Friday, April 6, 2012

The Bully Pulpit

In America's system of separated powers, the executive power is more limited that in most systems. The President cannot, for example, propose a budget. (In the parliamentary model, the government generally proposes budgets which are then debated and usually passed by the legislature. It's usually a smooth process because the government is usually the party of the majority. Not so in America, where we often find the executive and legislative branches controlled by different parties.)

However, one great advantage of the Presidency is the so-called "bully pulpit", a term coined by Teddy Roosevelt, who meant "bully" in the sense of "great" or "terrific". My generation might called it an "awesome platform", a great place from which to advocate for an agenda or position.

President Obama seems to have taken "bully" to mean something else: to harass or coerce. His preemptive attack on the Supreme Court over Florida v. HHS cannot possibly have any populist effect: the legislative work, after all, is done. The only effect it can possibly have is to try to cow the Supreme Court justices to decide in favor of the government. That is the other form of bullying.

Whether he'll get away with it is another matter. I would hope not. Everyone expects the case to be decided 5-4, with Justice Kennedy, as usual, the swing vote.

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