Friday, November 19, 2010

Too big for idealogues

Newsweek Magazine says the Presidency is too big for one person.
Can any single person fully meet the demands of the 21st-century presidency? Obama has looked to many models of leadership, including FDR and Abraham Lincoln, two transformative presidents who governed during times of upheaval. But what’s lost in those historical comparisons is that both men ran slim bureaucracies rooted in relative simplicity. Neither had secretaries of education, transportation, health and human services, veterans’ affairs, energy, or homeland security, nor czars for pollution or drug abuse, nor televisions in the West Wing constantly tuned to yammering pundits. They had bigger issues to grapple with, but far less managing to do. “Lincoln had time to think,” says Allan Lichtman, a professor of history at American University. “That kind of downtime just doesn’t exist anymore.”
One of the benefits of being old like me is that you've personally experienced things that younger folk might perhaps be unaware of.  See, I remember having heard this same line of hooey before.
A January 13, 1980 Washington Post article made a similar conclusion about the beleaguered Carter administration: "Voters have lowered their expectations of what any president can accomplish; they have accepted the notion that this country may never again have heroic, larger-than-life leadership in the White House."

Post writer Walter Shapiro went on to describe how, "Some voters have entirely discarded textbook notions about presidential greatness and believe that Carter is doing as good a job as anyone could in facing new and difficult problems and in coping with an independent and restive Congress." He actually lamented the fact that "a sizable segment of the electorate...still applies traditional standards in assessing Carter's performance in office."

Later that same year, in a Christian Science Monitor story entitled "Carter and the Eroding Presidency," writer Richard J. Cattani cited Stephen Wayne of George Washington University, who claimed: "There's something institutional about the decline." Cattani noted how "Wayne and others...see a weakening of the presidency since Vietnam and Watergate that makes it difficult for officeholders to fulfill expectations."
So...the Presidency was too big for one person in 1980.  And the Presidency is too big for one person in 2010.  But this idea was never pushed in the later 80's, in the 90's, or in the 00's.  Why 1980?  Why 2010?

In 1980 the President was Jimmy "Malaise" Carter.  In 2010, the President is Il Duce.

I think the conclusion is obvious.  "The Presidency is too big for one person" is code for "the current President is an incompetent bumbler, completely unqualified for the position".