Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Imperial Presidency

From my perspective the President's announcement on Friday evidenced a severe disrespect for the processes of government.   When Mr. Obama was running for President he promised to bring a new atmosphere to Washington.   In the polarized world of Washington today and the 24 hour news cycle - that was not going to be an easy task.   But repeatedly the President has given the feint of trying to work with Congress and then simply demanded that they adopt his proposal(s).

The issue of immigration and how to treat the portion of undocumented or illegal immigrants is a tough one.   I am not at all happy with the responses that Mr. Romney has proposed thus far but there is a difference between being a candidate and being president.   Mr. Obama could have said "we need to come up with solutions and stop the gridlock and if you elect me I will say my way or the highway."  Had he done that I suspect he would not have been elected.   But immediately on both the stimulus and the health care bill he immediately, with his allies in Congress, moved to limit options to ones he proposed.  

The best presidents have been able to figure out how to work with the other side.  The weakest ones claim, as Jimmy Carter did, that the country is in a malaise or some other four dollar word which evidence a laziness that is unfitting the President.  If the President had any integrity he would have laid out a proposal and then done the hard work of getting both his party and the GOP into discussions to come up with a solution that made sense.  Many of his ideas are sound but if he lacks the personal fortitude to fight for his ideas, he does not deserve to be re-elected.  Dana Milbank, who has often been a cheerleader for Obama on the pages of the Washington Post said about the President's economic speech "I had high hopes for President Obama's speech on the economy. But instead of going to Ohio on Thursday with a compelling plan for the future, he gave Americans a falsehood wrapped in a fallacy."   That seems to be what the President and his advisors think will be a winning strategy.  If he is successful he will not have a mandate.  So it seems like a foolish bunch of politics.
When I was an undergraduate I had a professor who believed that James McGregor Burns, who is a big believer in presidential authority, was a smart guy.  I've always reacted negatively to the thesis because I think the best presidents understood the inherent tensions in the systems as evidence in Federalist #14 and #51.   But even Burns describes a key element of transformational leadership as the ability to engage others.  So far the President either does not understand or does not care about the critical role in his job.  Had he lived up to his original promises, I suspect he would be in a lot stronger position than he is today.

1 comment:

Dr. Tax in Sacramento said...

The WSJ actually had an interesting take on this issue today when they argued that the fanfare was pure electoral politics - the non-legal immigrants after the policy are no better off than they were before. Not closer to citizenship or even permanent status. Pure politics.