Posts Tagged ‘President’

Thinking About The Presidency

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Too Much Power?

One of the features of the 20th Century and continuing in even more grand form now is the extent to which the office of President of the United States has come to represent the country at large.  Given the development of mass media, it’s not surprising, but in truth, I’m not sure it’s been entirely healthy.  We speak of presidents as “running the country,” but none of these characters, neither the worst nor the best of them, ever really run the country, or at least, that’s not what our founders intended.  The President and the federal establishment are supposed to be as remote in our daily lives as they are from most of us in geographic terms.  The notion of the President “running the country” is illusory in most respects, and a testament to the fictions propagated by government in collusion with media that we perceive things in this way.  We shouldn’t regard our government as such a fundamental part of our daily lives, but over time, people now view the presidency in this light.  It is time that we begin the discussion about returning the government and our elected politicians to their rightful place, but the trouble lies not only with the temperament of our presidents, but also with the character of the presidency.

Our present constitution was established in part to create a stronger federal government than had existed under the Articles of Confederation.  That government was considered insufficiently weak by those who saw flaws in its ability to bind the country together in issues of taxation and expenditure, particularly with respect to a common defense.  This left the presidency, merely an instrument of Congress, in a state of impotence, incapable of responding to changing conditions, or coordinating the new nation’s defense.  This was intolerable, and there were significant problems even collecting revenues.  Provisioning for the Army was unreliable, and there was little of centralized form in the execution of law.  The United States was at this time more like a version of the present day United Nations, or European Union, in the sense that it was strictly a treaty among the separate and sovereign states, with little of their powers delegated to the confederation except as pertaining to warfare and foreign policy.  Some critics today would suggest that it had certain advantages over our existing constitution for precisely these reasons.

The anti-federalists argued that much as our Articles of Confederation had perhaps been unduly weak as a reflex against the tyranny of the British empire, in much the same way, the proposed constitution was likewise unnecessarily and even dangerously powerful as a reaction against the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation.  Patrick Henry and George Mason were among the most notable critics, and there can be little doubt that he considered the new constitution to contain too many weaknesses, loopholes they thought, through which despots could arise.  The anti-federalists had three central objections:  There was no “bill of rights”; there would be a centralizing tendency; the government would take on an aristocratic character.  While the new constitution was ultimately amended to quiet critics on the matter of a bill of rights, the other two objections have come into sharper focus as it is clear that the history of the 20th Century is one of the centralizing of power, and the death of the concept of citizen legislators, resulting in a permanent political class that rules seemingly in near perpetuity.  The anti-federalists worried about the presidency created in the new constitution arrogating to itself new and terrible powers not specifically proscribed in Article II.   Some would argue with good cause that they had been correct, since at varying times throughout the course of our country, successive presidents have tended to accumulate more power than their predecessors.

This is the curious problem that now confronts us:  We must elect a President who will exercise the power of that office to slowly, wisely return such excessive power to its proper jurisdiction, either in the Congress, or within the several states, but perhaps most importantly, with the people.  Of course, this will not be done without the will and legislative commitment of Congress, but the truth is that a new President, properly inclined, will be able to change and diminish not only the role of the President, but also of the Federal Government generally.  Our nation has become too focused on and dominated by Washington DC.  This is why our federal budget has exploded out of all previous bounds. This is why we are beset by a regulatory nightmare in our small businesses, in our homes, and in almost every other facet of our lives.  We must begin the process of deconstructing the federal establishment to a degree that permits us to function as a nation again without daily reference to Presidential, Congressional or judicial whimsy.

The office of President of the United States was created to remedy an over-weak central government, but it has been so thoroughly enlarged in its power that we must elect a person with the character and temperament to practice self-restraint in the exercise of powers not explicit in the Constitution.  We need a leader who will slowly, carefully devolve as much power as is prudent back to the states and the people.  Our current economic morass is evidence of the accumulation and centralization of power in the hands of those who run our federal government, and they have become a blight upon our economic future, and indeed, our lives.  One need consider only those EPA regulators who have banned inhalers for Asthma drugs.  Some people will die because they will have been unable to afford the new inhalers, but the regulators are unelected, and frequently unaccountable, and they create new rules by which we are governed without respect to how those rules may harm us.  President sign executive order implementing what are essentially de facto law, with the stroke of a pen.  Somewhere along the course of the last two-hundred years, we have lost contact with the stern warnings the anti-federalists about the arrogation of power and the aggrandizement of the presidency, never mind the general growth of a permanent political class that no longer much cares for the will of the people, or even the constitution to which they’ve sworn to uphold.  These are also questions we must ask the GOP candidates for nomination, because we will soon lose our country if we don’t reduce the reach and scope of the U.S. Federal Government and its powers.  It’s time to tear down this leviathan, before it kills all of us.

The Central Issue of 2012: Obama

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Winning The Future?

The country is in a terrible condition.  Unemployment is high, inflation is moving upward, and record numbers now rely on government assistance in one form or another.  Worse, the GDP growth has slowed to around 1%, or less, and there’s no sign anywhere that this will improve.  With all of this, you might think a President would seek to improve conditions, but as time goes on, it’s clear that President Obama is making war against much of “fly-over country.”  His EPA is forcing the shutdown of coal-fired power plants, and since those provide more than half of the electrical power produced on an already strained grid, you can expect energy to become more scarce and much more costly.

None of these things bode well for the country, and you would think this would doom Barack Obama, but while many now accuse him of being less than intelligent, and less than diligent, I submit to you that our Marxist-in-Chief is playing it exactly as he must if he wishes to win re-election, because he knows the platitudes are not true:  We do not all want the same things.  We do not all share the same vision of freedom or prosperity.

Some might wonder if I’ve lost my mind:  The condition of the country is self-evident, and on that basis alone, surely he will be thrown out of office in the 2012 election.  How could anyone draw the conclusion that he’s making it easier on himself in his bid to retain power?  If you examine who is hurting, but more importantly, who is not, you begin to see a different picture of next year’s election taking shape.  Instead of worrying about those votes he will never capture, he is going to become the great dispenser of relief.

One of the keys to Democrat victory is that the core of the party shows up and votes.  These are the reliable Democrats, who would vote for the mythical yellow dog, so long as he’s a Democrat.  You can call them “Kool-aid drinkers,” or “drones,” or anything you like, but the sad fact is that they represent the core of the Democrat vote.  Despite a few moments here and there of voiced displeasure, they will show up in massive numbers to re-elect Barack Obama.  This will account for 35-40% of the total vote.  From there, it’s not really very hard to imagine him being able to raise another 10-15%.

Obama understands that part of the manner in which Roosevelt was able to be re-elected in 1936 owed not to an improved economic picture, but because under the auspices of the alphabet soup of new agencies and programs, FDR had become the great dispenser of relief.   In fact, we now know that many of those programs were used to coerce or extort votes.  “So you want your relief?  Then vote for FDR.”  Millions of men who had never relied upon government for anything suddenly found themselves between the rock and the hard place constituted by the choice between voting for a President about whom they were ambivalent, at best, and the prospect of losing their various relief jobs.  In yielding to Obama on the debt ceiling, our Congress has provided Obama just the funding he needed to do precisely that.

You see, he needs only move a small percentage of the remainder of the populace his direction.  Of that 10-15% he must garner among independents and moderates, he knows he may frighten senior citizens, parents, and any other person who is in some way dependent upon the system.  As the current approval numbers bear out, his core support is fairly intractable.  Many of those closer to him now saying they disapprove can be counted upon to return and vote for him in any case, because they will not  likely vote for a Republican.  Ever.

This is the same phenomenon by which the GOP establishment manages to squeeze conservatives unhappy with their choices into supporting a candidate who is not of their choosing.  Most conservatives I know were dissatisfied with John McCain in 2008, but at the end of the day, most still went to the polls to vote for him.  What they lost, however, was the winning margin: Too many conservatives simply refused to support McCain.  The introduction of Sarah Palin as his running mate certainly helped his case with conservatives, but in truth, most people know that a Vice President is mostly impotent, and only becomes relevant in the case of the worst possible circumstances.  This is, by the way, why I remind Republicans that if they nominate anybody who is not a true conservative, there is a great chance of failure in 2012.  The chant “Anybody but Obama” may sound good in theory, but people don’t generally become motivated to vote on the basis of a negative proposition like that. Smugly planning his next round of golf in his bunker at the White House, President Obama knows it too.

While it would seem on the surface that President Obama faces almost certain defeat, anybody who believes that is underestimating the scope of the problem and the size of his advantage.  With record numbers now receiving government assistance, it has strengthened his position not among the dwindling productive class, but instead among the burgeoning dependent class.  As you struggle to make ends meet, the government continues to redistribute your wealth to the purchase of more votes for Obama.  Worse, Congress has given him another $2 Trillion in credit.  How do you think this will be spent, as we await his speech on some sort of jobs program?   You and I know that such a program will likely be counter-productive, and so does he.  The difference is, he’s after an object to which you won’t relate, as instead you regard it as just one more looming failure.  He’s after the temporary boost creating nonsensical, non-productive jobs will provide, not so much to the economy, but to his electoral prospects in 2012.

That’s his game-plan.  There’s really nothing else he can do if he hopes to win re-election.  While there is some remote possibility that the economy could rebound, all the indicators are that such is unlikely.  He knows it, and all of his flunkies know it too. Rather than worrying about stimulating the general economy, he is going to focus more sharply on the economic condition of those he expects to vote for him.  Tax the rich?  No problem.  That’s more redistribution.  Watch and see how low the threshold for what is rich will ultimately go.

This leaves you with a single issue to consider, and it is this: If we are to elect any Republican, it will be a tough fight, but the fight must begin in Congress.  They’ve already retreated from the first battle, and it will cost the country dearly.  The downgrade resulted from a failure to get an agreement on the debt ceiling that would have substantially promoted budgetary sanity. Your own money, your own labor, but more, your future labor, is going to be used against you.  Congress must be made to fight, because while Republicans and Conservatives spend their time arguing over who we will put forth for election in 2012,  Obama is making other plans that will moot that choice.   While we must have those arguments, and must make the right choice, we mustn’t lose focus on the fact that the House of Representatives is still our best tool in this fight, and we must deny to the President, to whatever degree possible, from using his new spending authority to purchase more votes.

It’s true that President Obama’s performance against a rational standard should be the central issue of 2012, but if we fail to fight all along the way, he’ll be able to turn that to his distinct advantage.  What Barack Obama wants and needs to finish his agenda is another four years.  If Republicans, Conservatives, and Tea Party Patriots lose sight of the battles being waged in Congress, they may resolve who to nominate, but that nomination will have become that against which I’ve cautioned you before: “…a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”(Macbeth-William Shakespeare)

Let us not permit that.

Sarah Palin: Naturally Effective Leader

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Leading by Example

Leadership is one thing about which I can speak with some authority, though I’ve neither headed vast corporations, nor large governmental bodies.  I served in the Army, and I was a leader.  My duties demanded it of me before it was my official mandate, and like millions of other before me, and since, I faced the challenges to carry out my missions as best I could under difficult conditions.  The United States military has spent many billions of dollars in the effort to build and nurture leaders.  Some people are born with it, some have it thrust upon them, and others must be trained in the core principles of what it means, and what it demands.  For various reasons, some people never quite grasp it, or reject it because they don’t wish to carry its attendant burdens.  One of the things I have learned, both in my years in the Army, and ever since, is that some people are natural leaders who have the nearly instinctual ability to motivate people to accomplish a mission, or push through obstacles and overcome daunting odds against them.  I’ve become adept at spotting leaders, and among all those who are prospectively seeking the office of President in 2012, none of them more thoroughly exhibits the traits of great leadership than Governor Sarah Palin.

One of the most important traits of effective leaders is to rise to confront challenges before them.  Any odd bump on a log can wait for events to come as they will, but great leaders start by surveying their situation, inventorying their resources, and gathering intelligence about how best to proceed.  Being a leader doesn’t mean charging into any battle without preparation or forethought, but instead demands considering one’s option in light of the facts, and then pursuing the course that will be most likely to attain one’s goals.  Sometimes, this does induce urgency, but sometimes it begs the wisdom of patience.  Good leaders will know how to spot the difference, and this is what creates a clear distinction between successful leaders and brash but often unsuccessful ones.  Like so many other facets of leadership, this can be developed, but some people simply have a better natural grasp of and talent for timing. Once the pieces fall into place, the leader then acts, and this unhesitating initiation of actions when the time is ripe for them is the hallmark of greatness.  Sarah Palin may well soon deliver a demonstration on this part of leadership that will be memorable.  She’s already demonstrated this in her active role in advocating for necessary reforms in Washington in light of recent debates, and while other shirked the role of leader, she alone stepped up and repeatedly insisted that those in power carry out their responsibilities.  While they ultimately failed to heed her warnings, the greater failure may have come in the form of the other would-be Presidents who remained quiet, stayed out of the spotlight, and were suddenly timid in the face of controversy.  Real leaders don’t fear controversy, because they know nothing of any substance is ever accomplished without it.

Great leaders communicate, but it isn’t merely to issue commands.  Effective leaders are great listeners, with an eye and ear for details and nuance that can spell the difference between victory and defeat.  It is this observational skill that has led many battlefield commanders to initiate just the right maneuver at just the right time to stave off an otherwise certain defeat, or frequently snatch victory from its toothy jaws.  It’s also the lack of listening that has permitted all too many commanders to lead their troops to senseless deaths.  Real leaders are always vigilant for signs of their own weakness, and they listen for it in the words of others, and watch for it in their eyes.  There is no substitute for leading from the front, or very near it, where one can see the adversary, the obstacles, and all the factors that will affect those one sets out to lead.  Feedback is accepted with a diligent attitude toward self-improvement in the name of the mission.  This is one of the most difficult things to teach young leaders who don’t already grasp it.  It’s very common to become consumed by one’s ego or one’s position and forget the objective in favor of one’s sense of self-importance.   Governor Palin shows this ability to listen in the way she interacts with people, studies, their faces, notices the inflection of their voices when speaking, and narrows down the issues about which they’re speaking with laser-like acuity.  People respond so well to her in almost every setting because they perceive that she’s listening, and that she is concerned, not because she’s play-acting, but because it’s genuine, and because she really is listening.

The best of them always lead by example. They know that just as they must be ever-watchful, so too are they being watched, not merely by those they lead, but others who may also be willing.  Nothing brings a leader down more quickly than hypocrisy or dishonesty with  those whom one leads.  Those who are willing to follow do so in part because of a shared interest in accomplishing a goal, and also because they believe their leader is pursuing it with even more diligence and passion.  This is a matter of self-discipline, and it speaks volumes to those who would be led.  Governor Palin demonstrated this during her recent appearance on Hannity at the Iowa State Fair.  Rather than criticize her would-be opponents, she praised their efforts and their words whenever they had been right.  Focusing on the positive aspects permit leaders to stay on message about the goal in pursuit of which they’re leading. Mrs. Palin made clear that her focus is defeating Obama in 2012, whomever may ultimately stand forth to do so.

The trait of the best leaders the world has ever known may be easily understood in this way:  Leaders are confident, and they draw other leaders to them.  They nurture younger leaders, and they surround themselves with people who are also able to lead and motivate others.  While a leader must always maintain some form of control, it’s also true to say that the best leaders know it is far better to describe a mission objective and the resources at one’s disposal, and turn that over to another leader, leaving the minute details of execution to other leaders. Delegation, in this respect, is a sort of tool at a leader’s disposal, and the best leaders learn to give their junior leaders their heads.  It’s the most effective way to develop a team of committed people who will ultimately see the objective to a successful conclusion.  This synergy of talents among diverse people, all turned to the attainment of a single overriding goal, acts as a line of demarcation between merely able leaders and the greatest leaders.  Without having overtly or even intentionally intending to have done so, Sarah Palin’s strong example has created a vast network of able leaders who rally to her without rewards or compensation, and most frequently without mention.  So many fine young leaders are appearing now every day to carry her banner, one she’s not officially raised on her own as yet, and still all of them ignore petty differences among their number precisely because they’re committed to a singular goal.  It’s not the sort of thing one can fake, and it’s certainly not something that can be ginned-up in astro-turf fashion.  When you observe this many able leaders coalescing around another, you can bet it’s because they’re responding to a true giant.

One more important thing an effective leader knows is that the whole of their leadership is vested in the mission for which they’ve set out to lead.  They know that the goal or objective is at the heart of their power as a leader, and they look first to serving that end, whatever it may be.  That’s right, the best leaders know that they are first and foremost the servant of all those who they would lead.  This distinction is that which escapes so many would-be leaders.  It cannot be stated often enough, or with enough emphasis, that the ablest guides see in their own actions a sense of service to the ideas and the people who are following them.  When Sarah Palin speaks to the idea of a servant’s heart, it is this critical foundation of leadership she is establishing in the full glare of daylight.  She’s always been a leader, but it isn’t those who would follow her that define her as such.  It’s in the way she carries herself, as the means to the end of carrying an idea, and in so doing, she carries the hopes of a nation with her, whether they all realize it now, or not.

Some people have accused me of being “hopelessly in the tank for Palin.”  Those who know anything about me also know I’ve never been the sort to be “in the tank” for anyone.  The reason I support Sarah Palin is because at the heart of it all, she supports me.  She may not know my name, or recognize my face, but the principles for which she’s chosen to stand are my principles too.  Some of you have offered that I am a leader, but if that is true, it’s because the truth exists in the same subject.  Most of you come to this site to read my posts, not to be insulted as you may be in the pages of other publications, but because you’ve come to understand what it is that I believe, and many of you have found my notions to be in general accord with your own.  Am I not serving you in some small way as Sarah Palin serves us all?  This doesn’t make me unique, or in any way different from the thousands of you who, in your own ways, do precisely the same.  In truth, I mention this at all only to further my case to you: If you wish for a particular kind of leader, you must recognize that true leadership is service.  As I have urged you before, I again repeat what must be said: You are leaders too, in your communities, in your families, your churches, and in your workplaces.  People look to you, just as you and I look to Governor Palin.  Lead them.  Lead them by first serving them and they will lead others in their turn.  The best leaders know this.  You know this.

Whatever Sarah Palin chooses to do, it’s now coming to be your time to lead.

It’s your moment.  It’s time.  Lead!

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