July 15, 2014

President Joe Biden? Hmmmm…

Sarah Palin’s call for the impeachment of President Obama makes no sense. What does the lady want – a national street fight? But a fetching question arises from her enterprise: Could we live for two years under a President Joe Biden? Would it be worse than now? Maybe not. It has come to this, in the second year of the second term of Barack Obama. Our present chief executive makes Joe Biden look good – a prospect that once seemed as unlikely as a free Clinton speech. Joe Biden, without a fresh political perspective to his name – but with a head of nicely transplanted hair and a mouthful of nicely capped teeth – might lead the country more intelligently than …

Sarah Palin’s call for the impeachment of President Obama makes no sense. What does the lady want – a national street fight? But a fetching question arises from her enterprise: Could we live for two years under a President Joe Biden? Would it be worse than now? Maybe not.

It has come to this, in the second year of the second term of Barack Obama. Our present chief executive makes Joe Biden look good – a prospect that once seemed as unlikely as a free Clinton speech. Joe Biden, without a fresh political perspective to his name – but with a head of nicely transplanted hair and a mouthful of nicely capped teeth – might lead the country more intelligently than …

Wait! That assumes someone is leading it now, which, if it happens to be so, surely looks otherwise.

According to Ms. Palin, “If Congress refuses to use the power the Constitution gives it (to impeach and try a president), Barack Obama will continue to rule however he wants.” The unproven assumption is that he “rules” right now – a proposition distinct from his increasingly frequent use of executive privilege to alter acts of Congress. In fact, it’s becoming hard to tell whether we still have a president. We have in the White House a pool player, a jokester, a golfer, a fist-bumper, a line-crasher at Franklin’s barbecue joint in Austin. We have a fluent dispenser of wisecracks – “So sue me,” etc. – and insults. What we seem not to have is a president who has, first, graspable policies, domestic and foreign, and, second, the will and wiliness to implement them.

One isn’t altogether sure – and it’s a horrendous confession – that Joe Biden couldn’t do better. At the very least he might be paying attention to the partial collapse of American policy at our southern border and in the Middle East. You kind of took for granted in older times a kind of maturity at the Oval Office level of affairs. Obama’s demonstrated callowness as threats pop up everywhere suggests that not only was he unready for prime time in 2008 but that he doesn’t understand the job. He really seems not to know what is expected of a Chief Magistrate, as Alexander Hamilton, in the Federalist Papers, called the occupant of the office.

Obama’s capers bring into focus other sensations and understandings besides Biden-philia. One is the gravity of the whole political enterprise – a point hard to discern in an age that views politics as TV entertainment or a means of personal gain. Politics harms or helps, one or the other: better the first than the second, clearly. In any case it’s no charade, no fist-bump.

Consider, additionally, that the preference for small and sensible, rather than big and meddlesome, government can lead to denigration of the whole idea that there needs to be government. There needs to be – that’s as plain as day, even in the age of Obamacare. Thus government has to be good.

Under this heading, Hamilton, in Federalist No. 70, had a word for the 44th president: “A feeble executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in practice, a bad government.” Bad and costly and dangerous, one could add, these two and a quarter centuries later.

It’s no late-night laugh line, in other words, no Bill O'Reilly or Rosie O'Donnell glibbery, when the president can’t seem to get his act together – and when thoughts of “Hail to the Chief,” played for Joe Biden, lighten the heart immeasurably.

The founding fathers, wise men as they were, schooled in every virtue, gave to the future the best form of government they could devise. There was no more they could do. Everything from that point depended on people yet unborn, and on the choices those people would make. That’s where we seem to be now as a nation – reassessing some of those choices, and chewing our nails a bit as we do so.

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