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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Most Important Issue

posted by on April 23 at 16:30 PM

Have you caught the “Audacity of Government” This American Life yet? You should.

Stories of the Bush Administration, its unique style of asserting presidential authority, and its quest to redefine the limits of presidential power.

To my mind, the single most important issue for the 2008 election is the massive increase in both the power and incompetence of the executive branch—under the heinous ideology of the Unitary Executive. The massive power grab by the Bush administration—stealing authority from both the States and the co-branches of government—goes a long way to explain the decline of so many institutions in the United States. Most of the executive branch drones, given this massive authority, have little competence beyond winning College Republican elections.

Hence my desire to have an angry and voracious HRC thrust into a leadership role in the Senate, nipping at the heels of anyone and anything in the executive branch. I was thinking of all this while listening to the election returns last night. I miss the old, wonky HRC—vastly preferable to this pandering, fear spouting politician now winning elections.

Among the fear being spouted against Obama is the central role young voters have played in his successes. “Young voters don’t vote in general elections,” HRC supporters point out, “why not stick with Hillary, whose base are more reliable at the polls?”

True, most young people can’t be trusted to vote. But this thinking misses a key advantage of having an administration led by someone—like Obama—who can really inspire young people, particularly highly educated young people: You get better bureaucrats.

Young college graduates—smart chemists, biologists, physicists, historians, political scientists, linguistic experts—are vastly more likely to consider a career in the government—the EPA, the FDA, the DOE, the State Department, the CIA, the NSA—when inspired by a charismatic and smart leader. Hence the vastly increased competence of young Democratic presidential administrations, like Bill Clinton’s or potentially Barack Obama’s.

So, I hold my (increasingly distant) dream situation alive. An invigorated and aggressive Senate overflowing with excellent policy encoded into legislation, lead for decades by the experienced wonkiness of Hillary Clinton. A competent executive branch, chocked full the best and brightest young minds, led by a charismatic and eloquent president Obama, capable of clearly explaining and executing the brilliant policy flowing from the legislature.


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Yes! Glad you mentioned it, because I thought it was a brilliant edition of This American Life. There were parts that made your blood run a little cold.

Posted by Ashley | April 23, 2008 4:52 PM

Oh, fuck that. All we need is to keep Baby Boomers and senior citizens in the Rust Belt happy! That's the future. No one else is a real American anyway.

Seriously, though ... you're absolutely right. The Democratic party is going to miss out big if it clumsily extends the middle finger to all the so-called "Obamatons". Hillary and her most devout supporters may not particularly give a shit about this right now, but the Democratic leadership ought to be thinking more in the long term.

Posted by tsm | April 23, 2008 4:54 PM

It’s the Unitard Executive in Bush’s case.

That’s a beautiful vision, Jonathan, and I’ve heard that one of the central reasons our government and thus our country is so FUBAR is ‘cause so many people refused to enter government service after they were so repulsed and disgusted by Nixon, Reagan and now Bush II.

Our nation cries out for legislative reform, but there’s one itsy-bitsy problem:

As an institution, Congress died over a decade ago.

Total flatline.

Now we’re dealing with the reeking undead corpse of Zombie Congress, which operates solely as the reanimated puppets in charge of subverting our nation’s laws and performing the rubber-stamping duties ordered by their masters in the privileged Overclass. Many a night passes when one hears the chilling screams of "brains... we need brains" erupting out of the Capitol.

The only legal solution is publicly financed elections to get those ghouls out of there, but—wait stop laughing—we know that’ll never happen.

Stakes and guillotines, anyone?

Posted by Original Andrew | April 23, 2008 4:58 PM

I'm a big TAL fan, but The Audacity of Government was particularly good. I highly recommend.

Posted by Irena | April 23, 2008 5:24 PM

The "old, wonky Hillary" is the same one that voted for the Iraq War and against banning the use of clusterbombs in civilian-populated areas. She's arguably doing less damage as an admittedly lying, pandering candidate than as a Senator.

Posted by Bob | April 23, 2008 6:14 PM

i've gotta agree with @5...

an angry, voracious HRC?

Posted by brett | April 23, 2008 6:58 PM

HRC's already a Senator. What's stopping her right now?

I don't have any links for you to prove it, but I'm pretty sure a whole lot of HRC's hawkishness on Iraq is attributable to her belief in the broad powers of the President. I know WJC was pretty supportive of GWB's Iraq policy on that basis. That's what eight years in the White House will do. Also, her campaign has shown HRC is comfortable with the might-makes-right view of the world.

So I think your hope is misguided.

Depending on how much deep Obama's reverence for Lincoln (the last Whig President, really) is, he just might be the best guy to bring back a restrained executive branch.

Posted by Chris | April 23, 2008 7:14 PM

No dispute with the basics of the story, but TAL managed to incorrectly state the title of the judge, and at least one of the other officials in the story. Can't TAL afford a fact checker?

Posted by falco | April 23, 2008 7:27 PM

I'm sorry to see the dream dieing

looks like four more year and an end of hope of redemption for america

it's not hilarys fault,not the dnc, not the repubs
it's the american people's
and the american people elect the leaders they deserve

Posted by linus | April 23, 2008 8:17 PM

Eli --

I will be first in line to apply for a DOJ job or a State Dept. job under an Obama admin. That would get me deeply psyched.

Posted by young grad student | April 23, 2008 9:57 PM

@9 -

Please include me out of your blame-the-American people theory. You see, I myself am a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. I have a right to be here.

On the day that I was born the angels got together and decided to create a dream come true. And that dream can't be dying, it just can't...

Posted by Smarm | April 23, 2008 11:36 PM

Yeah, "The Audacity of Government" was excellent.

Posted by violet_dagrinder | April 24, 2008 5:57 AM

The second act about the widows getting deported was fucking heart breaking and infuriating.

Posted by ray | April 24, 2008 8:53 AM

I'm with @5. I don't understand this angry indiffference to the fact that HRC is selling out anyone and anything, including her own party and the primary process, to get herself to office. Explain to me how that's fundamentally different than the current administration who has basically been running a campaign (rather than the country) for the last 7 1/2 years. Pandering to special interests (particularly the military industrial complex) has gotten us to brink of a depression, and the person to get us out will sacrifice her principles for her own interests? I cannot understand why anyone who is hoping for change is not supporting Obama, particularly after the last six weeks of HRC's campaign. I'd really like to see an explanation that doesn't devolve into 'she's being attacked because she's a woman.'

Posted by left coast | April 24, 2008 9:19 AM

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