Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Pappafication of the Presidency

In a recent NPR interview, David Frum, a former economic speechwriter for President George W. Bush, (hat tip to Greg L at http://theafricanamericanclarioncall.com/) said the following about President Obama:

"The president is overwhelm. I don't think he's the man for the job.

"But He's not leading the country on the path of socialist ruin as matter of policy and intention. And the danger of thinking so--that's a very powerful way to mobilize followers and raise money...but it also traps you. Because when you mobilize people to that extent, the leaders find themselves unable to lead.

And we saw that happen most dramatically this summer with the crisis over the debt ceiling, where suddenly Republicans who desperately wanted to make a deal, who understood the consequences, they were terrified, they wanted a deal and they couldn't--because they had a wall of people behind them that would not allow them to step back."


"We need a strong and forceful president."

I hear this criticism of the president crop up again and again. Looking back over the several previous White House administrations--Republican and Democratic--the criticism appears almost gratuitous, something that is said (almost casually) if you're a Republican, and you wish to keep your membership in the Republican party in good standing.

We mustn't forget: Bush I was slammed for lack of presidential fortitude: He was excoriated severely for not invading Iraq during Desert Storm, and deposing Saddam Hussien. Bill Clinton surrendered liberal values to appease a Republican congress, and mostly gave them what they wanted in order to appear "strong and forceful." We know, too, that his presidency, elevated by hindsight, was hamstrung by a sex scandal, one that Republicans exploited all the way to an impeachment. George W.Bush showed his Texas cowboy strength and force by embroiling this nation in two wars, squandering a huge budget surplus and enacting tax cuts in a time of war--bold but foolish actions that precipitated the huge federal deficits that're hounding the nation now.

I heard this criticism again when the congressional Supercommittee failed to reach consensus on a debt-reduction package. It as though the president is expected to take each member of the committee behind the woodshed and give them a good thrashing until they relent and give him what he wants. I call this the papafication of the presidency--where the president, to be considered an effective leader, must find a way or ways to coerce the legislation that's required from a fractious congress, or be considered weak and lacking force.

Without a willing congress, nothing gets done in Washington. What this president needed in order to be seen as "strong and forceful" was to know the dirt on each Republican in congress, and the will to expose it if each refused to give him what he wanted. Anything short of that, we have what we have now--stalemates, and obstructionism.

I agree that the "president is overwhelm." With what Obama inherited from George Bush, it would have been a daunting task for any president to overcome, especially when Republicans in congress are more interested in helping the president "fail" than succeed, doing nothing to stem unemployment, or boosting the economy, in hopes that their inaction will help them achieve their end.

With patriotism like that, one thing is clear: We're fighting the wrong "war on terror." The terror with which this nation must contend is inflicted from the Right, and from within the hallowed halls of congress. The Republican Party has done more to damage this country economically than has bin Laden and his merry band of jihadists.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement is a response to this "terrorism," and it's ironic that the full weight of our nation's police forces has been brought to bear to squash it. It's also telling that a large segment of this society is more supportive of the terrorism on the Right than in championing the efforts of OWS to bring this terrorism to an end.

Frum's statement above clearly places the lack of leadership squarely at the feet of Republicans. Their entrenchment--which, by the way, is of their own making--may garner party support, but it also paralyzes their will, and capacity, to do more than that.

8 comments:

BigmacInPittsburgh said...

A couple points to add to this excellent post,the main reason J.Eagar Hoover was able to maintain his postion as FBI Director for over 50 years is because of information and knowledge he obtained on poweful people.
Nothing will change until people(working people)get up off of their rusty dusty and do something other then watch TV and shop!

msladydeborah said...

This might be one of the most important turning points in this nation's story. The governing body has exposed itself and the look is not good to the people of this nation.

I am beginning to seriously believe that it is time to reboot the laws that estabish governing. I think that there needs to be term limits for members. A revision of the law that includes some reduction of pay for failure to be responsive to the needs of the people. After two four year terms in office, be prepared to leave because it's a wrap for your efforts.

I participated in an Occupy event in my hometown on November 17th. The participants were of different ages, races and economic backgrounds. It is a good way to make connections and expand out networks. I think that we need to be a present force now because this particular movement has the potential to make the needed pushback that both parties need to feel.

It is obvious to me that by continuing to allow members to remain in office for long terms has also helped them to become a group that is more concerned about retaining of their seat, than doing the right thing. The corporate influence is just too great for them to do more than dance to the auto-tune that is no longer in tune with us.

There needs to be limits on how much money they can raise to run for the office. There needs to be a cap on how much can be contributed by business and individuals. Those contributors need to be listed and available for the entire nation to view.


I think that we have an opportunity in 2012 to start the next chapter of this nation's story off differently. People who think OWS is a wrap because they are being physically moved, are not considering that the true leaders are going to carry on.

Greg L said...

>>>Frum's statement above clearly places the lack of leadership squarely at the feet of Republicans. Their entrenchment--which, by the way, is of their own making--may garner party support, but it also paralyzes their will, and capacity, to do more than that.<<<

Thanks for the hat tip my friend.

I've been thinking about this and the Republicans and I've settled on this question: When you observe the various antics of the republicans, what is your first emotional reaction? Well, if you're like me it outrage and anger. I happen to think that's by design.

Do you remember how Ali would taunt Fraizer into a rage and then proceed to whup on him? Fraizer's emotional state was such that he couldn't think strategically being consumed by his anger and outrage at that moment. Of course, Ali had a plan and Fraizer's anger and outrage was part of it.

I'm convinced that the people who've taken control of the political process in this country do not want people focusing on the real issues that face the nation. They don't want them discussed or acknowledged. They do want us angry and outraged at them so they can continue to whup on us (i.e. continue to raid the nation's treasury). This is all deliberate and the republican party will continue to get even more ridiculous even to the point of sedition to support that effort. There are many parallels between the antics of the Republican party and the Nazis of Germany and just like the Nazis, the Republicans are seeking to burn the Reichstag.

Black Diaspora said...

BigmacInPittsburgh said..."Nothing will change until people(working people)get up off of their rusty dusty and do something other then watch TV and shop!"

You're right: We have to back up words with action--and nothing says "fed up" louder than actually taking steps to drive that sentiment home.

The Occupy Movement is a good beginning. Since money is "speech," I say use our shopping dollars where it can make the loudest statement about our grievances.

This Saturday, I plan to put my money where my mouth is, and "shop small." Organizers are calling it "Shop Small Saturday," where consumers consciously single out small business owners/merchants in their community and buy something.

We'll send a message to the big-box chains, as well help keep small businesses alive as the big fish circle to swallow up the smaller ones.

Black Diaspora said...

msladydeborah said...
"This might be one of the most important turning points in this nation's story. The governing body has exposed itself and the look is not good to the people of this nation."

True: It's a watershed event, and perhaps more important than some in the media have characterized it.

Because the people have seen who our congressional representatives really work for, I don't think the Occupy Movement will be a flash in the plan--but will remain as long as needed to draw attention to this nation's ills.

"I am beginning to seriously believe that it is time to reboot the laws that estabish governing."

"There needs to be limits on how much money they can raise to run for the office."

It is time. There are several movements afoot to address this issue. Here's one: Get Money Out.

"I participated in an Occupy event in my hometown on November 17th. The participants were of different ages, races and economic backgrounds."

Thank you for getting involved. I salute you and all others who have willingly put themselves in harms way--on behalf of all Americans--to make statements about our dissatisfaction with our governance, and the laws and rulings that have brought us to this predicament.

And Fox News would have us believe that the Occupy Movement protesters are just a bunch of disgruntled, lazy, unclean, sex-starved hippie types.

"People who think OWS is a wrap because they are being physically moved, are not considering that the true leaders are going to carry on."

It will "carry on," because the pain and frustration that people are feeling are real, and the people won't rest until mechanisms are in place to address that pain and frustration.

Black Diaspora said...

Greg L said..."Ali would taunt Fraizer into a rage and then proceed to whup on him? Fraizer's emotional state was such that he couldn't think strategically being consumed by his anger and outrage at that moment. Of course, Ali had a plan and Fraizer's anger and outrage was part of it."

I like the Joe Fraizer-Ali analogy. The two met in the ring three times, but I'm hoping that the people will deliver such a knockout punch to those on the Right, and the congressional corruption that's beating up on the people's right to rule over that of corporations, that we can settle "Who's your Daddy?" without rematches.

"I'm convinced that the people who've taken control of the political process in this country do not want people focusing on the real issues that face the nation. They don't want them discussed or acknowledged."

I think Frum touched upon this lightly, almost tangentially, when he talked about the Republican leadership concentrating their base's anger against socialism and one villain--the president--when, as he astutely observed--it's not about socialism at all, that it isn't socialism "as matter of policy and intention."

Yet, the line has been drawn, and here's what Republicans would have us believe: There's conservatism and laissez faire capitalism on one side, and socialism and the welfare state (including entitlements) on the other--the former being good, holy, and sacrosanct, and the latter just plain evil, and unAmerican.

Yet, we know that these aren't the real issues with which we're faced: The real ones run deeper than that, and have been years in the making, contributing to the income disparities that we're now seeing and culminating in the Occupy Movement call for action against income inequality, and against those laws that have contributed to it.

Slowly but surely, corporations, with the support of a bought congress, have shipped the "The American Dream" to other shores, while the American people have sat idly, quietly by (but no more) while this has taken place, deceived into believing that this would contribute to their domestic wealth.

It hasn't.

And this is only symptomatic of broader problems around trade, banking, an unregulated derivatives market, health costs, energy, our failing schools, and the enormous cost of a higher education to name a few.

These are some of the "real issues that face the nation," and you're right: "They don't want them discussed or acknowledged. They do want us angry and outraged at them so they can continue to whup on us (i.e. continue to raid the nation's treasury)."

And when they are discussed they're purposely entangled with political ideology, and political self-righteousness, so that those who are being "fleeced" don't resist, but do so willingly, sacrificial lambs, bound by a political doctrine that asks their followers to submit to the ultimate sacrifice (self-destruction), if they wish to be known as true believers.

Ben said...

Citizen's United was good decision that upheld the First ammendment.

The problem is not too much money in politics, it is an uninformed electorate.

Black Diaspora said...

Ben said...
"Citizen's United was good decision that upheld the First amendment."

In that case, the "good" would have prevailed, since it would have been obvious to all--and the Supreme Court would have been unanimous in its decision.

It wasn't.

Further, the Founding Fathers never intended that corporations be graced with the power afforded it by the Robert's court. Consider the following:

"The United States of America was born of a revolt not just against British monarchs and the British parliament but against British corporations. [...]

"We tend to think of corporations as fairly recent phenomena, the legacy of the Rockefellers and Carnegies. In fact, the corporate presence in prerevolutionary America was almost as conspicuous as it is today. There were far fewer corporations then, but they were enormously powerful. [...]

"The Declaration of Independence, in 1776, freed Americans not only from Britain but also from the tyranny of British corporations, and for a hundred years after the document's signing, Americans remained deeply suspicious of corporate power. They were careful about the way they granted corporate charters, and about the powers granted therein."


"The problem is not too much money in politics, it is an uninformed electorate."

It's easier and more effective to take money out of politics than to have an informed electorate.

If it were that easy, we wouldn't have you championing an odious Supreme court decision that effectively gives more power to corporations than to people and, for good measure, dilutes our democratic values--"government of the people, by the people, for the people."