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Fri May 29, 2015, 01:04 AM

How often do people imagine a US President makes a policy decision?

That's one disconnect I notice here; it's coming up about the TPP now but it applies more generally.

A President almost never makes a policy decision. 99% of a President's work is either administrative or ceremonial. The depressing fact is that, honestly, the only thing that matters is the letter after his or her name.

The President doesn't decide what does or doesn't go into a trade agreement, a third-level political appointee (the USTR) does (and for that matter, that's mostly his staff, who are probably careerists anyways). The President doesn't iron out deals among legislators, a third-level political appointee (a Legislative Aide) does. The President doesn't stand up to insurance companies requesting ACA premium increases, a third-level political appointee (some HHS undersecretary) does. The most practically important thing about a Presidency is which party's bag o' political hacks those third-level appointees come from, and Sanders doesn't have a different bag o' political hacks than Clinton, O'Malley, Webb, or Schweitzer (is he finally officially out of the race? That's a shame). You aren't just electing a President, you're electing a party apparatus that brings its entire inertia and baggage with it. It would be as true for Sanders as it was for Obama or W or Bill Clinton.

"Fight", "backbone", whatever: it's an Aaron Sorkin-fueled myth. Presidents allocate resources to executive agencies, and attend dinners. They find staff from the existing party infrastructure and turn them loose.

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Response to Recursion (Original post)

Fri May 29, 2015, 01:06 AM

1. This is true. nt

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Response to Recursion (Original post)

Fri May 29, 2015, 01:40 AM

2. So, we should elect the candidate with the best table manners.

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Response to merrily (Reply #2)

Fri May 29, 2015, 02:05 AM

3. Well, someone who at least knows not to give backrubs

to the German Chancellor. The "administrative" half was the more important one though.

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Response to Recursion (Reply #3)

Fri May 29, 2015, 02:07 AM

4. Merkel seemed to like him, backrubs and all. No accounting for tastes.

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Response to merrily (Reply #2)

Sun Dec 20, 2015, 01:34 PM

12. Close: I would say the one with the longest coat tails. N.T.

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Response to Recursion (Original post)

Fri May 29, 2015, 02:18 AM

5. A Princeton study answered how most of America's policy decisions are made:

 

When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.

The failure of theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy is all the more striking because it goes against the likely effects of the limitations of our data. The preferences of ordinary citizens were measured more directly than our other independent variables, yet they are estimated to have the least effect."


Furthermore, the preferences of economic elites (as measured by our proxy, the preferences of “affluent” citizens) have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do. To be sure, this does not mean that ordinary citizens always lose out; they fairly often get the policies they favor, but only because those policies happen also to be preferred by the economically-elite citizens who wield the actual influence.


If you want to read more: http://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf

But I must warn you, it's pretty goddamn depressing.

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Response to Recursion (Original post)

Fri May 29, 2015, 05:25 AM

6. this itself is a myth, the powerless president

think about the Iraq war. Everyone knows about the cabal behind Bush that were the ones that really wanted the war. Yes they are to blame for the war but their power was totally dependent on how much they could influence Bush.

And those same people wanted regime change back in 1991, why didn't they get it then? Because of Poppy Bush.

And they wanted regime change in Iran. Why didn't they get it? Because of W.

And why are we out of Iraq now? Because of Obama. People talk about the withdrawal agreement, but if a president wanted to negotiate it so that we stayed, they could have. In fact I thought that's what Obama was going to do. When he didn't, I realized he didn't want to stay. And that's the reason we left, because Obama fortunately wanted to get out.

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Response to Enrique (Reply #6)

Fri May 29, 2015, 05:32 AM

7. You're making my point. McCain or any other R President would have had that same cabal

Because there's only so many experienced mid to high level political managers hanging around in either party.

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Response to Recursion (Reply #7)

Fri May 29, 2015, 05:47 AM

8. but you missed the part where the cabal didn't get their way

because of the president.

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Response to Recursion (Original post)

Fri May 29, 2015, 05:50 AM

9. There is no disconnect. There is just disagreement.

 

You sound like a neo-liberal business friendly New Dem who sees the government as a corporate structure. The president is just another manager in the system. He might be a CEO or a chairman of the board. But really he is just a manager who hires other managers to slowly make the business work.

I am trained in business and psychology, and I disagree. The president is not just a manager/figure head. He is supposed to be a leader. He acts not only on pragmatics but also on principles and on vision.

A great analysis of this difference and discussion about leadership is Siegel's book The President as Leader. I don't agree with everything he writes about as I disagree with him about Obama's leadership abilities, but his discussion of traits necessary for a president to be a great leader seem spot on.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-leadership/what-makes-a-president-a-great-leader/2012/11/06/2f0ef12c-2825-11e2-96b6-8e6a7524553f_story.html

1) A compelling vision
2) Wherewithal to implement this vision
3) Focus on a few major goals at a time
4) Does the leader understand the implications of decision making.

His profiles of several Presidents he calls great leaders completely goes against your assumption that the president is just an administrator or figure head.

Let me take this further by analyzing Obama just a bit to see that your statement that the only thing that matters is an R or a D after his/her name is equally false.

Obama campaigned as progressive liberal Democrat. Hope and change after 8 years of war, corporate greed, and lies of atrocity. He sold a vision of a man who would stand up against all of those thing. But the reality is that he did not. Many Democrats have felt betrayal and anger growing over the last 8 years. One thing after another showed them that Obama was not who he said he was. Oh sure he evolved on gay marriage, yet he defended DOMA, DADT, and had a virulently anti-gay preacher at his first inauguration. He talked a great talk about the horrors and abuses started by Bush's war on terror, yet he admonished us to then look forward, not back, expanded so much of the war's tools from drone strikes to NSA surveillance, and he chose hawks as his advisers.

I think the final straw for many is the TPP. Here is a man who claimed he would put on his soft shoes to support unions and American jobs, and yet now he is pushing, no ramming, the TPP through against his own party's lack of support. Obama's vision is that of a New Dem. It is reflected in his cabinet choices. It is reflected in how quickly he went from running on the public option to an insurance mandated corporate health plan. It is reflected in the simple truth that he is willing to work with the GOP to get this TPP pushed through. This is the New Dem vision. It started with Bill Clinton, and it continued with Barack Obama. It was easy for some to delude themselves that really the only reason Obama acts this way is because of racism and GOP obstructionism. Yet, now the GOP racists are working hand in hand with Obama to get the TPP/TPA pushed through.

So yeah, it does matter whether there is a D or an R after the name but only after you accept that the president is a leader trying to implement their vision. For many of us now, we are sick and bloody tired of the New Dem 'new deal'. It sucks economically. It sucks socially. It sucks for Americans and it sucks for other countries as well. It allows for increasing MIC control and the day to day acceptance of violence to promote a neo-con foreign policy agenda. It is as far from the FDR New Deal as Democrats and left-leaning independents & Greens can imagine.

So for me, I want a presidential candidate with a consistent and congruent history of principled action. I want a man or a woman who is a leader and not just another fucking administrator. I don't want my country to be run like a corporation. I don't want to just be a commodity or a consumer or both. There will not be racial justice, social justice, and economic justice until a better vision than the GOP's or the New Dem's is implemented from top down in this country.

Why have I chosen Sanders? Because of that vision and need for the economic justice of yesterday and the social justice of today. Why am I critical of Clinton and vow not to vote for her? Because she is just another New Dem. Her vision is no different than her husbands from the 1990's and Obama's the last eight years. So yes, it is important to be opposed to the TPP even in the version we are able to see leaked today. It is equally important to know where our potential leaders stand on the issue. Sanders is clear. I expect O'Malley to at least state yes or no on supporting it once he joins the race in a few days. But right now, Clinton is hedging. She is triangulating her own party. She doesn't seem to want to clearly state whether she is for or against it. Anyone paying attention knows she is for it, but her not admitting that should be a big fucking red flag for those who want and need something different from the Democratic leadership in this country.

Seigel discusses one instance showing the great leadership of JFK. After the failure of the Bay of Pigs, he went on national TV and said: "Ladies and gentlemen. Success has a thousand fathers and failure is an orphan. I failed. Blame me." His popularity went through the roof because we want honest not perfect leaders. I can not imagine any New Dem acting like that.

Hell Bill Clinton went on TV and lied about a damned affair and quibbled over the meaning of the word 'is'. No one would have given a shit that he had an affair. He isn't perfect. They do care that he lied. Hillary sadly is the same. She won't just say I fucked up and am partly to blame for DOMA and DADT and another 2 decades of bigotry towards homosexuals. No, she says, 'we' evolved. Has she ever said, wow, I fucked up and trusted Bush's intel on Iraq. I should have known better but I was blinded by my ambition? That would be honesty. Hell I might even start to respect her if she could do that. But no, she said 'we' all were lied to and believed them. So sorry we enabled so much death and destruction. But obviously I would do it again - we came, we saw, he died lol.

Yes, leadership does matter to the American people. We are looking for a president as a leader and not just another goddamned ceremonial figure or administrator. Your perception is but on side of the coin where both are needed.

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Response to TM99 (Reply #9)

Fri May 29, 2015, 08:39 AM

11. Thank you

That was a very well-written post.

I disagree with your characterization of me as "neo-liberal" (I want a $25 minimum wage and 60% top marginal tax rate), but I guess I will own up to being "business friendly": I like it when businesses in America do well, and I would like America to be a profitable place for businesses to set up shop.

I think the final straw for many is the TPP

I agree. I agree 100%. I'd just like somebody on the other side here to acknowledge that this isn't some groundbreaking new evil, it's just that you're sick of global trade as it is and you're attacking TPP as a symbol of that.

Why have I chosen Sanders? Because of that vision and need for the economic justice of yesterday and the social justice of today.

I wish him the best, and I will support him as enthusiastically as I have every Democratic candidate since 1992 (I was 16 then but I knocked on doors) should he win the nomination. I think he's dead correct on several issues. I also think he will not be able to significantly change the direction of the US society, government, or economy. These are big ships, and they turn slowly.

I am currently a registered voter in the District of Columbia, and our primary is June 14 of next year (I'll be voting absentee since I'm in India). I have not yet decided for whom I will vote, and I imagine by the time June 14 rolls around it won't really matter for whom I vote. I was a fan of Schweitzer for a long time, but he seems to have finally given up this time around. I have some regional loyalty to O'Malley, but I'm not convinced that ship is sailing anywhere (OTOH if HRC moves very far to the left in response to Sanders I think Webb probably is moving somewhere, very fast, and I'm very ambivalent about Webb...)

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Response to Recursion (Original post)

Fri May 29, 2015, 06:15 AM

10. POTUS sets the policy agenda, and then appoints people, who report for him/her.

Pretty much the same model that exists in every other large organization. Steve Jobs didn't actually design the iPhone, but he did decide that there would be an iPhone, and told other people to design it the way that he wanted.

If the president wants something in a free trade agreement, or wants there not to be a free trade agreement, he/she can accomplish either. The president can also set legislative goals. For example, Obamacare. And so on.

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