Sunday, December 30, 2012

No Executive Power

The Republican President Theodore Roosevelt (who also happened to be a major supporter of progressive causes) may be best known for a single motto:
Speak softly, and carry a big stick.
President Barack Obama is very good a speaking softly. He even understands the rhetorical trick of speaking softly with great intensity. However, for all of that intensity, there seems to be no stick in sight, large or otherwise. This is the time when authority needs to be reinforced with meaningful do-it-my-way-or-else threats; but, the way things stand, the "or else" will be the price of doing nothing, a state of fiscal uncertainty that, while very much a fiction of convenience, can still undermine the behavior of both national and global markets.

The bottom line is that those members of Congress who owe their seats to TEA Party support still feel obliged to "dance with the one that brung them." They will not be swayed by the authority of the White House, since most of those "that brung them" feel nothing but contempt for our President. Nor will they be swayed by the authority of the Speaker of the House, who is more worried about whether the new Congress will keep him as Speaker than about anything else. In other words, like Obama, he lacks any stick with which to threaten.

Our country is as divided as it was when Abraham Lincoln was President. Lincoln tried to solve the problem through an appropriate mix of beguiling rhetoric and bare-knuckles politics. Obama clearly appreciates the rhetoric side of this mix, but we have yet to see his knuckles.

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