Sunday, February 19, 2017

Obama versus Trump as Presidents

When Barack Obama ran for President in 2008, he was feted as the greatest orator in the history of the multiverse.  Then he was sworn in, and he stopped giving speeches.  Well, he didn't stop, but he slowed considerably.  Observers obsessed with the Reagan model of the presidency were puzzled.  If Obama won because he was the greatest giver of orals since Monica Lewinsky, why not keep it up, so to speak?  (See, this is why I just do my own blog).

The short answer is this:  it doesn't matter all that much.  Two references:  Samuel Kernell's Going Public, and George Edwards' On Deaf Ears.  Kernell argued that in the absence of good, old-fashioned, smoke-filled back rooms in which Nast-ian cartoon characters cut deals, the only way to do anything is to sway public opinion with high-fallutin' oratory, like Saint Ronald Reagan, peace and blessings be upon him.  That way, Congress has no choice but to go along if they value their reelections.

Edwards says, "yeah, good luck with that."

Obama didn't really try to approach his Presidency the Kernell way.  After he was inaugurated, he didn't really barnstorm the country, giving speeches in his legislative opponents' districts to force them to do what he wanted.  He gave some speeches, but mostly, he did what presidents do.

Between the latest rally and news conference, the current storyline is that Trump has returned to the campaign trail.  It seems premature to me to write that story, but I'd guess Trump does a lot of things prematurely, so it may not be inappropriate.  Of course, if Kasich was offered the VP slot with the promise that he could handle both domestic and foreign policy while Trump did, um, something (remember that one?), it's not inconceivable that Trump just has no interest in anything other than campaigning anyway.

Of course, it is worth remembering that Obama's first two years were legislatively productive because he had a Democratic Congress.  His final six years saw basically nothing happen because he had a Republican Congress.  What lessons should Trump draw from this?

It doesn't matter.  It's not like the guy reads.

No comments:

Post a Comment