change : the action of making something different in form, quality, or state
Every four years, America gets excited about electing a new president, even though at least according to the Constitution, the president has few powers (Article II, Sections 2 and 3)…
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
He shall have 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, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
Note that the description of the legislative branch is given in Article I, and the judicial branch in Article III—in all likelihood expressing their order of importance to the Framers.
As to the “advice and consent” bit regarding judges, the process has become so horribly politicized that the best that GW Bush could do was throw together a series of gambits and sacrificial lambs to pave the way for Roberts and Alito. Of course, many of the lower courts are dominated by judges who are anything but conservative, and in far too many cases are not even competent.
We hear a lot about how it is so important to get a particular candidate elected president so that he will be able to make good supreme court appointments. Noting that liberal presidents would tend to appoint liberal justices—with great alacrity and little opposition—the record on the other side has been less than inspiring. While Dwight Eisenhower was no raving conservative, he could probably be excused from not being able to predict the turning of Earl Warren.
No excuses can really be proffered, though, for Reagan giving us Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy; and Bush, Sr. giving us David Souter. Furthermore, Reagan’s astonishing lack of support for an embattled Robert Bork was not a great moment of his presidency, and is strangely ignored by the Reagan cult.
Since at least the time of FDR, a president makes his greatest impact with the Commander in Chief role, and by acting as some sort of symbolic figure. In fact, what people BELIEVE about the president is far more important than what he actually does. Here are just a few historical facts that do not seem to matter in the least regarding public perception of a president.
- “Freeing the slaves” had no part in civil war rhetoric until 1863, and was only invoked to gain support from the European powers.
- Candidate FDR’s New Deal bore absolutely no resemblance to President FDR’s New Deal.
- Far from being a “brilliant politician,” Bill Clinton’s road to the White House started because he was the only candidate who did not seem to care about the current popularity of Bush, Sr. He was aided by a recession in the first go-round and third-party candidates in both of his elections, not to mention that he had weak opponents. Little that he enacted could be called liberal, and in his wake, the Democrats not only lost control of the Congress, but hardly anyone close to him was successful in pursuit of further office.
- While few disagree that Carter was a terrible president, he was elected only in the wake of the overblown Watergate scandal, amid a careful airbrushing of his record as a segregationist state senator in Georgia. Even then, he barely won, despite having as much as a 30 point lead in the polls during the campaign.
Carter came in as the ultimate outsider promising change. As they say, be careful what you wish for. Interest rates went up to 19%, Islamist terrorism was ushered in with the taking of the embassy in Tehran; and there was double-digit inflation, fuel shortages, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Particularly noteworthy was his mission to relinquish ownership of the Panama Canal, carried out despite its opposition by the vast majority of Americans. Since Carter is the only president who served out a full term and did not appoint a Supreme Court justice, we can only speculate on how he could have damaged this institution as well.
On the other hand, the “change” promoted by such as Obama is nothing more than warmed-over 1960s Leftist rhetoric.
So, what’s the point of all this? The country has survived many terrible presidents, since their ability to inflict damage is limited—even though there can be many individual casualties. By the same token, those on the Right pining away for a conservative might have to give it up. For one thing, the last true conservative in American politics was Robert Taft, and he died in in 1953. For another, the term now means next to nothing.
The best way to define “conservative” these days is to present a basket of perhaps ten issues, and if your guy agrees with even one of them—and he might violently disagree with the rest—he is a conservative. Compare that to Taft, who opposed the expansion of the Federal government, and was wary of foreign adventures. JFK included Taft is his Profiles in Courage, primarily because he took a stand against the Nuremberg Trials. Of course, Taft was correct in his opposition since they were little more than victor’s justice, not to mention that the Soviets had a key role. Unlike faux conservatives such as Reagan, Taft realized that massive government expansion—whether for welfare or defense—was still socialism by another name.
As to the upcoming election, there really will be no change. Rather we will merely get expansionism at one rate or another.