Washington-based attorney and pundit Peter Mulhern recently posted a piece to Real Clear Politics that surveyed some of the current political scene, in support of Fred Thompson’s candidacy. Several of his observations are worthy of further comment, beyond their connection with Thompson…
He notes early on that “[C]onventional wisdom rarely gets anything right. When it does, it’s only by accident.”
I like this statement, not only because it is obviously true, but because it explains so much of what is wrong with America. The conventional arguments for single-payer health care, for example, are all based on the notion that since health care is so expensive, the government HAS to take charge of it. In fact, cause and effect have been reversed here: Health care is so expensive BECAUSE the government is already involved, and this goes back to Medicare in 1965.
If you like the way Medicare works, including the marvelous feature whereby it is virtually impossible to discern how much it will cover until a claim is submitted—thus creating an odd sort of retroactive rationing—you will love a government single-payer system.
The real wisdom to be had here is that people like cheap and free, until it’s time to pay the piper—as in lead-contaminated toys. Suddenly, price isn’t the sine qua non anymore. Similar points could be made regarding public education.
Mulhern muses “[H]ow much of Clinton’s appeal, such as it was, depended on his flaws rather than his strengths. Could Clinton have been so charming to so many without the selfishness, the total lack of self-discipline, the sexual incontinence, the dishonesty, the flabby physique and the swollen nose?”
Spot on. Bill Clinton embodied the very worst characteristics of the baby boomers, and became the first anti-hero president. It didn’t hurt that he ran against weak opponents, with an electorate confused by the entrance of a third party candidate in 1992.
Mulhern mocks Dick Morris, saying that his career was “grounded on the idea that pandering conquers all.” Indeed. He is too polite to mention that Morris now pens columns that trash much of what the Clintons stand for, yet he was neck-deep in it for years. Just when did Morris have his epiphany? Besides, how credible is a guy who a short time ago was saying that only Condoleeza Rice could compete with Hillary?
Mulhern rejects the idea that a president “runs the country,” and, as such, needs to be a manager. This is an attack on Mitt Romney, celebrated for being CEO of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, and for his association with Bain Capital.
While Romney surely had a hand in turning around the scandal-laden and debt-ridden Olympics, raising money on behalf of a world-class sporting event—that was also the first major event following 9/11—could hardly have been difficult. Recall that a tide of patriotism was sweeping the country, and this was before the Iraq war.
As to Bain, it is well to note that mega-mergers seldom do anything more than earn fees and stock benefits for the few—most often at the expense of the many. Moreover, in cases such as AmPad, where Bain actually retained financial interest in a company, the management record was abysmal. But, if business acumen is strictly defined as making money for oneself, as opposed to building some sort of meaningful enterprise, Romney’s record is secure.
Let’s review what our Constitution says about the president:
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. (Article II, section 1) [“executive” = designed or fitted for or relating to execution or carrying into effect]
Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy; Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States; Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States (Article II, section 2)
shall give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union; recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States. (Article II, section 3)
Clearly, the executive function described therein implies getting things done with special emphasis—it would seem—on executing laws. Thus, the current failure to enforce our immigration laws cries out! How ironic that this most basic deficiency is apparent to the overwhelming number of voters, even if it is being virtually ignored by the candidates.
Finally, consider the concept of running the government like a business. In fact, the government may be many things, but it is nothing like a business. It could slightly resemble a business if it had to operate at a profit, or at least cover all expenses, but even then, the comparison is deeply flawed.
Politics and cronyism may well exist in a real business, but sooner or later, if these factors are harmful enough, individuals will be discharged, or the company will eventually fail. In government, the president might be a CEO, but he cannot fire the speaker or house majority leader. He might wish to appoint several federal judges, but with a hostile senate standing in his way, be rendered powerless.
Furthermore, beyond being able to appoint cabinet secretaries with (usually) little interference, he can do virtually nothing to control the day-to-day operations of these gigantic agencies, since they are staffed by tens of thousands of bureaucrats, essentially assured of lifetime employment. It is worth remembering that no one was fired in the wake of the Robert Hanssen FBI spy case or 9/11, certainly two of the worst disasters in the history of the US government.
But then, “running the government like a business” just drips with conventional wisdom.