Delegating the Presidency

The hallmark of our democracy is the peaceful transition of Presidential power following an election. These transitions are well planned, seamless and with the presence of comity. Last Friday, we witnessed a different sort of Presidential transition, one without an election, peaceful, seamless, full of good humor, but not likely planned.

For the world to see at a White House press briefing, President Obama conceded the presidency to former President, Bill Clinton, without fanfare or an election. He just surrendered and left good naturedly to join his wife at a Christmas party. The only thing missing was the last trip on Air Force One, back to Chicago to write more memoirs. 

One can assume the Presidential resignation, which lacked formality, is temporary, as it would cause a constitutional crisis by not following the prescribed line of succession.
Nonetheless, we did witness a startling semi-succession of presidential power, with the not-so-subtle admission that, despite Mr. Obama’s acclaimed oratory strengths, he is unable to sell his Bush-era tax cut extension compromise. What is a President to do when he has lost the base, the center, and his only new best friends are the Republicans?

The President has, for the past two years, displayed a propensity to turn over difficult tasks to others: stimulus bills and health care to Congress, diplomacy to the Secretary of State, anti terrorism to the Attorney General, and the Afghanistan war to the Secretary of Defense. Now, he turns the marketing program of the Bush tax extension capitulation over to President Clinton.

While these acts, of delegation are designed to keep his fingerprints off contentious issues, they have  displayed his soft side and unwillingness to engage, or to expose himself risk.  Obama reveals to the world a stunning weakness and aversion to risk. This will embolden opponents, foreign and domestic, and that is not good for the country.

Watching Bill Clinton at the podium dominating and sucking all the oxygen out of Obama during Friday’s press briefing, we must believe he was thinking, I would look rather attractive and effective, as Hilleary’s non elected but appointed, Assistant President, formulating policy and holding my own press conferences.  A scary but realistic possibility.