Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Presidents Govern As They Campaigned

For the most part, presidential candidates will govern the way they campaigned, or as they said they would while campaigning. It's true that many politicians are duplicitous liars who will say anything it takes to get elected. But they do so equally while campaigning and governing, and the President is too visible to change on too much.

There are exceptions, and most politicians break a campaign promise or two, or fail to follow through on their promises, once elected. But few do a dramatic turnaround.

Consider all of the Presidents in the multimedia era, since 1960.

John Kennedy campaigned as a social liberal who was hawkish enough on defense, and in his brief time in office that's how he presided.

I'm not actually that familiar with the Johnson campaign in '64, but I know he contrasted himself with the conservative Goldwater, and as Presidents go he was quite liberal.

Nixon, though he came to prominence as a commie-fighter, campaigned and governed from the middle, with realist foreign policy and activist economics.

Gerald Ford campaigned the way he governed, though we'll never know how he would have changed as an elected President.

Jimmy Carter governed as a witless smile, as we should have expected.

Ronald Reagan governed exactly as he campaigned, by confronting liberalism in all its ignominy.

President G H W Bush campaigned as a caretaker, promising "Read my lips: No New Taxes!". In office he caretook and compromised his way to a huge tax increase, which resulted in fertile economic ground for a Ross Perot candidacy and a Clinton victory.

Bill Clinton was the same guy on the campaign trail in 1992 that we saw in office, and indeed that we see on the campaign trail in 2008.

George W Bush campaigned on "compassionate conservatism", promising education reform and free prescription drugs. While 9/11 took him away from his isolationist foreign policy leanings, he was the same guy all along. And I must note here: the President campaigned as a uniter, who would reach across party lines and not be divisive. That's how he was in office, but he got steamrolled by the unhinged left.

Which brings us to John McCain and Barack Obama.

McCain is campaigning as a centrist. He is a social and fiscal conservative and a war hawk, but with a natural tendency toward bipartisan cooperation. Democrats paint him as Bush's Third Term without noting that habit of compromise, because they also ignore Bush's similar trait. And yet, to the public who know of McCain, it is as a centrist maverick.

McCain will not turn from his bipartisan leanings. As President he will govern from the middle.

Barack Obama has a tendency to make absurd statements and then have to backtrack from them, or to make reasonable, centrist ones and be forced to nuance them into far left ones. He is constantly Changing his wide stances, shifting positions, and Hoping no one notices. He says that to heal the national division on race, all that's needed is to vote for him. As President he would argue for his proposals in the same way, implying or explicitly saying that those who are against him are against racial reconciliation. And he would lose a member of his staff every time he made a gaffe, which during the campaign has occurred several times a week.

Because people don't change that much.

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1 comment:

David M said...

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