[BlogEntry] The (Lack of) Power of the Presidency


It never ceases to amaze me how much gets blamed on Presidents, versus what's really in their power.

Kerry, who himself would be President, and who surely knows what a President is and is not capable of, loves to blame Bush for healthcare and jobs, neither of which is under any President's control.

Aside from the fact that inputs into these complex systems take months and often years to propagate through, Presidents are not the ones who write laws. Kerry has been in the Senate for twenty years; he's had more opportunity to affect healthcare and jobs than Bush has. Why doesn't he blame himself for these problems? Because it's not politically expedient.

Does anyone remember Clinton's first term, when he and Hillary were going to fix the American healthcare system? That went on for at least a couple of years. Great job, guys. I'm so glad you solved that problem, so that it wouldn't be a campaign issue twelve years later. This is an example of a horribly complex, nth-order system that it is simply stupid to blame on Bush, as if he's the reason that millions of people do not have coverage. And anyone who votes for Kerry because they think he's going to get them healthcare is a sucker.

Kerry also loves his nonsense about "this President being the only President since the Depression to lose jobs." First of all, jobs don't come from the President; they come from nasty, evil corporations. Second of all, Bush took office in the midst of a major economic downturn and then 9/11 only added to the severe situation. It's very convenient for Kerry to blame Bush, but that's completely unfair. No President, not even the great John Kerry, could have done a thing to prevent those companies from laying off workers. On top of that, we had all the corporate scandals (Enron, Worldcom, etc.), which did even more damage to the economy.

I might also add that these problems, the dot-com bomb, the 9/11 attacks, and the corporate corruption, all grew and festered on Bill Clinton's watch; Bush was just foolish enough to take the reins. If you want to blame a President, blame Clinton. Bush's first term was really the hangover from eight years of Clinton irresponsibility. To be fair, though, I don't think you can even blame Clinton for the dot-com bubble or the corporate corruption. His failure to recognize the growing threat of Al Qaeda for what it was, I do think he bears responsibility for. And that same lack regarding terrorism is exactly what I expect from John Kerry.

The reality, though, is that economies are bigger than any President, and they outlast any President's administration. Presidents don't hire people. Presidents don't write laws. Presidents are basically people who point in a direction and say "I'm taking the country that way." It's usually years before we can see the progress of his journey.

It really bugs me that politics and politicians can't talk honestly about this. They use the public's ignorance to sling mud at the emotional level and place blame that educated people understand is unfounded. Why can't we raise politics to a level where we can talk about real issues and solve real problems? Why is it all about posturing and cheap accusations? It's probably because that's what the American public responds to, unfortunately.

This is why less government is better. Corporations, for the most part, are honest, because the bottom line is what matters. It's not about tricking people into believing your rhetoric. Business is about offering a product that people want at a fair price. Politics is about fooling people into putting you into a job where they can no longer really see what you're up to. Corporations really try to innovate and solve problems, while politicians, for the most part, simply try to get elected.

To me, Kerry is exactly that kind of a politician. He is interested in getting elected, because it's the next thing he'd like on his resume. He's already envisioning the decor of his Presidential library. I think George W. Bush actually sees himself as part of an epic struggle for Good to triumph over Evil. Whether that makes him a megalomaniac or not is another story. But at least he's got a vision and a mission bigger than himself and his own glorification.

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