- Boycott the Knights of Columbus
- A wedding sermon.
- An open letter to my parish community.
- Why was a college student in the car of drunken Archbishop-elect Cordileone at 12:26 AM, when Cordileone was arrested for a DUI?
- When the Church married Same-Sex couples.
- How It All began
- The Supreme Court’s Decisions and the New Mason-Dixon Line
- What the Vatican & American bishops DO NOT want you (and Politicians) to know.
- The Morality of Sex, gay & straight.
- San Francisco in archbishop Cordileone’s sight
Thursday, April 7, 2011
God Save the President?
The British system of government distinguishes between a Head of State and a Head of Government. The Queen is the Head of State and as such, she presides at State banquets, receives foreign dignitaries, and officiates at ribbon cutting ceremonies, generally smiles, and waves at the masses. The Prime Minister is the Head of Government and as such sets budget priorities, decides foreign policy, directs the Armed Forces and leads Great Britain on a practical level. The Prime Minister has to role his/her sleeves up and does the dirty work of politics, the dirty work of governing. Unlike the Queen, who is above all that and simply presides graciously and serenely as a paternal/neutral mascot.
In the United States of America, the President is BOTH the Head of State and the Head of Government, at least until Barack Obama assumed the office of President. Take the current budget crisis that threatens to shut down the federal government for example. Democrats on Capitol Hill are frustrated that the President only became directly involved in budget negotiations this week. Democratic members of Congress feel that he needed to be in the fight a few weeks ago.
All of this is déjà vu with Obama; remember the Health Care Public Option fight? In his State of the Union address before both houses of Congress, Obama gave away “Single Payor” even before the battle for Universal Health Care began. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to do the dirty and hard work of governing, i.e. pushing the legislation forward. Only at the last-minute after the idea of a Public Option had been scraped and even modest Health Insurance Reform seemed doomed, did Obama deign to become directly involved and get his hands dirty.
The same can be said of DADT, ENDA and now DOMA. ENDA could have been passed and become the law of the land by the 111th Congress, if Obama had pushed for it. DADT could have been repealed last summer, if Obama had pushed for it. Instead, his subordinate, Secretary of Defense Gates argued before the Senate Armed Services Committee to postpone repeal until another redundant report on repeal was issued on 1 December 2010. Conveniently, that report would come out one month after Mid-Term Elections in November. DOMA was declared unconstitutional by Judge Virginia Phillips, yet Obama (until very recently) directed his subordinates at the Department of Justice to fight to defend DOMA in the courts. Obama would prefer to appear for a cameo shot at a signing ceremony after all the “politicians” have hammered out a “done deal,” a deal that is politically popular in the polls and “safe.”
Compare/contrast with how Republicans govern when they control the Presidency, e.g. “W” and the invasion of Iraq, Gitmo, the Patriot Act, etc. After his Election in 2004 “W” famously said, “I have political capital and I intend to use it.” Obama prefers to remain serenely above it all, the great reasonable compromiser who will listen to both sides and negotiate a “reasonable settlement” acceptable to both parties.
Obama is, like Queen Elizabeth II, an outstanding Head of State. He delivers inspirational and moving speeches. He possesses a commanding public presence that projects confidence, strength and poise. He, like a young Elizabeth II, is attractive and, like the present day Elizabeth II, is dignified. Like the Queen, Obama fills the room and fills hearts with hope in the face of adversity.
The problem for both Obama and for the Americans that voted for him is that in the United States, being the Head of State is only half the job. On a practical level, it seems that in the 2012 Election Americans will have a choice between a Centrist Republican and a Right-wing Republican for President. Now, who benefits from such a voter choice?
The real winners, yet again, will be the Corporations that fund (bribe) politicians. These Corporations view social issues as an entertaining distraction meant to draw voter attention away from the need for an effective energy policy, finance reform, universal health care and a foreign/military policy that represents the interests of the American people and not of Multi-national Corporations.