The president of the United States spends most days trying to guess from which hole the elusive critter chooses to show its mangy, little head.
During the election season, both voters and candidates like to make issues and plans a big deal. What will you do about education? How about immigration? What’s your stand on foreign policy? All good questions, and ones that we should have an inkling of an idea to show how the person in our highest elected office will govern.
However, constitutionally, a president’s job isn’t to enact laws. The president can introduce legislation to Congress, but it is up to that august body to decide what our laws are going to be. The president’s job, as head of the executive branch of government, is to enforce those laws. So really, our next president, just as were the previous 44, will be a top cop.
That’s a bit simplistic. The office is powerful and all presidents have a prioritized agenda of issues they hold dear and for which they will try to find support to bring to fruition. President Obama’s first action was to get the Senate to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Act so he could sign it into law only nine days into his term. This was his first campaign promise made good. The Ledbetter law makes each paycheck a restart of the time clock for filing suit. Now, women (anyone) can sue when wage discrimination is discovered without having the statute of limitations already expired by the time the problem is identified.
President Obama also worked tirelessly for 14 months on getting the Affordable Care Act passed. He used his best negotiating skills and got a compromised version passed that improved the healthcare insurance system for millions who were on the outside looking in.
Many more campaign issues, like closing Guantanamo Bay Prison in Cuba, have gone begging. One reason is that, like the Whack-a-Mole game, no one knows what is going to happen day-to-day. The president is forced to work on timelines, schedules, and current events that manifest every day at home and around the world.
The main part of the job is to evaluate each situation as it comes along and put out the fire, or whack the problem on the head if you prefer. The president’s day-to-day job doesn’t consist of working on a checklist of campaign promises; it is to see that existing laws, or temporary ones from executive orders are used to keep the ship of state on an even keel. President Obama put in place the stimulus package, the auto industry bailout, regulated banks, and made decisions about our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond. Some were foreshadowed before taking office, but others popped up out of random holes on the Oval Office game board and had to be dealt with immediately for the good of the country and our economy.
The president is a problem solver and those problems often arise with no prior warning–devastating storms, mass killings, police/community issues, shifts in policy by foreign leaders…
To manage this daily cache of surprises we need to select a person to sit in the Oval Office who is quick witted, calm under pressure, not distracted by personal bias, or bent on payback or revenge. We-the-voters need to consider the political leanings to see if we agree because those leanings will influence the daily decisions, but more important is the temperament of the office holder.
We cannot elect a president who will look at the job as a new toy, to gaudily gild for showing off to friends and intimidate personal enemies. We need to elect a president who has experience and the mindset that they have been here before.
I’m not big on sports metaphors, but here goes: one candidate is raw, a rookie, and gaining the presidency would be like scoring his first football touchdown. If he scores, he will become so excited and impressed with himself, that he will celebrate too vigorously and get a penalty called–stopping the game and drawing attention away from the bigger goal. If we elect the candidate who has been in the end zone before and knows that the first touchdown is only the beginning, she will calmly hand the ball to the official, go into the huddle, and help make a plan for getting the next score. She’s not flashy and shows battle scars, but is highly competent and a tireless team player.
If you haven’t voted early, be sure to do so next Tuesday. Voting is our greatest privilege and heaviest responsibility for moving our republic forward.