In the waning days of the Bush administration, the Cato Institute published Gene Healy's The Cult of the Presidency: America's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power, which argued that the demands we place on the presidency have turned it into a constitutional monstrosity: too powerful to be trusted, and too weak to fulfill all the demands we invest in it. George Will called the book "the year's most pertinent and sobering public affairs book"; and the Economist noted that it "was written while Barack Obama's career was still on the launch pad, yet it describes with uncanny prescience the atmosphere that allowed him to soar."
Now, with the 2012 presidential election upon us, in his timely new ebook False Idol: Barack Obama and the Continuing Cult of the Presidency, Healy examines the causes and consequences of a presidential cult. President Obama claims broad power over the U.S. economy; fires the CEO of General Motors; extends federal control over Americans' health insurance plans; claims the power to launch wars without congressional authorization and assassinate American citizens abroad, far from any battlefield. False Idol demonstrates that the vision of the presidency Obama embodies has led to a dangerous concentration of power in an office primarily designed for faithful execution of the laws.
Sharply focused and rigorously researched, False Idol is also a highly compelling examination of our national fixation with being led, comforted, and delivered by a presidential savior. Decades of longing for a national redeemer have forged an institution that promises everything and guarantees nothing, save public frustration and the steady growth of federal power. A constitutional restoration can only begin, Healy shows, when Americans turn away from false idols and false hope.