The conventional wisdom is we have two weak presidential candidates, and that’s bad for America.
The conventional wisdom is wrong.
Yes, the candidates are weak. The one who wrote a book called “The Art of the Deal” is anything but artful and doesn’t know how to deal. The other is a money-grubbing, coattail-riding, establishment-kowtowing liar.
But that’s not necessarily bad for America. One of these weak candidates will become a weak president. It sounds odd, but that’s exactly what the country needs.
Bear with me.
The founders never envisioned an omnipotent president who could single-handedly take us to war, or stop enforcing our immigration laws, or unleash on his political opponents the power of agencies like the IRS, or assassinate Americans abroad with drone strikes.
But it’s come to that, and more. Peeved that Congress refused to enact his proposals and egged on by media sycophants, the current president boasted that he would enact his proposals himself.
“I have a phone and a pen,” is the way he put it.
Sometimes it seems he also has a crown and a throne.
He calls the resulting royal decrees “executive orders.” If you’re a Dem, you may like executive orders. But I guarantee that you won’t like them someday when the executive doing the ordering — when the royalty doing the decreeing — is a Republican.
Congress historically has played along with presidential power-grabs because the Constitution does not include an effective mechanism for Congress to challenge them. It’s hard and risky to challenge a president.
But in the past few years, Congress has gone from playing along to abdicating. It now passes legislation like Obamacare that implicitly and sometimes explicitly grants broad interpretive powers to administrative agencies that answer only to the president.
The end result is an imperial executive branch, an enfeebled legislative branch and a bewildered judicial branch wondering where the line is to be drawn on the executive branch, if at all.
Even the trappings of the presidency have become regal. It began half a century ago when a star-struck media compared John Kennedy’s administration to Camelot, and has only gotten worse.
Notably, mythical Camelot was a kingdom, not a republic. Maybe people need some royalty in their lives. That’s why Britain still has a make-believe monarchy. That’s why people worship celebrities.
Fine, go ahead and worship Prince William and even LeBron James if that makes you feel good. But let’s not make our president into a king. That won’t end well.
This election is our opportunity to reverse the drift toward despotism. If Trump somehow wins, he will be in the media crosshairs even more than Republicans usually are. The media hates him with a fervor that makes you almost think they liked George Bush, Mitt Romney and John McCain (almost, but not quite).
Moreover, Trump has an uncanny knack for persuading people that whatever he says, he’s wrong. His uncanny power of dissuasion is rooted in a combative style that makes you want him out of your television and out of your life.
The resulting drumbeat of negative media coverage on a President Trump — earned and unearned — will cripple his presidency.
If Hillary wins, she will be tarred by the drip-drip of her ever-present scandals. Thousands of dreadful emails will be released over the course of years by spurned associates, by WikiLeaks, by Russian hackers and by the State Department in response to pending Freedom of Information lawsuits.
On top of that, the FBI is apparently still investigating whether the Clintons’ pay-for-play foundation took bribes from foreign governments. That could make their previous report that Hillary was “extremely careless” with national security look minor by comparison.
All of this doesn’t even count the future scandals that the Clintons will embroil themselves in. Because that’s what the Clintons do.
Hillary is not capable of charming her way out of these scandals the way her husband always did. People just don’t like her. The media is made up of people who don’t like her, who sell clicks to the rest of the American people who similarly don’t like her. “Slick Willy” was a charming rogue, but the person her opponent calls “Crooked Hillary” is just a, well, you know what she is.
The liberal media has gone easy on her so far because the only thing they dislike more than Hillary is the idea of a Republican president. But once the Republican menace is vanquished, the media will feign some balance by going after her with a vengeance.
So whoever wins, he or she will be the weakest president since the days of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.
That’s good. A weak president will effectively strengthen the legislative and judicial branches. Congress might once again be the place where laws are enacted, and courts might once again be the place where those laws are interpreted.
(Published Sept. 4, 2016 in The Aspen Times at http://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/23688602-113/beaton-we-need-a-weak-president-and-well)