Shootin' the Breeze

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Archive for the tag “political science”

Mitigating Scandals By Passing The Buck

A few weeks ago I wrote a few pieces about my pre-campaign for political office, probably the U.S. Senate then, but now I aspire for higher office.  My pre-campaign is like pre-approval for a credit card — it is not yet approved and my campaign is not yet announced.  However, I have been learning a lot by observing the current administration’s approach to what lesser politicians would perceive as criticism.  President Nixon could take lessons from President Obama.

President Nixon thought he had to admit or deny accusations about Watergate.  President Obama is way more cool than that.  He actually jumps on the bandwagon of the accusers.  He embraces the opportunity to empathize with his critics.  He is very upset by what has happened in Benghazi, what has been done by the I.R.S., and what has been done by the F.B.I.  He is appalled, just like the rest of us.

President Nixon was concerned that the famous “buck” which President Truman had said stopped in the Oval Office actually did stop there.  President Obama has a very different viewpoint.

He is unapologetic about not protecting the ambassador killed at our embassy in Libya.  He is appalled that it happened and he is appalled that anyone would blame the State Department or the military or him.  He wasn’t at fault because he did not really know what all was going on that fateful night.  It was his night off.

Apparently, the buck has not stopped at all.  It was no one’s fault, not even terrorists.  The people who attacked the embassy might not have been terrorists as we commonly use the word.  They were terrorists in a very complicated sense of the word “terrorist” that is so complicated that the denial of this tragedy being caused by terrorists for too long was, well, due to a misunderstanding.  It is complicated, like I said.

What I have gotten out of it is that there are real Al Qaeda terrorists, whom President Obama assumed we all were suspecting, when in actuality the terrorists who performed the terrorism at Benghazi were merely wannabe terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda without being official card-carrying members.  It is an important distinction to our president but I’m not smart enough to understand the distinction or why it is important.  Initially we were told that it was a mob upset by a movie.  Then it was a terrorist act by non-terrorists.  Now it is terrorists who are responsible, but not Al Qaeda terrorists — they know better than to do any terrorist acts now that President Obama has Al Qaeda on the run.

President Obama is also appalled by the I.R.S. having targeted conservative groups.  Some might say that was done under his watch, making him responsible.   Those who say that are silly Trumanites who still believe the buck stops with the President of the United States.  This president is appalled just like the rest of us who are not the president.  He is just like us.  He read about it in the papers.  No one told him what was going on.  He is very appalled.  He is not to blame, of course.  He don’t know nuthin’ about it.  Ignorance is bliss, they say.

Well, President Truman did not say that ignorance is bliss.  He said, “The buck stops here.”  He should have said, if only he was not so dang forthright, “I only know what I read in the papers and now that I read what my administration has been doing, I am appalled.”  That is smart politics.    I am catching on to the modern style of leadership.  Accountability is out of style.  Empathy — that is the ticket!

Don’t say that you are sorry for what you have done or not done.  Instead, say that you understand how those of us in the general public “feel” because you feel however they feel.

President Obama and I, a pre-candidate, feel the same.  We feel the same as each other and we feel the same as the general public feels.   We have empathy.  It is easier than leadership because it is reflective and reactive.

President Obama is a lawyer.  So is the Attorney General, Eric Holder.  So am I.  The President, Attorney General and I are all appalled that the F.B.I. violated the privacy of Associated Press reporters.  We all agree that should not have been done.  We did not know and, now that we do know, the three of us are feeling sad even though we are not at fault.   I am under the impression that the F.B.I. is a rogue organization that none of the three of us control.

When I am elected, I too will make it a point to not know about such things.  I would make it my job to not know.  Whoever is in charge of the Justice Department should do something, if we only knew who is in charge.  I used to think the President and the Attorney General were in charge of the Justice Department, including the F.B.I., but it was long ago that I took American Government in high school, Political Science in college, and Constitutional Law in law school.  I was probably absent the day the teachers and professors covered the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.

I am not (yet) in the chain of command, but it is comforting to know that if I become Attorney General or President, I will not be to blame for anything as long as I am suitably appalled by what my subordinates did, or failed to do, which I won’t know about until I read it in the papers.  And, to go beyond my mentor, if elected, I pledge to never read newspapers or listen to the news.

I am also practicing my best sincere look with appropriate body language.  In the photo below I am demonstrating my transparency by gesturing with an open hand, indicating my, you know, openness and, I guess, honesty.  Who wouldn’t vote for an honest-looking cowboy who empathizes with how every American feels?

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Political Science Lesson RE Presidential Campaigns

It has been awhile, but back when I was in school, taking government in high school, political science in college, and constitutional law in law school, I was taught about the three branches of government, being the executive, legislative, and judicial.  As far as I know, that has not changed.

Knowing about the three branches, most political advertisements for the presidential election campaign make little sense to me. 

For example, the women in ads telling me that if Governor Romney wins the election they won’t be able to practice birth control or take care of their gynecological health  ought to read the Constitution.  The President, even if he does not want to fund Planned Parenthood, has several layers of government to contend with. 

First, Planned Parenthood is a non-profit corporation.  Whether or not it receives government grants depends on the budget passed by Congress, which is comprised of the Senate and House of Representatives.  The President can’t get up in the morning and cut off its funding.  He can recommend it, but not actually control it.  Also, even if Planned Parenthood loses government funding, as a private non-profit corporation, it charges for its services and it  gets donations from private contributions.  It does not have to close its doors if Romney wins the election. 

Second, even if Romney does not like the 1973 Supreme Court decision known as Roe v. Wade, concerning abortion, he will not have the power to overturn it.  The Supreme Court has to do that and it has already had nearly 40 years to do so but has not.  The most a president can do is appoint Justices to the Court in the event of vacancies.  Those appointments are subject to the approval of the Senate. 

Third, in America, women have the opportunity to choose doctors for their health care even without Planned Parenthood. 

That is just one issue.  Another is taxation.  Similarly, whoever is elected cannot on his own raise or lower taxes.  Nor is the President the person who sets gasoline prices charged at service stations.

What presidents CAN do is promote policies and legislation that affect healthcare, the budget, taxation, energy and the military, among other things.  What presidents can do is offer effective (or ineffective) leadership.  Presidents can try to persuade Congress to pass budgets, approve appointments, and pass legislation (new laws).  Presidents have to provide leadership in times of crises.

I recommend to the campaign managers and the candidates that they talk about the kind of leader the person running is, what he wants to accomplish, and what he believes.  Avoid saying things like, “When I am elected, I will (fill in the blank, e.g. reduce the deficit, end abortions, fix whatever…).”   He cannot control everything.  He is not running for dictator.  That is by design.  Read the Constitution of the United States of America.

It reminds me of kids running for Student Council in junior high promising to have soda pop in the drinking fountains.  They will not keep that promise if elected because they lack the power. 

Presidents get too much credit and too much blame because people credit them with  much more power that they really possess.  

Vote for the person whose values are most like your own.  Vote for the person whom you most trust in a crisis.  We do not know in advance everything that America might face in terms of natural disasters or actions of foreign nations.  We do know the problems that exist with our economy.  Vote for the person whose judgement you most trust for providing solutions for unemployment, or deficit spending, or whatever, recognizing he will have to sell his ideas to Congress.  Experience is important.  Character is more important.  Who can best lead the nation? 

My Gramma used to say she voted for the man, not the party.  As with many things, Gramma was right.

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