Forget The President, He’s Not That Important (On Domestic Policy)

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Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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8 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Is this an ironic attempt to create a parallel between Republican defenses of Bush/Cheney and what the democrats are doing today or is it inadvertent?Report

    • Avatar Chris Dierkes in reply to Jaybird says:

      I don’t think so, insofar as I said that on foreign policy Presidents have near dictatorial powers. It’s a bizarre combination of strength and weakness.

      My beef with the Republicans was tax cuts (but any GOP President with a GOP House + Senate was bound to do that).

      My beef with Bush was the war in Iraq, the torture policies, essentially abandoning Afghanistan, his neocon rhetoric/posturing, his over-emphasis on democracy promotion, and inability to have a followup plan to 2 wars. Those were on him. Another Republican President presumably could have done differently on that front. And/or a Democratic president.Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    This is a good post, there is a lot to what you are saying. The presidency has grown over the last few decades into a quasi daddy, moral and spiritual leader and best buddy. It is easier to tell a story about one person who runs everything then about the complex dynamics and rules of various groups of people.Report

  3. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    Actually, I think you’re right. If the commie-dems don’t pass THIS HCR bill they’re toast. Ironically, the stupid/cowardly Republicans don’t even have to fight, the citizenry are doing a fine job of it.Report

  4. Avatar North says:

    My lord, I got a shout out! Or is it a call out? I think I’ll just drink some more until I convince myself it’s a shout out. Mmmmm sweet vermouth, thanks Chris! (What’s truly sad is that I’m at work so I’m getting cyber drunk on imaginary booze.)

    Now to the meat and potatoes, I agree Chris and frankly the post you’ve quoted me on is sloppily written to be kind. I have a tendency to talk about Presidents like they are Prime Ministers from time to time but believe me I’m keenly aware of lack of genuine legal power that the president actually possesses office wise.

    While I’m agreeing I’d like to add that I also agree on priorities, campaigning, promises and global warming (I hope you’re right actually, I’ve always loathed Cap’n Trade).

    Now that I’ve agreed with you I’m going to proceed to say that it doesn’t matter and I also disagree with you. An amusing aside, I used to answer all my counterpoints like the sainted Dan Akroyd but I think that if I lead off with “Chris you ignorant slut” then Scott would come after my tophap with his beady little Canadian eyes and grasping pale Canadian little Gollum hands so I won’t.

    Agreeing as I do that in terms of literal power I perhaps have misrepresented Obama’s rights I pivot now and assert that, contra Chris, (who is neither ignorant nor a slut, I love you sir [platonically]) Obama possesses a considerable amount of power that is not necessarily legal or formal but instead informal. In this arena, furthermore, I assert that Obama has been committing political malpractice that Democrats can rightly be furious with him about (while not at all letting their spineless congresslizards off the hook of course). Obama is politically though not literally the leader of his party. If you were to ask anyone who follows politics casually to name the head of the Dem party you can be sure that the name that would follow would begin with an O or a B, not a H, R, n nor even a P. As president, particularly as a Democratic president Obama is in essence the leader of the party. His administration should act as sort of the central command of the sprawling madcap structure of the party (and I stand second to none in agreeing with you that the Democrats as technically an amalgam of two parties or at least one and a half). In this informal role as leader and coordinator Obama and his administration have been failing abysmally. The writing about Coakley was on the wall well before it was lost (my graveyard incredulous whistling notwithstanding) and Obama should have at least had a contingency plan in place for what happened if that seat were lost. The Whitehouse has instead been a stammering contradictory wreck in terms of message since that event. Obama commands the bully pulpit of the party. More, he still commands not insignificant public support (more than the congressional Dems or Republicans at least) and has a lot of influence. It is well within his power to have been working the phones calling up reluctant congressmen and congresswomen. Hell he has an absolute pitbull in Emanuel on staff who he could let loose on Congress. The point is that as leader it is Obama’s power, politically not legally, to either sound a charge or sound a retreat. Obama has done neither, throwing off contradictory signals alternatively combative, panicked, retreating or merely aloof. His allies in congress are in disarray, frankly Pelosi has done remarkable yeowomans work in keeping her caucus as under control as she has.

    Obama has shown a remarkable amount of hands offedness in this year. In some ways, particularly on the heels of our previous unitary executive this is refreshing but it has begun to become stale and it’s beginning to look not so much like principal as cowardice or an unwillingness to state a preference for fear of looking partisan or for fear of loosing. A lot of the house members who are balking or dragging their feet came into congress with Obama. He has influence with them. The base is angry and worried but they believe in him, even the populace does to, so he has influence with them. His silence has served him ill. He needs to put a hand on the helm. He needs to chart a direction. He needs to lead. I’ve been charitably assuming that he decided to wait until the State of the Union to do so. If he doesn’t I’ll assume that he is as shallow and weak as we Hillary supporters feared.Report

  5. Avatar JohnR says:

    /Emily Litella: What’s all this uproar about Hilary R Clinton and Bill? I don’t see why the President wants to ram Mrs. Clinton _or_ let her croak! And why should Congress have anything to do with it? And what does Bill have to do with it? Personally, I wish the President would start to work on Health Care Reform instead and leave Mrs. Clinton alone – hasn’t she suffered enough? And another thing… [whisper, whisper] but they kept saying HRC bill, not HCR bill.. Oh.. Never mind!Report

  6. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    I broadly agree with this admonition, but I have to say I have been rather mystified and even dismayed not just by the policy capitulation we seem to be getting leading up to the seech, but just as much by the apologetic tone of it — witness this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/us/politics/27obama.html?ref=politics

    I completely grant that the Prez’ actual pull on the Hill tends to ebb and flow at an overall very low level, and that’s largely as it should be, and therefore I tend to come down with those who say his lack (alleged) of a sales campaign on health care is not primarily to blame for the state of the effort tonight (though he really has been quite notably absent on it since Jan 19th), but it nevertheless is, or was, a grand American political tradition that a president will march up to the Capitol on a January or February evening and demand passage of his signature legislation — without delay! Members of his poarty would leap to their feet and cheer, after which usually Congress would proceed to reward the president’s trip of a few blocks with… zilch, or very little more than zilch. I don’t see that this president’s standing is currently so damaged that the tradition couldn’t be upheld this year. Does the president somehow think that a tentative, apologetic tone is called for because, unlike what is the norm for such exchanges, he actually believes a health care deal is still possible and that ti some extent it rides on his performance tonight? Here I agree wholeheartedly with Chris: he certainly overestimates the importance of how he is received in the chamber, as compared how the impression a show of resolve on the issue might make in American homes could change the dynamics of the legislative morass in which the bill currently finds itself. To that end, certainly enthusiasm(!) and resolve, not caution and conciliation, are clearly what is called for. He can’t change a single Representative’s or Senator’s set of incentives tonight, nor therefore his or her reaction to same, without doing something to change, however slightly, the public’s view of the bill. He doesn’t have to (can’t) make it popular tonight, but he needs to absorb some of its radioactivity so that a few more representatives can think about voting for it. Apologizing for it will only further crater the public’s confidence level in the legislation. He’d be insane to take that tack. If he doesn’t think he can in honesty say, “This bill is good for the country, a completely necessary step for our economic security, and must be passed without delay! [those last are the key words, and represent the bare minimum statement MUST pass his lips before God-blessing-America],” then he ought to declare the effort dead and call for Congress to start over around a different plan. Enough said.

    In short, I hope I’m reading too much into that Zeleny piece.Report

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