December 15, 2011
Obama's Job DescriptionBy Cindy Simpson
What exactly is the proper role of the president of the United States? As we prepare for another election and strive to thoroughly vet GOP hopefuls, an equally comprehensive examination of the job to which they aspire is in order.
A starting point for such an evaluation was recently provided in the 60 Minutes interview with President Obama. Although CBS News described its segment as a discussion of "both [Obama's] accomplishments and the challenges he faces as he begins his quest for reelection," many would argue that Obama's role of campaigning has never ended.
Obama revealed his own view of his job early in the interview, when correspondent Steve Kroft asked: "Isn't it your job as president to find solutions to these problems, to get results, to figure out a way to get it done?" Obama answered:
Prior to hearing those remarks, many of us had been operating under the naïve assumption that the primary responsibility of the president was as sworn in the oath of office: to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. We assumed that a president's "vision" would harmonize with our founding documents, that the president would provide leadership to more than his own party, and that his "initiatives" would not "benefit the vast majority" to the detriment of the freedom and liberty of all.
The American Thinker article "President Obama, It's Business, Not Personal," analyzed the job of Obama as if he were an executive in corporate America:
Imagine a corporate executive saying something like Obama told Kroft:
Most CEOs would never dare to make such whiny sentiments public, and we wonder what exactly Obama meant by the phrase "at such an important moment in our history." Surely he referred to our economic troubles, and not to his own election victory. But then when Obama described to Kroft his view of Wall Street from "40,000 feet" above, it was difficult not to recall Newsweek's Evan Thomas' vision of Obama "standing above the world" as a "sort of God," or the time that Obama, upon accepting his party's nomination in 2008, declared: "...this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." He has since informed us, however, that his presidential powers do not include "control [of] the weather."
In a speech describing the presidency, Rep. Mike Pence wisely noted:
It goes without saying that the commander-in-chief should be loyal to our founding ideals. Bows and apologies to the rest of the world and assertions that the American experiment of "a you're-on-your-own economy ... hasn't worked ... [and] it's not gonna work in the future" display either a radically different view of our nation's history or the desire to dramatically remake its character going forward.
Another president's remarks have lately been making their way around the blogosphere:
While those words of wisdom by James Garfield were written over 100 years ago, his additional comments in the same essay are even more noteworthy:
Garfield would be shocked to see the level of derangement produced by our government today. And he likely would never have dreamed that the burden of taxes are borne by only around half of the country, with a large proportion going to programs that redistribute to the other half or to pork-barrel spending. And if Garfield was concerned about the engagement of the constituency in his day, imagine his horror at the realization that today's electorate would likely never vote against the hand that feeds it, a hand that under the guise of governmental authority takes wealth out of the pockets of others.
Rather than considering "cutting taxes" or "gutting regulations" to boost our lagging economy, Obama instead has dug in his heels and demanded that wealthy Americans "do their fair share" plus "a little bit more." And if he lacks support, he asserted: "We're just gonna keep on looking for specific things that we can do without congressional cooperation."
Another president from the past viewed his role quite differently: Grover Cleveland, who "believed in keeping government expenditure at the minimum required to carry out essential constitutional functions." Cleveland famously vetoed the Texas Seed Bill, legislation that proposed to spend $10,000 on assistance to drought-suffering Texas farmers. Cleveland stated:
Cleveland could not find the power for a $10,000 grant in the Constitution. Well, "folks," guess what else besides the billions of dollars of today's spending is not in the Constitution: the job description Obama has written for himself.
In the next few weeks, the GOP will begin the formal process of selecting its candidate. In choosing the most qualified contender, we also affirm our idea of the proper role of the president.
Our founding fathers aptly designated the chief executive as the "President of the United States of America and Protector of their Liberties" [iii]. The best candidate is the one who aspires to that presidential job description.
[i] The Works of James Abram Garfield, Volume II, Edited by Burke A. Hinsdale (Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1883), page 486.
[ii] Ibid., page 485-6.
[iii] Ibid., page 475.
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