Tuesday, February 16, 2016

President as Nanny

We are supposed to be electing a President (Chief Executive, Commander0in-chief, Leader of the Free World, etc.), but if one listens to the Republicans debate one would think we are electing a Nanny. Parents (those few who can afford to) hire a nanny to care for their children - to keep them safe. But, Republican rhetoric notwithstanding, we do not elect a President to "keep us safe." We elect Presidents to do all sorts of things - to "take care that the Laws be faithfully executed," etc. We elect Presidents to advance our national interests in the world, maintaining the peace if at all possible, defeating our enemies when and if necessary. All of that involves risk - sometimes enormous risk. Safety is, at best, a beneficial by-product of prudent politics and strategy.

But we live in a world where we want to be safe. Te kind of freedom to play and to explore which my generation enjoyed as children is now an historical memory (or, rather, forgotten history). Whether that makes for better adults will likewise be determined by history. The same mentality - taken to a previously unimaginable extreme - accounts for the nonsense on so many of our college and university campuses, where students (by definition one of the most privileged groups in our society) protest against feeling threatened if they hear something they disagree with, something that threatens their excessively narrow, pre-packaged world view and seek "safe spaces" to protect themselves from the real world we have conditioned them to be so afraid of.

So it may be no surprise that some interpret a President's job as to "keep us safe."

But it isn't.

A President's job is to lead the country, to challenge us as citizens and our representatives to address the problems the threaten and befuddle us. ("He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.") In the world beyond our borders, it is his job to use American power to promote our interests and preserve the peace, and (when that fails) to defeat our enemies. None of this happens automatically.None of this can happen without risk or danger. 

A mature country, a mature electorate, should speak with a mature voice, using mature language, when debating what we want in a President.

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