The Presidential Claim to Ignorance: Is it Ever Valid?

“President Obama’s ‘I don’t know’ Strategy – and its Limits”

So declares the title of an article that echoes the general frustration that “‘I don’t know’ has become a regular refrain for this White House.”

Should we criticize the president for his “not knowing” or validate the presidential claim to ignorance?  We must realize how much the president can reasonably know about his administration, to determine exactly how responsible he is for the decisions of those who serve under the executive.

When considering the responsibilities of a president, I am reminded of President Truman’s farewell address, which puts the presidential job description in perspective.  Harry S. Truman (1945-1953), the first president to deliver a televised farewell address, gave us a sort of ‘sneak peek’ into the life of a president.

He emphasizes the strain of a relentless presidential schedule:

“Since I became President, I have been to Europe, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, Wake Island and Hawaii.  I have visited almost every State in the Union.  I have traveled 135,000 miles by air, 77.000 by rail, and 17,000 by ship.  But the mail always followed me, and wherever I happened to be, that’s where the office of president was.”

People criticize the scandalous nature of frequent presidential “vacations.” But, in a manner of speaking, though the president leaves the Oval Office, he never truly leaves his presidential desk.

Truman also presents the exhausting presidential way of life:

“And all these emergencies and all the developments to meet them have required the President to put in long hours—usually 17 hours a day, with no payment for overtime.  I sign my name, on average, 600 times a day, see and talk to hundreds of people every month, shake hands with thousands every year, and still carry on the business of the largest going concern in the whole world.  There is no job like it one the face of the earth…”

Truman certainly allows us to sample the burden of the presidential position.  But he is not asking for a pity party; he is asking that the people remember just how demanding the presidency is.  Truman wants to push the people not to relentlessly criticize the president’s positions, but partner with his presidential successor (Eisenhower) in his struggle to carry the weight of domestic and foreign affairs.

I don’t want to say that criticizing the president’s claim to ignorance is necessarily bad, but that sometimes the president does have a legitimate claim to ignorance.  Truman’s farewell demonstrates just how valid such a claim can be.  The president has so many responsibilities, people, and urgent decisions weighing on his shoulders that it would be unrealistic to think that he knows absolutely everything that happens within his executive jurisdiction.

But does a valid claim to ignorance eliminate presidential responsibility?

Absolutely not; the president is still responsible for all the official actions and policies of his administration.

As evidence, consider the debate among the founders to determine whether the American presidency should be one person or multiple people.

Some thought that the presidency should consist of an odd number of collaborative leaders, kind of like the bench of United States Supreme Court Justices.  Under this system, we would vote for, say, 3 leaders, each with their own area of expertise and party alignment to ensure balanced, experienced, deliberative executive leadership.

The main problem with this multiple-actor presidency idea was the utter lack of accountability.  If a bad decision is made, who do you blame?  Do you kick them all out of office?  Since the presidency collaborates secretly, do you simply make an educated guess about which president is responsible for bad decisions?  Maybe it was a 2-1 vote; do we still punish all of them?

The single-man presidency solves this problem.  Blaming is a mode of accountability.  And if executive decisions go awry, there is only one person we can blame, the president.  The founders chose a unitary presidency, partly so that we can blame him for bad decisions.

So, just how valid is a presidential claim to ignorance?

Claims to ignorance send us a strong signal:  the president wants us to think he is not responsible for a bad decision that was made.  He is communicating that he was so burdened with other presidential demands, that he cannot be held responsible for a specific flaw we want to blame him for.

I think we can do more than draw attention to a specific flaw.  We can do more than seek a rhetorical response from the president.   We can keep the president accountable.  Accountability does not mean criticism of his claims, but of his conduct.  Give the president’s speeches the benefit of the doubt, but keep him strictly accountable for his actions.  The power of his words shouldn’t matter as much as the prudence of his decisions.

In the case of ignorance-claiming, the president claims no responsibility for an imprudent action.  This is an exciting opportunity to witness the president’s prudent decision-making at its finest: how he reacts to exposed failure within his administration.  It is not what he says in response, but what he does in reaction to the failures of those under his superintendence, that really counts.

When the president says, “I didn’t know.”  We should respond, “Now that you know, what shall we do?”  It provides a space for decisive presidential leadership and our more meaningful partnership.

Don’t endlessly propound his blameworthiness, but assess the ways he compensates for and adjusts to the past failures in his administration.  Executive limbs answer to him alone; the executive head answers for their failures and glories in their successes.  Don’t get stuck on assessing how he answers “I don’t know” but who he becomes now that he knows.  Does he get stuck in the presidential claim to ignorance, or does the president assume decision and responsibility in spite of this ignorance?

Government Shutdowns: Moments of Insanity?

We should stop criticizing government shutdowns and start thinking about what the shutdowns tell us.

Our government inflicts us with pain all the time.  The recent government shutdown is the most accessible example of such pain.  This kind of discomfort is so repulsive because it happens without our consent, which leads us to mistrust the responsiveness of our American government.  And for good reason:

In a shutdown, well over 800,000 non-essential federal employees don’t know when they’ll receive their next paycheck.  In turn, the rest of us are left to deal with life under a temporarily incompetent, unresponsive federal government.  A lot of uncomfortable stuff happens and the government doesn’t seem to care.

We think situations like these shouldn’t happen in America.  If a government is by the people and for the people, as Lincoln pointed out, the people should never be angry about what the government does.  It should people-please; yet the vast majority of people aren’t pleased with government shutdowns.

Why do shutdowns like this happen in America?

A shutdown happens when Congress cannot agree on a budget before the start of the new fiscal year.    The Constitution and the law do not punish the government if it inconveniences the people with a shutdown.   Instead, Congressmen, as essential employees, still get paid.  And they are still given the responsibility to pass the budget.

The idea is, in a representative government, the representatives do not need legal punishment.  The ballot box is the Congressional cattle-prod.  All Congressmen, unless considering retirement, want to keep their jobs: they either enjoy the distinction that comes with it or want to continue their good influence in Congress.  Sure, legislators must respond well to organized interests who have lots of money, but at the end of the day, the right votes, not the right number of dollars, keeps someone in office.  The one sure way to keep their jobs is to pay attention to the input, opinions, and demands of their constituents.  A representative who does not have one eye in Washington and the other in his district is sure to jeopardize his seat.  So, they need no legal repercussions; we as voters also serve as the punishers.

This accountability mechanism, termed the ‘electoral incentive,’ means that if the representative does stuff in office that his voters disapprove of, it will show in the next election — with his unemployment.  With this in mind, the budget deadlock we just witnessed shows that some Congressmen held to the deep-seated conviction that a shutdown is better than its alternative (in this case, ObamaCare fully-funded), risking their seats in the process.

Does a shutdown like the one we just experienced successfully prevent its alternative?

Americans surely don’t think so: they tend to blame those on the other side for the pain they feel.  They ignore the risky signaling that’s taking place, and consider partisan actions that eventually force a shutdown rash, imprudent, and hopeless.

Americans in general agree that Congress was most to blame during the shutdown, which lessens Congress’ power to be successful.  Shutdown polls declare that the people blamed Republicans rather than Democrats and President Obama.  But notice that the polls tend to lump President Obama and Democrats into one category, which does not account for the consistently higher approval ratings of the President with respect to Congress.  In the end, Congress, not the president, will seem even more blameworthy.

With success falling out of sight, what were Republicans in Congress thinking by forcing a shutdown?  What response were they trying to invoke?

All government shutdowns anticipate pain and anger, but they communicate gravity. A shutdown communicates that the alternative is a more painful than itself. If we feel pains, we should assume something significant is happening.

Even further, In light of the fact that the Republican Party forced a similar government shutdown in 1995, when conditions were better, and had to deal with heavy repercussions, it is safe to assume that Republicans are definitely risking similarly punishing outcomes.  They have communicated a grave issue indeed.

Perhaps the gravity of the situation ran deeper than funding or defunding ObamaCare.  Perhaps they feared that such a law will instill dangerous ideas about the nature and purpose of health insurance.  Or, beyond health insurance, they feared that the law will feed the growing appetite for entitlements and instantaneous gratification that threatens the generous and selfless side of today’s America.

Must we merely complain about our pain?  No.  We should listen to the problem the pain communicates.  Look beyond the discomfort to its source; then consider why the cause is weighty enough to inflict the pain you feel.

In American government, pain is not weakness leaving the body.  The pain leaving the legislative body (and coming down to us) signals graver, more threatening, weaknesses in ourselves and our nation.

Weekly Roundup

UPDATE:  In case you missed it, Vladimir Putin recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he offers counsel to the United States.  Yesterday “President Obama” responded with his own op-ed for the Huffington Post

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Katelyn Beaty writes at Christianity Today about our Hunger for Outrage (specifically on the internet):

Outrage begins to eat us alive when it is not channeled into creative love. It does not produce the righteousness we rightly seek (James 1:20). And there is only so much love you can demonstrate in 140 characters on a glowing screen.

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Wednesday was the twelfth anniversary of 9/11.  Here are 9 Things You Should Know About the 9/11 Attack Aftermath.

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From National Journal:  Syria Tells You Everything You Need to Know About Barack Obama.

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Peggy Noonan at The Wall Street Journal on Syria and Why America is Saying ‘No’:  “There is something going on here, a new distance between DC and America that the Syria debate has forced into focus.”

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Our fearless leader James Arnold has written an article for Biola University’s Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts on Giving Grace to “Crossover” Artists.

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John Mark Reynolds responds to a friend’s question about Vocation and Money.

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Digital Times argues that Part 2 of the Hobbit trilogy will be better than part 1 (but not by much).  The article is short, snarky and repetitive, so here’s the only paragraph you really need to read:

No, seriously. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is going to be the best part because hello, all the best stuff happens in it. “The Hobbit” Part Three-ie (out on December 17, 2014) is going to be the worst snooze cruise since Helm’s Deep. That’s because certain dragons are going to get whacked in the first of many hours and the rest is just going to be a big battle and then a long walk home.

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Speaking of The Hobbit, here is JRR Tolkien singing “Chip The Glasses And Crack The Plates”:

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One should always be careful about giving too much weight to “scientific journalism.”  Still, these developments are worth noting:  Global warming? No, actually we’re cooling, claim scientists.

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Love it or hate it, the very colorful (and very plastic) new iPhone 5c is probably here to stay:  Forget “Cheap”, The iPhone 5c Is Clearly The iPhone Jony Ive Wanted For iOS 7.

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Book nerds, time to geek out!  “Harry Potter” Gets Seven New Illustrated Covers.

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From The Atlantic:  Why Sequels Will Never Die: Hollywood’s Summer of ‘Flops’ Was Actually Its Best Year Ever.

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Mali, Syria, Obamacare, Detroit;  2013 has seen many debacles…all of which Mitt Romney warned us about during his 2012 presidential campaign.  This recently prompted Buzzfeed to ask:  Was Mitt Romney Right About Everything?  (The truth, of course, is that this is not about Romney.  He was not a visionary or a genius.  He was just saying what conservatives have been saying since long before 2012).

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If World War One Was a Bar Fight…

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Help Kickstart World War III!  Why?  Because Obama:

Weekly Roundup

Apparently, pornography is the new normal. Iceland brought the idea to our attention earlier this year, but now the UK is forcing us all to ask questions about liberty, personal freedom, and harmful dispositions of the soul.

Fred Sanders argues at Christianity Today that anyone who suggests that the Trinity has a lot to do with gender probably doesn’t understand either too well. Actually, he’s a lot more charitable than that, but no one is surprised.

Speaking of the Trinity, this video by The Lutheran Satire is brilliant.  You should watch it now.  Go ahead, we’ll wait.

Brett McCracken has a new book out, called Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty. We’ll be reviewing the book pretty soon, but in the mean time, you can read a sample chapter here; he’s even got a way for you to get his first book for free.

Poetry can be beautiful, but it can also be scathing. There’s even a poet you can hire on Craigslist to write poems about you. See one such experience here.

Matthew Tuininga thinks that America’s abortion laws are quickly becoming more liberal.  And that’s a good thing!

It’s a strange new world we live in when Russian leader Vladimir Putin is calling on the US and Europe to unite to end anti-Christian persecution.  More than that, he thinks the Russian church and state must unite to show moral leadership in the face of a secularizing West.  Is this good for Russia, or just a sad commentary on the state of the US and Europe?

At last, that fateful moment in world history has arrived.  Meet the Twelfth Doctor!

The State Of Our Union Is…Confused.

President Obama’s State of the Union address was nothing new.  As all politicians do, he called attention to a few high points of the past year, but primarily focused on the future, laying out a fresh list of promises that few people truly believe he can make good on.

The President took aim at Big Business, especially the medical and insurance industries, blasting them for making record profits while average Americans struggle.  What is more interesting is that he went on to warn Congress that now is not the time to gut funding for medical research that helps to save lives.  We have to wonder if the President is aware of how much of those record profits the medical industry invests in just the kind of medical research he wants to protect.

The real issue here, though, is not the specifics of where certain money is being spent, but rather an entire political philosophy.  When the President suggests that high profits for private companies can actually have a negative impact on society, and that any reduction in government-funded research is unacceptable, he is implicitly saying that the responsibility to do such research should be entrusted to the government rather than those private companies.  It would be better, in his mind, for the medical industry to hand over more of its profits to the government (paying more of their fair share, as it were) so that the government can do more of the same work that the medical industry is already doing.  I’m not arguing here that this is either good or bad.  The President’s underlying philosophy could be right.  I merely point it out because, sadly, the underlying philosophies of our politicians are rarely scrutinized and examined in light of other issues, which often leads to confused voters and even more confused politicians.

An excellent example of this political schizophrenia came from two of the President’s more praiseworthy statements.  In his best line of the night the President said, “What makes a man is not the ability to conceive a child, but the courage to raise a child.”  He went on to say that our rights as individuals are always wrapped up in the rights of others, highlighting the importance of community and cooperation.  Taken alone, these statements are excellent and any Christian on the conservative side of the spectrum ought to be able to endorse them wholeheartedly.  What may seem puzzling to some, then, is the President’s radical Pro-Choice agenda and his newfound but staunch support for gay marriage.

President Obama rightly acknowledged that a stable family structure is best not only economically, but also for raising healthy and productive children.  The redefinition of marriage is at odds with this truth.  In every nation that has officially redefined marriage on a large scale, marriage is disappearing.

More important is the issue of abortion.  How can you hope to encourage young men to think of fatherhood as something that requires courage when all the consequences and “dangers” of sex and pregnancy are so easily removed, and with no remorse?  When you continue to push the “easy way out” on the one hand, any calls for courage on the other hand ring hallow.

Moreover, why is radical individualism only a bad thing, and why are the rights of others only important, when it comes to gun control or higher taxes?  Why does the President not chide the radical individualism of the successful businesswoman who seeks an abortion because a child is simply inconvenient at the moment?  Why is she not to be reminded that her rights are tied up in the rights of others, necessarily limiting her choices?

Again, our current way of political discourse in America is not set up to handle these underlying philosophical questions, so I don’t place all blame upon the President or his party.  Mr. Obama may be wrong, but Conservatives and Christians in the media are failing to say so in an intelligent and persuasive manner.  We are all caught up in the culture of soundbites and shouting matches.  Worse yet, when we finally do tire of this unhelpful bickering, we retreat into the amusement of trivialities.  Senator Marco Rubio delivered a winsome, articulate, and at times passionate response to President Obama’s address on Tuesday night.  All day Wednesday, the biggest topic of discussion was Rubio’s 3-second, awkward reach-and-sip from a mini water bottle.  This mildly humorous non-event has received more attention than anything the President said in his speech.  That’s a sad statement.

I don’t exactly know where to go from here.  But I do believe that if conservatives and independents start demanding more thoughtfulness from their representatives while refusing to reward the escalating “cycle of soudbites”, things can only change for the better.

You can start right now by NOT posting that angry knee-jerk response to your brother-in-law’s annoying Facebook post.

 

Liberty, Gun Laws, and Violence in the Media

A few days ago, I went to a local gun range with my brother to celebrate his birthday. We’d been shooting before, but hadn’t been in awhile. An experience entirely for sport, we fired a pistol, a rifle, and a shotgun. We had a blast, pun fully intended. But when we got driving home, we got talking a little about gun laws, and my brother asked me what I thought.

My response? Well, it’s tricky.

You see, I’m relatively conservative, as you’re probably aware, and so tend to support liberty over regulation wherever I can. But I also stand as a firmly committed Christian, tending towards non-violence wherever possible (though I’m not a pacifist), and it seems clear to me that some weapons were only designed for situations most of us will never be in, whether that be war or revolution. I told my brother that I absolutely support some regulations–mental health checks, background checks, that sort of thing–in regards to gun control, but it is harder to restrict certain guns outright, in my mind. We had proven that day that some shoot for fun or sport, and that a bigger, more powerful gun may bring more fun, even outside of the lethal nature of the weapon. We could have also shot paintball guns, or pellet guns, but the experience of firing an actual weapon is far more exhilarating.

Guns have been in the media lately, but that’s no surprise. Horrors occur, and tragedy strikes in such a way that I hesitate to even speak on it, lest I unintentionally make what is grave trite.

 Yesterday, President Obama proposed background checks on all gun sales, increased support for schools and safety therein, and called on Congress to reinstate the ban on assault rifles. This response to tragedy is understandable, and regardless of your thoughts on the actions of the President, it is right to respect his desire to keep our children safe. I am thankful for a President who cares about our children enough to say that if his laws save but one child’s life, then they were worthwhile laws. Agree or disagree with the President on the regulations, I am glad that his concern for children is substantial.

I haven’t read the full plan, but if the reports are accurate and President Obama simply wants to force background checks on all who purchase weapons, I’m not opposed. The ban on assault rifles I’m still abstaining from judging, at this point.

The President also called for research to be done into how violent media influences our actions. As one who plays video games, even ones that are violent, I fully support this as a future scientific effort. Gamers usually immediately speak out against anyone who says violent video games cause violent actions (“But I play Halo, Call of Duty, and Battlefield, and I’ve never shot anyone!”), but we’d be fools to ignore the possibility. In fact, some in the industry have suggested that video games can provide space to explore how violence enters into us and how we react to it. When we are placed into a linear moment in a game where we know shooting enemies is the goal, it is natural for us to shoot. But given space to make decisions, we can learn a lot about what we do: if you could play a video game through without killing someone, would you? Even if the game offered many ways to spill blood throughout? It’s worth examining ourselves, something video games are starting to figure out (Dishonored is one that does this, but Spec Ops: The Line is designed specifically to tackle the question of violence in video games: how far is too far?).

Over at the Washington Post, John Mark Reynolds has much to say about this balance between liberty and regulation. For his conclusion, he offers only this:

If the federal government decides further to limit magazine sizes in an act of therapeutic regulation, however, I think the Republic will no more be in imminent peril, then if it decided to ban certain kinds of violent video games. We were free before Grand Theft Auto and could be free without it.

I hope we do neither, but only because I believe too much liberty and privacy have been lost.

He stands in a place where he hopes to allow others to choose differently, but firmly believes that more regulation will solve nothing. I tend to agree with him on both his conclusion and his method: ideally no one should need a gun, but we live in a fallen world. Man will commit heinous crimes, and we should retain the ability to prevent that.

I’d love to choose liberty over regulation, and probably still will. But God help us if we still need guns.

America: Hope Of The Earth?

During election season you can count on candidates to vie for the “loves America most” moniker.  Being perceived as down on America, at home or abroad, is a path to a lost election.  We saw this in 2004, when the release of John Kerry’s testimony on the supposed atrocities committed by his fellow soldiers in Vietnam hurt him significantly in the polls.  We are seeing it again now.  In Monday night’s debate, Mitt Romney again accused President Obama of going on an “apology tour”, where the President supposedly took it upon himself to apologize for most of America’s foreign policy over the past decade (while slighting our closest ally, Israel).  The telling aspect of this exchange was not Governor Romney’s accusation, but President Obama’s response.  Rather than explaining his opposition to an American foreign policy that “dictates to other nations”, or talking about the evils of unjustified foreign wars or neo-colonialism, President Obama denied that he apologized for anything and affirmed his belief that America is absolutely indispensible as a force for good in the world.  Mr. Romney, for his part, said that America is the hope of the earth.

The rhetoric on both sides is strong here, and conservatives need to accept most of the blame for how indiscriminate and apparently inevitable this rhetoric is. We are fond of pointing out the “anti-American” rhetoric of many on the Left, yet we often seem unwilling to acknowledge that there is an opposite extreme.  I am certainly guilty of this.  

John Piper and Doug Wilson have already pointed out that this language amounts to a kind of soft idolatry, ascribing to American military and political power a role that once belonged to the Gospel.  Now instead of sending missionaries into foreign lands to convert the “heathen” to Christ, we send political pressure in its many forms to ensure that the heathen (whose own religious beliefs we refuse to interfere with in the name of pluralism) does what is in the American state’s best interests.

Now of course I have to clarify.  I am not speaking about the use of government per se.  America is no Theocracy, and the role of the state is not to spread the Gospel.  I am speaking to individual Conservative Christians and the policies they support most vocally.  Favoring a strong military to help ensure international harmony (or “peace through strength”) is not bad in itself.  But we need to be measured in our rhetoric.  We should push back when a Presidential candidate talks about America in unmistakably Christological terms.  At the risk of sounding utopian, our hope of world peace and universal redemption should be grounded in the preaching of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  This means we should be more concerned with saving souls under condemnation, not creating societies where “moderate” Muslims and Hindus will build McDonald’s and Starbucks.  Energies and resources should be spent putting a Bible in every hand, not an iPhone.

Lest I sound down on America, let me add an encouraging caveat.  First, it must be admitted that both candidates were only speaking in political terms, and there is no doubt that America has been, on the whole, a force for good in the world.  I only want to caution how we speak about America’s role in the world and what aspects of our foreign influence we choose to emphasize.  Our nation was once the greatest launching pad for missionaries before it was the greatest launching pad for F-22 fighters.

Second, the increase of America’s military and economic influence, while not the primary “hope of the earth”, should not be totally disparaged toward that end.  A strong American military presence throughout the world would aid the church’s missionary work, not to force conversions, but to protect missionaries from the retaliation and violence of intolerant states.  Moreover, the spread of some non-religious aspects of American society and influence is not all bad.  Putting an iPhone in the hand of every non-Westerner should not be confused with cultural salvation, but an iPhone would connect a new believer in Pakistan or China with a entire world’s worth of evangelistic and educational resources. 

In short, America can indeed be one hope of the earth in a very limited sense, only insofar as its influence is used to protect and aid those who go forth and proclaim the true hope of the earth.

Mitt Romney: Lesser Of Two Evils?

Since the Republican Presidential primaries I have heard many conservatives threatening to withhold their vote from Mitt Romney in the November election, either because he is not conservative enough or simply because he is not Ron Paul.  Such sentiments are typically based upon principle alone, or else sending some sort of message to the “establishment.”  I fear that this sentiment is, as the wise man once said, allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. Continue reading Mitt Romney: Lesser Of Two Evils?

Tea Party Democrats

Rasmussen announced yesterday that Americans agree with the tenets of the Tea Party movement more than with President Obama “on most major issues” by 48%-44%.  Additionally, The Hill reports that 40% of Tea Partiers identify themselves as Democrats or Independents.

This is hardly surprising in the wake of the healthcare bill’s unpopularity, and it reminds one that there is something of a divide within the Democratic Party as well as the GOP.  Though most Conservative commentators will say otherwise, this leftist divide isn’t necessarily good for Republicans.

If the president is smart, he’ll take advantage of these Tea Party Democrats and Independents and give dissenters like them a voice in his administration.  Rather than enjoying a cabinet full of liberal ideologues who echo his own views, he should use moderate and disgruntled Democrats to his advantage by allowing them a place at his table.

As counter-intuitive as this sounds, it worked for Ronald Reagan, who was criticized for grouping moderate Republicans with movement conservatives in his own senior staff.    He explained the arrangement this way during a 1981 press conference:

QUESTION: There have been specific reports that your Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense are not getting along and that they argue in front of you.  Can you comment on these reports?

PRESIDENT REAGAN:  The whole Cabinet argues in front of me.  That was the system I wanted installed.

Presidencies have historically benefitted from internal dissensions—provided the divisions extend to those in leadership.  Reagan biographer Steven Hayward writes,

In a manner that eludes many historians, political scientists, and reporters, the most successful presidencies tend to be those that have factional disagreement within their inner councils, whereas sycophantic administrations tend to get in the most trouble.  Fractiousness in an administration is a sign of health: the Jefferson-Hamilton feud in Washington’s administration, the rivalry within Lincoln’s cabinet, and the odd combination of fervent New Dealers and conventional Democrats in FDR’s White House provided a dynamic tension that contributed to successful governance. (The Age of Reagan, p. 9)

Of course, the Democratic members of a single grassroots movement can hardly be expected to change the course of an entire political party—at least not at first.  These Tea Party converts, however, combined with the President’s plummeting popularity, do present him with an interesting opportunity.  If Hayward’s historical analysis is correct, President Obama might very well benefit from the Tea Parties by offering them his ear.

I doubt he will do so, and that may be just as well; as a conservative, I am eager to see him leave office.  If he even appears to shift to the Right, his approval ratings will probably increase.  I don’t want that to happen – and, for now, neither does much of the rest of America. ‘

Proposal: The Ensured Family Health and Disease Prevention Act

President Obama:

Finally we have a President that wants to actually protect wellness of citizens and immigrants. I am pleased to see your progress towards nationalized health care despite harsh criticism. Much of this criticism noticeably concerns money. What kind of person would put money above life?

You and I know that no one should have to die.

Yet even aside from that, money does not need to be a point of contention. There is a simple solution: Make us live in a healthier way through regulation and necessary coercion. Or, to put it in PR terms, ‘encourage’ wholesome living through ‘health standards’.

I was ecstatic to see the measures that you recently took with tobacco regulation. What a superb beginning for achieving a healthier America.

I suggest you now focus on caffeine. Think of it—young American children guzzle more espresso shots every year than they are (literally) able to count. Caffeine is always masked by syrups that entice our children. Greedy corporations like Starbucks, Peet’s, Monster, Red Bull, etc., need to be held accountable. American teenagers gain caffeine dependency before armpit hair. And it does not end there. These teenagers will become adults with stunted growth, arrhythmias, attention disorders, restless leg syndrome, and a variety of cancers all because of their caffeine intake. A university study has proven it.

Because affordable national health care requires healthy citizens, this caffeine travesty cannot continue. I respectfully propose that a bill be written requiring all cafes to serve only black coffee within six months time. Torino syrups, warm milk, and sweeteners must be confiscated. The bill will prohibit coffee sale to minors under the age of 15.

‘Energy-drink’ companies must enter a two-year dismantling program. By the end of the first year, all drink containers must be black. All cans must be labeled with a hazard symbol and list of consumption risks in English, Spanish, French, and German. Advertisements should be prohibited within four miles of any educational facility. By the end of the second year, the company would be given the option of either selling all assets or converting their factories for multivitamin production.

I hope that this plan meets with your approval. If enacted, I am confident it will lead to a healthier, happier America. As a former caffeine addict who occasionally falls off the wagon, I can personally affirm the necessity of these measures.

Respectfully Yours,