In the United States, we don't split the role of head of government from the role of head of state. In Britain, they do. And this is the best defense of the monarchy: People can express their love of country by adoring the queen without implying any view either way about the prime minister. This is pleasant for the queen. And it's healthy for the prime minister. Keeps him humble. Or at least humbler.
By contrast, the U.S. presidency is an ego-inflating machine. The president moves in a vast imperial cocoon, unsurpassed in grandeur since the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. (And those guys didn't get the really over-the-top stuff until they were already dead.)
It would take a level of humility incompatible with running for public office in the first place for a president not to think, "Hey, I'm a pretty cool guy." Every time George W. Bush hears "Hail to the Chief," the odds go up that some unsuspecting country is going to find itself getting democratized — with all the violence, anarchy, foreign occupation, arbitrary arrests, torture of prisoners, suppression of dissent and random deaths that word has come to imply.
April 11, 2005
Michael Kinsley, contrasting the pomp and majesty of the British and American constitutions: