Cult of the Presidency
George Will decries the romanticization of the presidency.
Barack Obama recently said, “I believe in our ability to perfect this nation.” Clearly there is something the candidate of “change” will not change—the pattern of extravagant presidential rhetoric. Obama is trying to replace a president who vowed to “rid the world of evil”—and of tyranny, too.
If you can name it, presidents are responsible for it. The name for this is infantilization. “The average American,” said President Richard Nixon, “is just like the child in the family—you give him some responsibility and he is going to amount to something.” Vice President Al Gore said the government should act like “grandparents in the sense that grandparents perform a nurturing role.”
Such demented talk encourages presidential candidates to make delusional promises—energy independence in eight years (Mike Huckabee), “an excellent teacher in every classroom” and “every school an outstanding school” (John Edwards, who presumably knows how every school can stand out when all are outstanding), a “perfect” nation (see above) and so on.
The last presidential candidate to talk sense about the office was fictional. In an episode of NBC’s “The West Wing,” the Republican candidate, who was not the hero, was asked, “How many jobs will you create?” “None,” he replied, adding: “Entrepreneurs create jobs. Business creates jobs. The president’s job is to get out of the way.”
John McCain said something similar while campaigning in Michigan. He lost. We reward candidates who promise pie in the sky, not those who tell us that we’re responsible for our own lives.
Many more examples of the phenomenon at the link and, presumably, Gene Healy’s new book The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power, which inspired Will’s column.
via Radley Balko