I haven’t weighed in on the presidential primaries for a variety of reasons (not the least of which amounts to “oh shit, people are getting violent…” and all those levels of scary that are going on in this election). But I finally realized why I’m not agreeing with most of my circle on the presidential race. It’s the same problem I’ve had with the presidential races in my voting age: the people running for president make promises that outside the scope of the job.
No matter who your candidate is (or has been over the past ~10 months), they are making promises that are not the job they are applying for! They love to promise changes that will be congressional: budgets, laws, protection… well they could sort of pull that last one off if you want to stretch a definition or three.
Ok, so let’s breakdown the tasks and roles of the president. Great source here – Good ‘Ole Sparknotes
- Chief of State & Head Ambassador – considering everything going on in the world right now (and a few rather scary people who have somehow garnered some kind of power…) this is a really important job. There is a stupid kid in North Korea right now who has been sentenced to 10 years hard labor for what was at worst a childish prank.
- Commander in Chief – yeah, technically the president is head of the military and if anything that means we need to make sure that whoever is in this job has some kind of brain in their skull.
- “Chief legislator” really means he either approves or rejects the legislation that is passed by Congress. Every year, a president can present a “legislative agenda” but the president must have a member of congress actually sponsor the bill. A perfect example of this is “Obamacare” – it was first proposed in the House of Representatives by John Dingell of Michigan. Obama just signed it after it passed the House and Senate. It’s only kinda his… there were a lot of yes votes to get it to his desk.
- Head of the Party – which means he gets to raise the most money for elections
Notice a theme? The president is a face. I love how my husband describes the job: Ultimate Tea Partier. He is supposed to be inviting people both domestic & international to his house for the bestest tea parties. Make friends and influence people.
So when I am listening to politicians promising to change laws (or taxes) I have to shake my head a little. I would love to be able to vote for someone who gave a speech like this:
I’m not going to promise new laws. Of course I am going to be offer the assistance of my staff as needed to make the best possible laws and make sure that Congress is passing laws I can agree to sign, but since I am not supposed to be creating laws, I am going to get the Presidency out of the law-making business.
I am going to hire staff that are focused on this job: to improve our foreign relations. I promise to spend at least 50% of my time in office going over trade relations and deals; working with governments of all types to expand access for American travel and trade; examining the necessity and viability of every American soldier on foreign soil; and working on improving our neighbors’ education, infrastructure, and government stability – because as anyone who has gone house hunting can tell you, it doesn’t matter how great a house might be, if the neighborhood is run down and bad… you generally keep looking. Well, we didn’t get to look for the house, we inherited it. We were born here. What we can do is help our neighbors.
Anytime someone asks me about changing a law, I’m going to direct them to the person they need to be talking to: their Congressional representatives. I’m sorry, I can help, but I can’t write the laws. I can pass them, but I won’t promise laws that I’m not allowed to write.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a president who could open up new markets in south america and africa because those economies were growing and the people in those countries wanted more goods and services? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could visit countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, and the dozens of others the US government tells us not to? Someone who would address issues like a stupid kid in North Korea. I want to vote for someone who understands the job of President.
Maybe then people would stop electing a do-nothing Congress and we could get new blood/faces in there.
2 thoughts on “Politics: Presidential candidates”
There are two other powers the president is granted by the Constitution you don’t [explicitly] list which I feel deserve mention — in large part because one has actually been a topic in this election, and the other might allow the scope to fulfill certain campaign promises.
First, the President appoints non-elected officials with Congress’ approval. That includes the head of all executive agencies (like the FBI), ambassadors, and supreme court justices — this last being emphasized in the news cycle. I noticed you implied this in your mock speech, with “I am going to hire staff that…” but omitted it from your bullet list. (Also, since the Supreme Court gets appointed by the President, this power is a little broader than just ‘staff’.)
Secondly, the President has the power to grant pardons for federal crimes. This could allow the President to effectively “make law” by issuing blanket pardons — but note that this only goes one way. For instance, the President couldn’t use this power to expand the protection of federal wetlands or prohibited drugs, only pardon those who violate the existing laws. (Admittedly, there aren’t many promises that this could allow, but I feel it must be mentioned for completeness’ sake.)
That is true, and I did leave that off my bullet list. And it is DEFINITELY an important duty of the presidency. It might be the only one that is being correctly attributed to the job.
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