t lose the Senate.  But getting back to the two forms of legitimacy there, only Obamacare has the potential to lose the second one.  The others may matter in hindsight some day, but no one cares now.

  • Eric the Red

    Robert, the reason Reid ended the filibuster is that the Republicans had used it to cross a line that had never been crossed before.  Up until now, filibusters focused on specific nominees.  This time, however, the Republicans were taking the position that the president shouldn’t be permitted to nominate any judges at all.  That tactic couldn’t be permitted to succeed; it just couldn’t.  Like it or not, Obama won the election and he gets to pick judges for the next three years.  And whatever you may think about Obama’s policies, there were solid institutional reasons for stopping what the GOP was doing in its tracks.

  • jigawatt

    This time, however, the Republicans were taking the position that the president shouldn’t be permitted to nominate any judges at all.

    [citation needed]

  • katecho

    Eric the Red wrote:

    Robert, the reason Reid ended the filibuster is that the Republicans had used it to cross a line that had never been crossed before.  Up until now, filibusters focused on specific nominees.

    Never been crossed before?  Eric has a short or selective memory.  Filibuster was historically used to block legislation, and rarely to block nominees, but it was the recent Democrats who began using it as a weapon to shut down presidential court nominees.  Do a wiki search on Miguel Estrada for an example.  (Also recall the Democrats who Borked all the conservative judicial nominees with their “litmus test” on the abortion issue.  The Democrats are the reason bork became a verb.)  Republicans were actually the first to attempt the “nuclear option” to remove the filibuster because of this Democrat minority tactic.  Eric has it exactly backwards.


    In any case, I believe history will record Harry Reid as a duplicitous snake.  For example, here is a link to minority leader Reid’s 2005 Senate floor speech defending the vital importance of filibuster:
    The full text of the speech is here:
    Apparently the filibuster is only “part of the fabric” of the Senate when you are the minority leader.  When you are in the majority, it’s time to use the nuclear option on the “fabric”.  It’s brazen hypocrisy.


    On the whole, I believe we are firmly in the end stage of what the founding fathers imagined.  Fortunately, politics is not our savior and never was.  This is becoming increasingly obvious as the corruption increases.  Only a national repentance can actually save us now.

  • Eric the Red

    Here’s the citation jigawatt wanted on Republicans taking the position that Obama shouldn’t be appointing any judges at all to the DC Circuit: 
    And Katecho, yes, Democrats did indeed filibuster Miguel Estrada, and a few other individual Bush nominees.  But they never said that Bush shouldn’t be making any appointments to the bench at all.  And that’s a fairly significant difference.

  • Tim H

    Can someone explain… why didn’t the Repub’s filibuster the rule change?

  • katecho

    Eric the Red wrote:

    “But they never said that Bush shouldn’t be making any appointments to the bench at all.”

    They didn’t have to, that’s what their “litmus tests” were for.

  • katecho

    Tim H asked:

    “Can someone explain… why didn’t the Repub’s filibuster the rule change?”

    Good question, perhaps that can be the subject of a new post titled: “Major Political Parties, Both Lame and Dead”.  Republicans may think they’ll be victorious in the next go ’round and then they will enjoy unrestrained congressional bliss.

  • Eric the Red

    Tim, the Senate rules (and for that matter Roberts Rules of Order) don’t allow debate on suspending the rules; once someone makes a motion, it proceeds immediately to a vote.

  • Eric the Red

    By the way, I would favor a rules change for all presidential nominees that unless the Senate acts on a nomination within a reasonable period of time (say, a year) that the nominee is deemed confirmed.  That way, if there really is good reason to oppose a nominee, the Senate has the opportunity to do so, but you can’t have a few senators holding things up indefinitely.  And yes, I understand that eventually a Republican will again occupy the White House and that my proposal will benefit that president as well, but I think elections have consequences.

  • Matt

    Reid is indeed a shameless hypocrite, but he was only half right back in 2005.  The original purpose of the filibuster was to ensure minority opinions were heard, but it has morphed in recent years into a way to block legislation and appointments entirely.  The way the Rs were using the filibuster was at best stupid.  They’ve gained nothing but bad press from their behavior.  Overall though, If it is desired that a nominee attain 3/5 of the Senate to be confirmed, make that the official rule instead of using these tricks to bring it about by other means.  As for giving ammo to a future Republican majority, I think the Ds expect the Rs to get rid of the filibuster the first chance they get anyway, so they might as well benefit now.

  • Dan Glover

    If only Ronald MacDonald were vice president, and were given the health care portfolio.  Then people could choose their health care options at a drive-through menu board, they would pay only for what they purchased, and while receiving medical care, their kids could entertain themselves at the play place.  Oh yeah, and if you were really in poor health, you could supersize your health care plan.