Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Obama is the perfect president, so don't let him do much.

My reach is global
My tower secure
My cause is noble
My power is pure
I can hand out a million vaccinations
Or let them all die from exasperation
Have them all healed from their lacerations
Or have them all killed by assassination

I try to avoid discussing President Obama for a few reasons, mostly because the conversation usually misses the point.  On TV you'll see lunatics on the right who claim that he's purposefully trying to destroy the country so he and the lefties can rebuild it in their image.  You'll also see lunatics on the left claim that he's the smartest and greatest person to ever hold elected office and we need to let him do whatever he can to fix the terrible mess he inherited.  He understands the issues better than anyone and, given that, he should have carte blanche to do whatever is necessary to fix the problems.  This post will mostly address the people who support Obama and his policies, and I'll attempt to explain why even his strongest supporters shouldn't support many of his decisions, even if they're the right ones.

For the sake of argument, I'm going to have to make a few assumptions, many of which aren't even too far off from how I really feel about the guy.  Since I'm addressing the Obama supporters, I'll have the assumptions cater to their arguments and views, and take them to the extreme to make my point.  Let's assume that he is the smartest person in any room he enters.  Let's assume that he has a greater understanding of the issues than anyone else and he is 100% right on everything.  Let's assume that he has the country's best interest in mind and will not ever be corrupted in any way.  And let's even go so far as to assume that every decision that he makes is perfect in every way and ushers in a new, unprecedented era of prosperity for not only the country but every single individual.  Everything he does and every law he passes is perfect, great and pure in every way.  The Health Care Law is the perfect law to fix the problems in the industry.  The war in Afghanistan is being waged in the perfect way, killing only those people we want to kill without harming innocent civilians or disrupting their society in any negative way.  The trillions spent on stimulus and bailouts work exactly the way they should and we see economic growth like we've never seen before, leaving nobody behind and benefiting all.  Essentially he is a perfect, magnanimous, benevolent and wise leader, like Bill Pullman in Independence Day, only better.  Let's start from there.

So what should we do, given the assumptions that I laid out above?  The easy answer would be to step back and let him work his magic.  Let him make the tough decisions and give him whatever he needs in order to follow through with them.  Whatever changes he wants to make to health care, we should support him.  Any amount of money he wants to spend to improve the economy, we should support him.  After all, any decision he makes is going to have amazing results and we won't have to give up any freedoms to accomplish them.  What would be the result of this course of action?  Well, given the assumptions that I made, we would certainly find ourselves living in a Utopian society in a very short period of time, and supporting Obama in all of his endeavors would certainly lead to great and amazing results.  

There's only one problem with doing that though.  At some point President Obama will leave office.  Even if he is so wonderful that we let him be our president for life and an entire generation grows up in a perfect society with a perfect leader, at some point he will die.*  And when he is no longer the president, we will have to elect a new one.  That new president will suddenly have all the power and authority that we gave to Obama, and the chances are pretty good that the new president won't be able to manage all that power in such a great way.

You see, the power of the Presidency sticks around much longer than any one president, so when we give any power to an elected official, we're also giving that power to everyone else who holds the office in the future.  This is something we all know, but tend to forget when it's "our guy" in charge.  When we gave President Bush the power to wire tap our phones to keep us safe, we also gave that power to future presidents who might not use the power so sparingly.  When we gave President Obama the power to overhaul the health care industry to keep us healthy, we also gave that power to future presidents, some of whom might not have our best health in mind.  When we gave Obama the power to spend trillions of our dollars to stimulate the economy and bailout corporations, even if it was the perfect solution to a terrible problem and everything works out wonderfully, we gave that same power to everyone else that comes after him.  And there's a chance that the next guy won't use that power and spend that money in such a perfect way. 

If you're reading this and trying to either defend or indict his policies that I meantioned, then you're missing the point.  This has nothing to do with Obama or his policies.  It has everything to do with the power he has.  Even if his policies are the perfect policies, we still shouldn't support him if those policies allow the president to have any power over the individual citizens.  If you love the man and think his policies are great, that's awesome and I'm glad you got the perfect president.  Just remember that the next guy probably won't be as perfect and you might wish the president didn't have so much power.  If you don't agree with what he's done and want to "take back Washington", remember this.  Because eventually your guy will get into office and he'll probably use the power to shuffle trillions of dollars, but in the way he wants to, and fight wars without approval from congress, but the ones that he wants to fight.  And it'll all be done because at some point we gave someone else the power to do that because we liked the way he used the power.

Just because someone is using their power in a way that you agree with doesn't mean the person should have that power.  In fact, it's even more important to deny a president more power when we approve of his policies because it's very likely that we won't object to a whole lot and we'll allow him a lot more power.  Hopefully all the people who support Obama think of this when discussing how good of a job he did at overhauling the health care industry, or stimulating the economy, or fighting pseudo-wars, or fixing the car industry, or stabilizing the housing market, or anything else that he did or does.  We shouldn't be asking if these policies are going to deliver good or bad results, we should be asking if we want to give so much power to a small number of people.  Because even if everything works out and the country is better because of these policies, it's still dangerous to give the president enough power to overhaul huge industries, distribute trillions of borrowed dollars however he sees fit, wage war without approval from congress and influence the price of homes.  Once we give that power away, it's nearly impossible to get it back and one day we might wake up and realize that we gave too much power to too few people.

I used the word "power" about 13,000 times and I just wanted to make the point that when someone has the ability to enact sweeping policy changes that are good, they also have the ability to enact sweeping policy changes that are bad.  And the best defense against this catch 22 is to not give our leaders that ability in the first place.  Keep the government as small as possible and leave the power with the millions of individual citizens, not whoever gets elected to office.  If we don't follow that one simple rule, one day we might have a president with so much power that he resembles Old Spice Odor Blocker Body Wash.  Then again, maybe that wouldn't be so bad either.

*I better clarify for the CIA, FBI, Secret Service and/or Fargo Police that might end up reading this.  I only mean to imply that he is a mortal human and because of that he will die at some point.  In no way should this line of reasoning be interpreted as a threat against President Obama or a suggestion to a lunatic.**

**Are there any lawyers out there who can let me know if I'm covering my bases here?  I don't want to go to jail over this.  And yes, I'm putting a footnote in a footnote.  Why would I do such a thing?  Because I can! I've gone mad with power!