America needs a lazy president. No, I’m not being sarcastic; listen for a bit. The dictatorial creep is due to the office of the presidency being way too strong. I partly blame the direct election of senators, which cut state governments off from the national government, neutering the state governments in the federal realm. But that’s a discussion for a different day. I believe that America needs a weak president, to allow the state governments and Congress to regain their backbones.
Immediately, people will bring up George Bush Jr. He was constantly on vacation, isn’t that a sign of laziness? No, the Decider isn’t lazy in action, just in intellection. Look no further than No Child Left Behind. Bush is full of bad ideas, which are suger-coated with good intention. Intellectually incurious, yes? Lazy? He managed to get us into Iraq, didn’t he?
Now, Mr. Thompson has one great advantage over Mr. Bush: His ardent belief in federalism. He truly believes that the federal government should not interfere on some issues; he would leave many decisions to state governments. Unlike most politicians, there is actually evidence that Mr. Thompson is doing more than paying lip service. He was at the short end of a few 99-1 votes in the Senate, on grounds of federalism. Now that’s conviction. Under Fred Thompson, we’ll never get anything like No Child Left Behind — a blatant recantation of conservatism.
The guard against the corruption of power is Fred’s laziness. He won’t have the ambition to betray his principles. He won’t have the fire to fight those battles. With the veto pen in Fred’s hand, power will devolve to the states.
Considering the amazing leadership we’ve seen from states on such issues of health care and climate disruption, this would be a victory for anyone who cares about these issues. I’m particular proud of the leadership my governor, Mr. Schwarzenegger, has shown on encouraging new energy. Of course, the liberals will object that we need national leadership to get anywhere. I strongly disagree. I believe we will get better results by creating a battleground of ideas, where states can experiment, rather than imposition from above. The issues of the 21st century are sufficiently complicated that this experimentation is actually necessary to find solutions.
So, a Thompson presidency will empower the states, but what about Congress? If Mr. Thompson truly is as lazy as legend, then Congress might actually win a battle against the president. That will surely embolden this embattled institution, if nothing else will. They may finally get a backbone and pushback against recent excesses of the office of the presidency. Moreover, judging from Thompson’s respect for federalism, I think he also has a better respect for the constitution. He may step aside himself, and allow Congress to strip the presidency of powers it shouldn’t have in the first place. Congress’s ambition will counteract a lack of ambition.
What about world affairs? Surely, a weak presidency will weaken America’s role in world affairs. First off, this is not necessarily so, if Congress steps up. Secondly, is there anyone, besides the most deluded neocon-man, that what the world needs is more American intervention? Perhaps the world needs the hyperpower to step back for 4 years. America’s contribution to the threat of various Islamic radicalisms has been primarily military. It has also primarily backfired. Maybe we can listen a bit more to Europe — after all, they were right about Iraq. We need new international laws to deal with terrorists, and I don’t see that coming from America, but maybe it can come from Europe.
After the blunders of Bush and the tragedy of 9/11, I can sense that many Americans desire a strong president. Why else would Rudy be so popular? Yet maybe we should consider an anti-demagogue: the lazy candidate. Maybe we should be looking for a weak president, not a strong president. Remember, because of our separated government, a weak president does not mean a weak America. It means a strong Congress and strong states. I just might vote for Fred Thompson for this reason.
Addendum: But can Fred Thompson win? Yes. He said he’s going to run an unorthodox campaign, which means a lazy campaign, essentially. Here’s a lesson from history: William Bryan, one of the most talented orators in American history, ran around America delivering his cross of gold speech, electrifying audiences. Mark Hanna, campaign manager for William McKinley (and idol of Karl Rove), ran a front porch campaign, raising vast amounts of money from businessmen. McKinley won. If Fred Thompson gets the right people to work for him, perhaps he can pull off the internet equivalent of a successful front porch campaign.