Not Elected? Big Deal

March 21st, 2012

Inspired by Chuck Todd’s discussion with Dee Dee Myers about Michelle Obama’s influence, and the Rabid Right’s attacks on Ms. Obama (see e.g. Michelle Obama’s unelected power grab by  Laura Ingraham).

 

“We are proud of you, but we don’t want you to be a huge player where you are not elected.” – Dee Dee Myers about Michele Obama

 

Republicans don’t like Michelle Obama’s influence

Which supposedly the electoral process circumvents.

 

The problem is not with Michelle or any other “unelected” advisor.

If there were a problem, it would be with their supervisor.

 

The President is the one who ultimately makes the call,

And for bad decisions must take the fall.

 

Being Pres requires leadership and judgment, both of which Obama shows in abundance,

And which aren’t compromised by a strong First Lady, as the Rabid Right hints.

 

It’s bad enough that the Right attacks President Obama as hatefully as they do.

They don’t have to attack the First Lady too.

***

What does it matter if Michelle Obama “influences policy” without being elected? None of the President’s advisors are elected, and most of them aren’t even subject to Senate confirmation. In that regard, the First Lady is like any other person whose advice the President considers. Others can advise, but the decision is ultimately the President’s. That’s how our system has always worked, so what’s the issue with Michelle Obama?

If anything, in a sense, the First Lady is elected. She campaigns with her husband and can be a major asset to his campaign, or a hindrance if she has views deemed controversial or a personality deemed off-putting. So any alleged “danger” of an overly influential First Lady is already discounted by the political process.

With the Obamas, this issue is just a smoke screen for the right’s repeated attacks on Michelle Obama and their dislike for strong, competent women (especially minority women). Does anyone really think that Michelle is really a puppet-master controlling the President behind the scenes, or that she somehow dominates the policy-making process to the exclusion of views that oppose her own? That’s so obviously not the case that the GOP canard of an overly-influential First Lady is clearly due more to dislike of independent working women than to actual policy concerns.

Which brings me to Karl Rove, about whom a much more convincing case for excessive influence can be made. Was he elected? Was he confirmed by the Senate? No, and no, though he was perhaps the most influential presidential staffer ever. But what made Rove’s level of influence dangerous was not the existence of unelected advisors, which every President must have, or even anything about Karl Rove himself (there have been many power-seeking advisors in American history, and will continue to be). The real problem was George Bush’s lack of independent judgment and leadership that allowed Rove and Bush’s other “advisors” that level of control. President Obama, on the other hand, unquestionably has the independent judgment thatAmerica needs in a President.

It’s also important to note that as a gender issue, the “over-influence” issue will become even more of a canard whenAmericafinally elects our first female President (Hillary 2016!). Then, the alleged “problem” will be flipped on its head. Instead of fearing (or pretending to fear) a woman who’s too strong, the fear (or pretended fear) will be that a female President will be too weak and would be “controlled” by the First Husband. That fear (and its pretense) is just as absurd as current criticisms of Michelle Obama.

So please, let’s stop talking about how Michelle Obama influences policy without being elected. That’s ridiculous.America needs a President who listens to advice from all sides, including from his or her spouse, but has the intellect and strength of character to make an independent decision.

President Obama clearly has those qualities. Hillary Clinton and others of both genders and parties have them too. George Bush and Sarah Palin did not, not because they lack moral fiber, but because they lack the intellectual discipline to make considered independent judgments, and acquire the knowledge one needs to do so.

It’s not a gender issue or even a partisan issue, though today’s GOP unfortunately does contain a much higher share of anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-fact ideologues than in the past, which does not bode well for considered independent judgment.

Remember, we vote for President. That’s the way it’s always been, and the way it should be.

So this November, make that vote count.

***

Here’s Dee Dee Myers this morning on the Daily Rundown. Dee Dee, I understand where you’re coming from and know you’re a good Democrat, but I’m afraid that the Rabid Right is going to take what you say as another justification for their double-barreled anti-Obama hate, attacking both President Obama and the First Lady.

Here’s the Obama campaign’s new documentary demonstrating the President’s strength of character and independent judgement. This, America, is what we want in a President.

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