I was wrong. It turns out that National Journal editorial director Ron Fournier wasn’t out sick the day his eighth-grade civics class learned about the separation of powers between the three branches of the federal government, after all. He was present and learned about it. But he missed a class a few weeks later explaining that the president lacks the authority to order a military invasion of the House of Representatives and sequestration–the literal kind, not the budgetary kind.
I know, I know; the president is the commander in chief. But it’s Congress that must formally declare war, and Congress probably wouldn’t declare war on itself. One house might declare war on the other, but that wouldn’t meet the Constitution’s requirement that both houses vote to declare war on the same target.
There is, of course, the option of CIA renditions. Which, after reading Fournier’s new blog post [h/t Greg Sargent] responding to the critics of a blog post in which he blamed Obama for the sequester because in “any enterprise, the chief executive is ultimately accountable for success and failure”–any enterprise, even one in which the chief executive isn’t actually the chief executive, but instead is the chief of the executive branch–I’m presuming is what Fournier has in mind.
Originally, I’d thought he meant that he wanted Obama to simply capitulate to the House Republicans and let them gut discretionary spending, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. In other words, delegate federal fiscal policy to the Tea Party. Others thought that, too, among them an unidentified senior White House official, who wrote to Fournier to complain. But Fournier says he doesn’t understand what he calls this defensive reaction.* He quotes part of the defensive reaction:
“Your point … in this piece and in a bunch of others in between seems to be that, because he’s president, Obama is obligated to do all the compromising himself,” wrote a senior White House official, whom I agreed not to identify. “Essentially what you’re saying is that he should respond to the GOP’s absolute refusal to compromise by giving in to them entirely.”
But Fournier says the White House official misunderstood him. Fournier explains:
Actually, that’s not what I’m saying. Ignore the straw man. My point is this: Unlike presidential aides and liberal allies, I don’t think the president is politically impotent. I think he has the personal skills and power to lead, to fix this crazy mess.
It would require compromise, something the president has expressed a willingness to do. True problem-solving leadership also would require making tough choices that would anger his liberal base far more than the president is doing now; imposing sacrifice on all voters, including the middle class; and risking his high approval ratings. And, yes, he can’t do it without Republicans.
Actually, though, the White House official’s description was exactly what Fournier was saying, Because although Fournier wants the president to act like a CEO, he knows that in this particular enterprise there is no CEO, and one branch of the enterprise is controlled by the Tea Party.
Fournier titles his new post, “Why You Don’t Want Me to Be President.” The answer to that question is that he has no idea how the president could get the House to compromise. But Fournier reminds that, unlike Obama, he didn’t run for president in 2008 promising to lead. And Fournier says he wants the president to lead.
Except that actually he makes clear that what he wants the president to do is follow.
The subtitle of his post is “The White House is waving the white flag on working with a hardheaded GOP.” It should read “The White House should wave the white flag on working with a hardheaded GOP.” That would be an accurate description of the contents of the post.
*This post is an edited version of one I posted at about 6 p.m. on Friday. The asterisked sentence is one of three that I edited. I’ve also added the final two sentences. The post is a followup to a post from earlier Friday. I’ve also created an additional label: mainstream-journalism gimmickry. I’ve left the original rather than delete it, because of the comments posted to that post.