Obama’s Presidential Problem

I want to direct you, my loyal reader, to a blog post Dr. Sean Evans recently wrote (also published in the June 25th edition of the Jackson Sun).  In this post he reminds us that the Presidency is still, constitutionally, a limited office.  He does not have the power to command (outside his power as Commander-in-Chief) and, as Richard Neustadt, the most famous Presidential political scientist points out, can only truly persuade.

Therein lies President Obama’s problem.  He came in with high expectations and it appears the idea that the presidency was an office he could use to command his directives, such as health care reform, cap and trade, and more.  What we have rediscovered (and the president has probably learned) is that the power of the President is not the power to command, but the power to persuade.  He cannot command cap and trade and it come into being (which is why it is dead in the Senate), nor can he command the Supreme Court to rule like he wants them to (see Citizens United).  The president can only try and persuade Congress (and the American people) to do what he wants (or he can hide the true contents of bills from them because he is afraid of what happens when people discover what is in the bill).

Which is why President Obama is in a huge bind, as Dr. Evans points out.  His high expectations require him to be able to command, something the Presidency is not constitutionally able to do.  Since he cannot command, he falls far short of expectations, and then finds himself where he is now:  on the wrong side of public opinion and possibly on the wrong side of history.


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