Saturday, June 20, 2009

Perspective on the Office of President

The United States Constitution begins with the words,"We the people..."

We seem to have lost some respect for the high office of President. Perhaps it started with President Clinton's seeming lack of respect for the office itself. I'm not talking Monica-gate, but even the casual dress code, pizza in the Oval Office, etc. Perhaps it's because of the incredible amount of news available today, allowing us to see things we never would have seen in administrations a couple decades ago.

And we seem to be putting too much faith in the President. No President can solve all our problems. No President can fix a failing economy alone - it takes the help of Congress at the very least. No President can suddenly decide we should have world peace and achieve that goal.

President Calvin Coolidge said, "It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man." Good advice, indeed. I fear our current President may be at risk of taking himself too seriously. It is always important that, even as Leader of the Free World, he is an employee of the people of the United States.

Certainly I want a President to respect the "office" itself. In other words, he needs to remember that he is working for the people, those who voted for him, those who voted against him, and those who chose not to vote. He needs to show respect for the other office holders around him, no matter what party they belong to. He needs to remember that we don't have a king any more.

During the time I gifted to President Obama as the so-called Honeymoon Period, I was not "looking for trouble." Yet I was distracted by a couple incidents where his words were uncomfortable to my image of a President's attitude.

The White House has often been called the "people's house." That's certainly how I think of it. The words below (emphasis added) are different from that concept.

During the White House Cinco de Mayo festivities, President Obama referred to the way they " things at my house." (Meaning the White House)

Then in a different discussion he talked about entertainment available to the President: "Now, movies I've been doing OK [with] because it turns out we got this nice theater on the ground floor of my house …"

And consider ABC News. In their promo for the White House health care special they did, they used the phrase, "We're going into his house."

Also, the President chose to return a gift given to the USA by the United Kingdom. It was a bust of Winston Churchill. That act took the British by surprise, and they even suggested he want to just store it so it would be available to future administrations. He returned it anyway. Pardon me, but that bust was the people's, not his personal property.

Clearly the media has lost perspective on the office of President. We have well-known media figures talking about a thrill going up their leg when they see Obama; we hear a journalist say he is "like a god;" we see tough interviewers giving him mere silly questions or slam-dunk items.

We recently watched the "election" in Iran. As we got close to the election, and Iran's current leader seemed to be lagging, I heard several news outlets speculate that President Obama's speech in Cairo might just have made the difference to sway that election so the current leader would be ousted. That's unfair to any President. No matter how gifted a speaker he may be, it is unrealistically optimistic to think that a President in office only a few months could unravel the mess that exists in Iran.

No comments: