Something I’m not sure I get and which is quite disturbing is the idea that the presidency is basically a lameduck job after the re-election, and most certainly one after the following mid-term. But why would that be so? If anything, an election should free the president up to do even more, as they’re no longer worried about running for re-election again (which is one good argument against the two-term limit). So this should make them even more powerful. But it doesn’t. It’s as if all the power from the first term is solely derived from the fact that the guy will need to win once again, and then he has no power the second time around. I remember that sort of sentiment in Clinton’s second term, and it’s even more pronounced now.
And even after the second mid-term, it makes no sense that the president becomes powerless. Because there’s always that next election that Congress needs to worry about and so you’d think that would give the Prez political leverage in his last two years. But somehow, things have gotten established as if the new election with a new presidential contender just isn’t related to any previous activities. Or as if the congressional election in the open presidential election year is more a referendum on the two newbie candidates, rather than an election in its own right.
I’m not sure if it’s always been that way, or if it’s the media’s focus on the presidential “horse race” that’s given it that aura. But in either case, it’s gotten to the point that I’m not exactly sure why the Whitehouse doesn’t just start working for the next guy. Picking their successor and setting him (or her) up for the job.
And I was thinking about this while reading Atrios’ post on The McCain Plan of sending 20,000 more troops to Iraq, and how the Whitehouse might be going in that direction. And I was thinking, why not just go whole-hog with the idea of instituting McCain’s ideas? Why not start setting him up to be the next president? I’m not too keen on the idea, but I really think it would make a lot of sense for them; particularly now that their current guy has totally hit lameduck status. Rather than be the cheerleader for his own failed policies, Bush can now start cheering-on Mr. McCain’s.
And I honestly can see this being where this goes next. If the power of the president resides almost entirely with the upcoming elections, why not dub someone the new guy right after the mid-terms, and bring back some power to that once mighty institution? Hell, it’d kind of be the equivalent of a couple living together for a few years before they get married. As a sort of trial presidency. Give him a go for two years. See how he feels.
And if he screws up in the meantime, the current Whitehouse occupant can always dump the guy for someone else’s plans. We wouldn’t give him the speeches or any official power, so the current president would have to act as the mouthpiece for the guy. And that would, in effect, be giving more power to the president, because the incoming guy would need to please the current guy and would be acting at his discretion. I’m not suggesting that this is necessarily a good idea. Merely an inevitable one.
And so maybe that’s what we’re already getting now. Maybe this will be John McCain’s shot at the ring. To give his ideas the trial run that we never really got with Bush. Most presidential contenders are naturally a fairly unknown commodity, at least in terms of how they’d act in the Big Show; but Bush was even more so. And his lack of resume was one of his strongest qualities, as it allowed them the freedom to put anything they wanted into his mouth and there was no solid record to dispute it. But a trial run might have made him put his money where his mouth was and forced him to start screwing-up even earlier.
But I suppose Clinton would never have picked him, so my current theory really wouldn’t have applied anyway. Unless, of course, we went with an opposition Whitehouse too; which would likely be appealing to Republicans as they’re so much better as the opposition than at actually running the show. But like everything else the Republicans like, that would naturally be a disaster.
And as for McCain’s future, it really all just depends on how far to the right he can go on social issues before the media finally realizes that Mr. Straight Talk ain’t the guy they fell in love with in 2000. But they’re likely to believe that his move to the right was merely a trick to woe primary voters and not a reflection of his actual beliefs; which is probably the case anyway. And as we’ve seen from the media so far, they loooove people who use deception and trickery. They’ll bust you for an outright lie, even if you’re not really lying. But they loooove to see someone get away with duping the rubes into believing they’re something that they’re not. After all, it’s what they do best. And really, the only reason I think they bust outright lies isn’t because of the deception, but rather because you flubbed it so obviously. And so in that regard, it might actually be refreshing to see McCain’s plans blow-up before he ever gets a chance at screwing things up fulltime.