I Want a President Who Plays by the Rules

If you are a politician, why bother to play by the rules? Or if you are a citizen, why should you care whether the political leaders on your team play by the rules? (It goes without saying that we all care when the Other Guys break the rules.)

This issue is a particularly emotional one for conservatives and Republicans because of the two great presidential rule-breakings in our era. Back in the 1970s President Nixon broke the rules and lied about it, and there came a day when the top Republican senators went down Pennsylvania Avenue to tell the president that he had to go, and he went. In the 1990s President Clinton broke the rules, and there came a time right after the impeachment of the president when the Democrats held a rally at the White House in support of the Liar in Chief, and he stayed.

To conservatives this injustice rankles, not just because Nixon went and Clinton stayed, but because Clinton skated on sexual harassment at work, a matter every man knows could cost him his job.

Now we have President Obama, whose formative years have seemed to be an education in leftist activism, where the governing principle is a strategic application of rule-breaking: in “non-violent protest,” in making the powerful follow their own rules while you get to break them, in “occupations,” in “fundamental transformation.”

For President Obama it doesn't matter if you rescue General Motors from bankruptcy by driving over the bankruptcy laws, as long as you pay off your union supporters. It doesn't matter what procedural shenanigans it takes to pass ObamaCare, as long as it passes. But every American that doesn't have their brain numbed by the New York Times and NPR knows that if he tried anything like that, he'd go to jail.

So with Hillary Clinton. I get that, for Clinton, it is essential to control the documentary record, because a lot of politics and governing is political sausage-making and you never know when some opposition researcher will dig up something to embarrass you. But average Americans know that, if they started “losing” their emails, they'd lose their jobs.

There's an honorable reason why the rulers should play by the rules. It is a noble and honorable thing for a great man to honor the little people that must play by the government's rules, or else.

But there's also a practical political reason to play by the rules. If the team that's in the lead in a game doesn't play by the rules then there's no reason for the losing side to stay in the game. They might as well start breaking the rules as well. When that happens in politics then you are taking the first step to civil war.

We know that liberals really care about the rules when they are in the opposition. They were all over President Bush for any undotted “i” or uncrossed “t” in the road to war in 2003.

But when it comes to themselves, the rules do not apply. The whole idea of the Sixties was to ditch the conformist Fifties and “do your own thing.” But the Irish in South Boston had to obey the rules and bus their kids to integrated schools, or else.

The Sixties ought to provide a terrifying lesson to liberals. Their hippie culture broke the back of the old FDR Democratic coalition and spawned a law-and-order wave that Republicans used to win a landslide presidential election in 1972. It took 20 years before Bill Clinton managed to neutralize it.

Now we have the social justice warriors, the rape culture feminists, the diversity culture, political correctness, and the phone-and-pen president. Liberals get to change the rules to change the world, but ordinary people know that if they say the wrong thing in the classroom or the workplace in Obama's America they could lose their jobs.

In a piece last week, uber-liberal Robert Kuttner couldn't understand “Why the 99 Percent Keeps Losing” and didn't rise up and overturn the system after 2008.

The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society's ground rules, while the rich get even richer -- yet this situation doesn't translate into a winning politics [for Democrats].

Maybe there's a reason for that, Mr. Kuttner. Maybe it's because the American people are not going to risk everything following a president and a liberal ruling class that doesn't play by the rules. Most Americans live by following the rules, going to work, and obeying the laws. They really have a problem with people that break the rules -- Nixons, Clintons, Obamas, Sharptons, political cronies – and get away with it.

I want a president who follows the rules, and I suspect the American people do too.

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, usgovernmentspending.com. Also see his American Manifesto and get his Road to the Middle Class.