Saturday, January 26, 2008

We don’t need another co-presidency

Does anyone seriously expect former President Clinton to be, as Garry Wills puts it, a potted plant in the White House of President Hillary Clinton? He has already given up his role as respected elder statesman to become an attack dog for a continued Clinton hold on the White House so we cannot expect him to turn around and become a bridge-builder to either congress or world governments or political opponents. He will most likely take on a very active role in our government behind the scenes and not accountable to anyone. (He was never accountable to his wife in either their public or personal lives before. Why would it start now?) He would become a co-president but not accountable to the public. We have already seen this type of role develop in the current White House with Vice President Cheney. Powerful personalities gravitate towards vacuums and take control. This is not a healthy trend for a democracy.

This is Garry Wills in today’s New York Times on why two presidents are worse than one:

SENATOR Hillary Clinton has based her campaign on experience — 35 years of it by her count. That must include her eight years in the White House.

Some may debate whether those years count as executive experience. But there can be no doubt that her husband had the presidential experience, fully. He has shown during his wife’s campaign that he is a person of initiative and energy. Does anyone expect him not to use his experience in an energetic way if he re-enters the White House as the first spouse?

Mrs. Clinton claims that her time in that role was an active one. He can hardly be expected to show less involvement when he returns to the scene of his time in power as the resident expert. He is not the kind to be a potted plant in the White House.

Which raises an important matter. Do we really want a plural presidency?


One problem with the George W. Bush administration is that it has brought a kind of plural presidency in through the back door. Vice President Dick Cheney has run his own executive department, with its own intelligence and military operations, not open to scrutiny, as he hides behind the putative president.

No other vice president in our history has taken on so many presidential prerogatives, with so few checks. He is an example of the very thing James Wilson was trying to prevent by having one locus of authority in the executive. The attempt to escape single responsibility was perfectly exemplified when his counsel argued that Mr. Cheney was not subject to executive rules because he was also part of the legislature.

We have seen in this campaign how former President Clinton rushes to the defense of presidential candidate Clinton. Will that pattern of protection be continued into the new presidency, with not only his defending her but also her defending whatever he might do in his energetic way while she’s in office? It seems likely. And at a time when we should be trying to return to the single-executive system the Constitution prescribes, it does not seem to be a good idea to put another co-president in the White House.

You can read the entire piece here.

1 comment:

Comrade Kevin said...

I agree.

We need change, resolute change.

NOT a ceremonial changing of the guard. Not a restoration of the monarchy.