Alex Massie

Karl Rove and the Limits of the Presidency

Text settings

Karl Rove's latest column is quite something. He writes that:

Another emphasis in the Obama 100 days talking points is that the president is a decisive leader. However, Mr. Obama is enormously deferential to Democrats in Congress and has outsourced formulation of key policies to them. He appears largely ambivalent about the contents of important legislation, satisfied to simply sign someone else's bill.

On the $787 billion stimulus package, he specified less than a quarter of the bill's spending and let House Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey decide the rest. On cap and trade, Mr. Obama is comfortable to let Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman and Edward Markey write that legislation with virtually no White House guidance. On health care, the White House is providing very little detail. Mr. Obama tees up an issue, but leaves its execution to congressional Democrats.

If only this were true*! If Rove's analysis were correct a sensible person might a) deplore the actions of Democrats in Congress and b) be cheered that the Presidency was being restored to something that the Founding Fathers might recognise.

But of course Rove sees Obama's alleged reluctance to subvert the constitution as a problem, not a blessed relief. That shouldn't be a great surprise, I suppose, given that Rove approves of the sprawling, modern White House in which the President is supposed to be an elected Priest-King and Comforter-in-Chief.

Nonetheless, the old commandments are quite clear: writing and passing legislation is Congress's responsibility not the White House's. I don't beieve Rove's critique is convincing but even if it were it is telling that he should see this as a Bad Thing not - in the exceedingly unlikely event he is correct - a welcome change for the better. Alas, Obama will prove just as ready to use the nifty pulpit as most of his 20th century predecessors.

See Gene Healy for more on this and buy his book, The Cult of the Presidency too. But only read it if you don't mind being enraged and depressed** in equal measure...

*It isn't.

**If you find this happening often you should probably start blogging.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleInternational