Great Expectations

mistermix, talking about Ezra Klein:

One of the relatively recent developments in the pundit-industrial complex has been to just assume and expect Congressional stalemate, and instead concentrate on the President as savior. This piece points out that the President really doesn’t have that kind of saving power, even though we spend two years of every four obsessing about who’s going to be the next one.

No, a President doesn't have that "saving" power. And by the same logic, neither does a President have that much destructive power. A President cannot single-handedly save this country, nor can he destroy this country, nor lead it down the path to destruction, nor implement socialism/theocracy/fascism/etc.. Because, after all, it's the same power - one partisan's "save" is another's "destroy" - and a President doesn't have much of it.

But, people run for President pretending that they will have that power (and that they will only use it for good!) And lots of people want the President to have the power to come in and Do What Should Be Done - which is why they get so sad when he fails to do it. Likewise, critics imagine Presidents have the power to do all kinds of dastardly things and so they wail about how it will be the end of the country, should that guy win the election. Sure, some of that kind of criticism is hyperbole; but it's not hard to find people who will happily (well, furiously) argue that such criticism is literally true. Go read any political blog.

Most people only remember the first line or two to that "I'm Just A Bill" song, and nobody I know remembers Three Ring Government at all. We could all use a refresher on how our government actually works, and what the limits of Presidential power really are. Maybe it's time for some adult-oriented teaching cartoons to run between episodes of American Idol.

11 thoughts on “Great Expectations

  1. Ugh

    I think part of this is that people look at what W got done in his first term with a bare majority in congress and then compare it to what Obama did in (admittedly just) his first two years with a huge majority, and wonder WTF?

      1. Ugh

        W got his first tax cut through in June ’01. Lots of other crap, like the partial birth abortion act, came through two years after 9/11 (and after the disastrous Iraq invasion). Not that I disagree that 9/11 gave him opportunities he might not have otherwise had.

        I guess part of my point is, what would the GOP have done if they held the Presidency and the Dems 2009-11 majorities in Congress? I shudder to think, but I believe the Dems didn’t go nearly as far as the GOP would have, and of course got slammed in the elections but I think for mostly unrelated reasons (i.e., the economy).

        1. cleek

          Lots of other crap…
          without knowing what amount of legislation a typical President gets through, there’s no objective way to say if W was more or less successful than anyone else. every President is able to get some things through.

          maybe we should look at Congress: what did that Congress get through the President, and not the other way around. a President can really only veto or approve what Congress passes. what Congress passes is not up to the President.

          I shudder to think, but I believe the Dems didn’t go nearly as far as the GOP would have,

          probably not.

  2. Mike Mundy

    NYT Poll:

    Is the price of gasoline something a president can do a lot about, or is that beyond any president’s control?

    Can do: 54
    Beyond control: 36

  3. platosearwax

    Interestingly, people I talk to here in Norway are more familiar with the American system of government than your average American seems to be. Not sure what that says about America or Norway but it is something I run into all the time.

  4. Rob Caldecott

    Slightly OT but WTF is this?

    “A proposed law in Arizona could give employers the right to fire women who use birth control. The bill, which sailed right through the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee, grants employers the right to ask for proof that contraceptives are being taken for non-contraceptive reasons.”

    Why not just take away a woman’s right to vote and be done with. “Back in the kitchen with you!”. What is this sudden obsession with birth-control? And why would anyone – let alone women – vote for this sort of bullshit?

    Anyone here ever read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood?

    Please, please, please make sure whoever gets the Republican nomination gets totally spanked in November. Please. Because this shit is scaring people everywhere.

    1. cleek

      What is this sudden obsession with birth-control?

      IMO, it’s a combination of fundamentalist lunatics who are convinced that their position is wildly more popular than it is, and a political calculation by those who think all these “moral objection” laws will be a way to poke holes in “Obamacare” (which they claim is an existential threat to the country). they’re all idiots, but it sure is fun to watch them destroying the GOP.

      1. Rob Caldecott

        I hear Jeb Bush is on standby to parachute in and save the GOP. Jeb Bush is now the voice of reason? It’s almost comical.

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