Sunday, November 14, 2004

Presidential mandate?

Posted by Craig Westover | 2:07 PM |  

Next to the question of secession, the most ridiculous debate stemming from the presidential election is the question of whether or not President Bush has a mandate -- as if an answer to that question somehow makes any difference.

“Question of presidential mandate looms” is the headline of a page-one Pioneer Press article today. “How much latitude does Bush have with 51% of vote? reads the subhead (not available on line). Nonsense both.

The article, over 40 column inches, examines those two questions quoting from Vice-President Cheney to Kerry supporter Dorie Vazquez-Nolan of Macomb, Mich. with equal gravitas. It cites election percentage wins and what presidents did or did not accomplish with them. It parses the word “mandate.” It deconstructs the election into issues to determine if the president has a mandate here, but not there. Irrelevant.

If you read this article, my advice is jump right to the last two paragraphs. Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff Leon Panetta gets it right.

“There’s always a mandate to govern, no matter how much you win by. But if someone says they have a mandate to implement party ideology, that’s a different question. . . . Power produces arrogance. The more power you think you’ve got, the more arrogant you become. The public can always turn on you. It’s smart to understand that there is a short leash here.”
In short, we elect a president, not a king. The president has one purpose -- “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That, and that alone is his mandate. That should be our guide in judging presidential initiatives.