Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What a President Can't Do

I know that presidential candidates have to make themselves seem invincible to win elections, but it is still depressing to watch.  If hell freezes over and I ever became a presidential candidate, I imagine blowing the election in a debate something like this:

Moderator:  "Mr. Croxton, when will your administration get unemployment below 6%?"
Me:  "Never."
Mod.:  "Never?"
Me:  "No, not my administration.  The president doesn't determine who works and who doesn't.  That's a decision made by millions of private individuals."
Mod.: "So you think the government has nothing to do with the economy?"
Me:  "Of course not, that would be absurd.  The federal government can do a great deal to hinder economic activity, and it can do a little to promote it.  But it makes no sense to speak of a president 'getting unemployment below 6%.'
  I will not promise what the unemployment rate would be because it is out of my control.  I will also not promise a certain rate of growth in the economy, or a rise in morals or personal happiness.  The president has only the vaguest influence over all of those.
  I can't even promise that crime will go down or that violence against America will cease, but I will promise that I will do everything possible to make sure we prosecute criminals and defend the country against attackers.
  Moreover, even the things I can do, I can't do all at once.  I will strictly limit the number of things that I promise to do on 'Day One' of my presidency.  I will keep a list and make sure I can do every item on it.  Some things will have to wait until day two, or three, or fifty-six.
  Most of the things a president can do by himself are very limited.  Congress is the most important branch of government, and as president I will not try to usurp its role.  I will continue to propose laws and submit budgets as other presidents have done in the last century, but I will not act as though Congress has a responsibility to do everything I want, and I will not now promise to do things that I know only Congress can do."

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