A distinguished columnist, editor and foreign correspondent, Wes Pruden has been a leading voice of conservative thought for more than three decades.
A president best suited for ceremony
Sometimes we can steal a good idea even from the Europeans. What we need, which many other countries already have, is a ceremonial president. He could make speeches and lay wreaths and attend funerals, leaving a real president to attend the important stuff, like making war, a budget and dealing with crises.
Barack Obama would make a perfect ceremonial president. He reads a teleprompter well, gives good speech in the style of an eloquent preacher, entertains championship basketball teams and can even draw up a respectable bracket for the national college basketball tournament. A ceremonial president would never arouse anger beyond the Beltway or stir up the ticks, ants and chiggers in the grass roots. Almost anyone can learn to lay a wreath, and a ceremonial president would even have time to shoot a few hoops. A ceremonial president might occasionally bump into the vice president, but they could learn to split their duties and stay civil with each other.
There's a similarity between a ceremonial president and a community activist; neither is responsible for very much beyond saying pretty things. The ceremonial president could even have his own airplane; maybe not a Boeing 747, but something about the size and speed of a DC-3. Mr. Obama would no doubt prefer to have a something built in Europe, but hundreds of Douglas DC-3s survived World War II and, unlike the economy, they're slow and hard to crash. We would want him to feel safe and comfortable on his way to cut the ribbon at the opening of a sauna in Stockholm or making the keynote address at the dedication of that monstrous Saudi Arabian mosque to be built at ground zero in Lower Manhattan.
Mr. Obama gets into trouble only when he has to do a real president's stuff, beginning with understanding the difference between a friend and an enemy. He told our English cousins to buzz off and take the special relationship and that bust of Winston Churchill with them, and tried to trade the trust of our only authentic ally in the Middle East for the "good will" of the Islamists who vow to kill us.
When insensate spending only worsens the economic panic, he orders more spending. When Arizona does what the federal government should do but won't do to protect the national border, he invites the president of Mexico to lecture us from the White House about our responsibility to make room for more Mexicans. When an oil well blows out beneath the sea, and the driller is trying everything it can think of to fix it, his solution is to blame George W. Bush and raise taxes on the oil company; maybe that will fix it. He employed his ultimate solution Thursday, bringing out his teleprompter to make another speech.
"Those who think that we were either slow in our response or lacked urgency don't know the facts," the president told reporters Thursday at his first full-scale press conference in a year. "This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred."
But not so high that he has paid enough attention to it to satisfy his angry critics, who include growing numbers of Democrats. James Carville, the ragin' Cajun who is the yellowest of the yellow-dog Democrat, goes into spasms of rage when he talks about the president's response to the oil spill. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, one of the most doggedly loyal of the diminishing number of Southern Democrats in the Senate, sounds close to giving up on her man. "The president has not been as visible as he should have been on this, and he's going to pay a political price for it. Unfortunately."
The president's day could have used a little soothing ceremony, and a little less real world. "The federal government is fully engaged, and I'm fully engaged," he said. This only recalled wistful presidential pronouncements of the past, such as Richard Nixon's assurance that "I am not a crook," and Bill Clinton's assertion that in the wash of the Lewinsky scandal he was still "relevant." Foolish presidents sometimes answer questions that, with an excess of good manners, no one has yet asked. Mr. Obama was polite enough to remind everyone that the Redneck Riviera, as the natives of "the Guff Coast" sometimes call it, is still safe for tourists, even if the pelicans are looking to get out of Dodge. The Gulf state governors - of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, and elected Republicans all - have asked him "to remind everybody" that the beaches are open. It was just the kind of bipartisan announcement that a ceremonial president could do better than anyone.
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How Wes saw things on May. 24, 2012
A liberal mistrusts lessons bought with experience. For him, theory is all. He's the only man who would sit down on a red-hot stove twice. That makes well-meaning Democrats marks for shysters selling health-care "reform," global warming and appeasement of radical Islamists.
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