Monday, November 22, 2010

The Presidency Is Not Too Big, The President Is Too Small

In keeping with the fact that the company that publishes Newsweek was so deeply in debt that it was recently sold for $1, (and it's content consistently indicates that may well have been an overpayment) it continues to plumb the depths of the unseemly "Obama love" that likely contributed to its financial predicament in the first place:

Enough with the "Obama/god/messiah" analogies already, they've long since become insipid and annoying in the extreme!

Aside from the fact that Obama is pictured as the Hindu deity Shiva ("Destroyer of Worlds"), it postulates the old saw that "the modern presidency" may be too big.  As for his comparison with Shiva, I'll leave that to those more familiar with Hindu religion and/or mythology than I.

The last time I recall hearing this theory was during the last truly dreadful presidency; that of President Carter.  Abjuring the Shakespearean  adage ""The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves...", Newsweek, instead, revives the rickety theory that the office, itself, is at fault.

In fact, the presidency has grown over the the last two centuries.  Some would argue that its growth has been outside its constitutional prescription, but that is a topic for another conversation, as is the out-sized growth of the government itself.  Yes, the presidency has grown, but so as the apparatus of the presidency itself.  We have an increasing number of "cabinet" officials whose job it is to manage the various departments of government and report directly to the president.  These offices are designed as a "corporate structure" in which the president chooses "department heads (with Senate confirmation) to oversee the running of the various departments, each of which have a web of structure unto themselves.

The number of these cabinet offices have steadily increased over the last century, keeping pace with the (alas) staggering growth of the federal government, thus enabling presidents to delegate mundane, daily operations to (hopefully) competent individuals.

The president serves as a CEO who comes to office with a specific vision as to what he/she wants the government to do or be and installs people to turn this vision into reality.  As these various cabinet officials are chosen by, and report to the president, he/she is directly responsible for their actions.

The presidency is not a job for the ordinary person; it is a job for the extraordinary person.  In the end, it's all about perspective.  The overwhelming number of people who have held this office have proven themselves to be the extraordinary people required by the office, even during the most dire of times.  On the other hand, some people who have found themselves unequal to the task have either withdrawn or their deficiencies have been duly noted, and acted upon by the electorate.

It's not that the office is too big; some who occupy it are just too small.

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