Monday, October 17, 2011

Presidential Duties

Daniel Larsion provides yet another example of how the definition of "gotcha question" has been expanded by the political right to mean, "Any question, no matter how relevant to my job if elected, to which I don't know the answer." Herman Cain protests,
I’m ready for the ‘gotcha’ questions and they’re already starting to come. And when they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I’m going to say, you know, I don’t know. Do you know?

And then I’m going to say how’s that going to create one job?
Larison comments,
What I find interesting about this statement is that it puts a lower priority on one of the main things for which the President is actually constitutionally responsible (formulating and executing foreign policy) than it does on something that he can at best indirectly affect through preferences on fiscal policy and regulation (“creating” jobs).
It's also worth revisiting history, in which candidate George W. Bush proved himself pretty much clueless about foreign policy.
"The new Pakistani general, he's just been elected - not elected, this guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country and I think that's good news for the sub-continent," the Republican candidate offered.

Good news, but not an answer, and the interviewer insisted: "Can you name him?"

"General. I can't name the general. General" was all Mr Bush had to offer.
You don't need to know much about foreign policy to be a governor. You don't need to know much about foreign policy to run a pizza company. But if you are the President and have little interest in or aptitude for world affairs and foreign policy, even if you promise to surround yourself with experts, the result can be disaster. Bush seemed to compound the problem by surrounding himself with, then relying upon, self-professed experts who knew little if anything more than he did.

This problem is not unique to foreign policy. No President can be an expert on everything, and every President needs to have people who can fill in the gaps. Bush made poor choices for his foreign policy team that contributed to serious, costly foreign policy blunders and misguided wars of choice. President Obama made poor choices for his economic recovery team and, whether or not he could have passed a more aggressive agenda, championed economic policies that proved inadequate or fundamentally flawed. But when a candidate wears his ignorance as a badge of honor and is not laughed off of the stage, it says really bad things about his party and his supporters.

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