The President of the United States should be clerk, and nothing more. Conservatives and Tea Party people should not be looking for the President to be a ‘king’ who commands us to go forth and do his bidding, they should not be looking for the President to be the source of ideas about how government should run, and they should not be looking for the President to be an outsider who will shake up Washington.
The office, as designed by our Founding Fathers and illustrated in Article II of the Constitution, is an office that empowers the President of the United States to execute the laws passed by Congress in the most efficient manner, act as Commander-in-Chief of our military, act as the dignified ceremonial chief of state, handle foreign policy with other nations, and discharge effectively the various other duties of the office. A true conservative or someone who wants our nation to return to itsFounding Principles should be pushing for the person who is best able to act as a clerk, a manager, and a CEO for America Inc.
You see, in reality the presidency is essentially a glorified clerk in our system, and is not actually a game-changing all-powerful King. The power of the President stems from his ability to use his office to trade favors or the promise of favors to accomplish the goal of efficiently managing the affairs of the state; his power does not (nor should it) from his ability to order others to do his bidding and his ability to issue executive orders and put in place policies. The legislative branch is better and more powerfully designed for those purposes, and so all decisions about the laws and policies of our nation should be generated from that branch, and then the President implements them in an efficient and able manner.
The President is able to implement these policies in an able and efficient manner because he has lots of little pieces of power spread through out nation’s political system- he is able to send troops abroad, deliver the state of the union address, control various executive departments, play a vital role in the budgeting process, issues pardons and grant reprieves, etc, and he can also use his informal power and influence to invite policy leaders to the White House, go on national TV, lobby for legislation, etc. His power- both real and perceived- gets others to re-appraise what is in their best interest, and they are then persuaded that it is better to get along with the President and what he wants to do rather than fight against his able and methodical and efficient powers.
Look, I know this isn’t exciting to you guys- you all want a President who will blow your socks off, light up the system, ride in on a horse of hope and change and remake the world. You want a king to rule you and control other people who you disagree with. You wish that someone who will go into the White House and then start just shutting down executive departments, slashing spending on programs, and ignoring the Judicial and Legislative Branches to bring you closer to our Founding Fathers. The problem is, that isn’t how our Founding Fathers designed the office of the President and it is not how our Founding Fathers would have wanted the system to work, and once you go down the path to making our President a King, he can be a liberal King too in a short 4 to 8 years.
As I wrote in Calvin Coolidge, One of the Best Presidents?:
The best Presidents are those who did very little, ran the executive office smoothly and without problems or corruption, and conformed to the Constitution as closely as possible. Jefferson was President for two terms, and other then the Louisiana Purchase, his administration happily has little to note other than peace and prosperity. James Madison had to respond to the War of 1812, yes- but other than that, peace and prosperity. Calvin Coolidge was like this too- nothing to note during his time in office other than nothing to note- peoples lives were protected, the nation was prosperous, and property was well protected.
The President is a powerful person in our political system- but he has grown too powerful, and I don’t want him to become even more powerful and active and arbitrary, even if for a while he would be doing so in a conservative or libertarian manner. Rather, our President should be good at working with the Congress to effect significant changes to our laws and policies, he should be good at closing doors and coming out of them with policy-leaders minds changed, he should know our political system inside and out and understand how to move various levers to get stuff done, and he should be able to judiciously use his public prestige to pressure leaders to voluntarily arrive at policy decisions that he supports. He should be a competent manager and efficient steward of taxpayer resources. At the end of his Presidency, we should not say that he brought hope and change to the American system, but rather we should say that when he left after eight quiet years as President, peoples lives had been protected from domestic and international threats, that the nation had remained prosperous and free of debts, and that private property had been well protected and preserved.
The description of a ‘great’ President that I have outlined above is most definitely not a description of our current President. President Barack Obama went into the White House without the skills needed to be an effective or even good President, and he has shown no desire to put in the hard work, the humility, and the intelligence to acquire these skills. Yes, I know that during his first two years much legislation was passed (which he now claims makes him the fourth best President ever)- but that was during a time period when one element of society- liberal Democrats- controlled almost all the national levers of policy-making (House, Senate, President, and bureaucracy)- and since that time, more elements of society are represented in our political system, and he has demonstrated that in these more pluralistic and typical circumstances that he is completely ineffective. You see, the earlier ‘success’ he had in driving the policy-agenda was really because it was being driven by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who pushed their legislation and priorities in spite of what Obama desired or wanted- those who have been part of this legislation have written several times that the White House was remarkably passive during that time period and just went along with whatever Congress wanted (which in itself is not a bad thing, but in the context of demonstrating leadership it is). But once Obama’s party lost control of the House, we were able to see truly just how bad a President he is and how bad he as at filling this office.
President Obama is poor at working with Congress, bad at working with others of different opinions than his own, too quick to attack in public those who he disagrees with (probably because he is so awful at convincing them to change policies behind closed doors), he does not know how to use all the various levers in policy-making that he has, and overuses the prestige of his office such that it the prestige has been watered down (I’m imaging him promoting Monday Night Football right now). He is an incompetent manager and a poor steward of taxpayer resources (his family is spending millions in taxpayer money on a vacation to Hawaii as I write this). At the end of his Presidency (hopefully next year), we’ll look back at the last four years as being some of the most chaotic and partisan and rough years, and look at his record as our President- a nation that is less prosperous, less free, burdened with debts, with horribly destroyed foundations (crumbling roads, bridges, schools, and Social Security, Medicare, and other programs that have been bankrupted and unreformed), and with private property under attack (Occupy Wall Street, Dodd-Frank, the bankruptcy of GM, etc). President Obama is a bad President.
Could any of the Republican candidates for President be a ‘great’ President? I don’t know- I’ll let you make your own decisions on that for now. But much of what I wrote here I pulled from an earlier post I wrote called Ron Paul- Drop Out of the Race where I considered Congressman Paul’s candidacy in light of these ideas. But do Romney, Perry, Gingrich, Bachmann, or Santorum meet the qualifications I laid out above better than Obama? They likely do- for example, look at Romney’s experience as Governor of at blue-state or saving the Salt Lake City Olympics, or Perry’s able Governorship of successful Texas, or Gingrich’s record of balancing the budget with aDemocratic President, but I surely must revisit this concept and evaluate the GOP candidates accordingly in a later post- be sure to check back often on my blog for this post.
Oh, and in reply to the liberals and progressives and fascists who are emailing me trying to personally attack me- I do have several degrees from good universities in public policy, I teach government for a living, and my argument is based in part on professor Richard Neustadt’s book Presidential Power (purchase the book today-Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents: The Politics of Leadership from Roosevelt to Reagan). My arguments are sound and hopefully well-reasoned, and as always, I’d love to defend them in print or on the radio, and I would love it if you would email this post or link to it on your blog so that our Presidential election in 2012 is that much more informed.
Original Post: A Conservative Teacher