Ed Driscoll

The WaPo Revisits Carter Country, Significant Shrinkage Occurs

Poor Barack Obama — his stock just keeps falling at the Washington Post. In 2008, the late Deborah Howell, then their ombudswoman, admitted at the end of the election year that she and her paper was deeply in the tank for Obama. In early 2009, the cover of Newsweek, back before the Post sold it for a buck, was triumphantly claiming “We Are All Socialists Now.” By 2011, liberal journalists at the Post were writing off the president as first a “moderate Republican,” and then “the conservative in 2012.”

You can track the first three years of Obama’s ever-shrinking stature at the Post in an item I wrote in late 2011.

Yesterday, Obama’s next moment of Postal-induced shrinkage occurred, via an article that claims that Obama (who went into office compared with the most legendary presidents of the last 150 years) wasn’t big enough for the job; he should have split it with John McCain:

With Barack Obama and John McCain in the White House, 2009 was a pivotal year in American politics. Democrats and Republicans worked together to pass a jobs bill, close Guantanamo and end the recession. Obama rallied liberals behind a version of McCain’s health-care voucher program, providing insurance to everyone, while McCain found enough GOP votes to push the DREAM Act through Congress.

Of course, this didn’t happen. But it could have if David Orentlicher, the author of “Two Presidents Are Better Than One: The Case for a Bipartisan Executive Branch,” had his way.

“A coalition presidency carries the potential for many important benefits,” Orentlicher writes in the book, to be published by NYU Press next year. “A balancing of power between the executive and legislative branches, a dampening of partisan conflict in Washington, an executive branch more representative of the entire electorate, real opportunities for third-party candidates to win election, and wiser presidential decision making.”

Orentlicher teaches law at Indiana University, but his conviction that a dual presidency would benefit the republic was forged outside the classroom: From 2002 to 2008, he was a state representative in Indianapolis.

“I saw part of the conflict at the state level, and I thought: ‘Why does this have to be so partisan?’ ” he said in an interview. “It’s not the people we elect — it must be something in the structure in our political system.”

Those same sorts of articles were pretty common at the end of the Carter administration as well, as Power Line’s Steven Hayward wrote last year in (of all places) the Philadelphia Inquirer, building on the introduction to the second volume of his two part history, The Age of Reagan:

Two particular Reagan achievements have receded in our memory but have become the model for all of his successors. First, at the time Reagan became president in 1981, the institution was in deep trouble. The previous four presidents had all been judged failures, and the theme became widespread that no one could be a successful president in modern times. For example, political scientist Theodore Lowi wrote: “The presidency has become an impossible job, because the presidency has become too big, even for the likes of FDR.” The air was thick with reform proposals, from a single six-year term to parliamentary-style cabinet government.

The highest measure of Reagan’s achievement is that after his eight years, the Iran-contra disaster notwithstanding, all talk of the presidency as an inadequate institution had vanished into the mists, and has not returned. The National Journal polled presidential scholars in 1985, finding that a large majority thought Reagan had succeeded in “reviving trust and confidence” in an institution “that in the post-Vietnam era had been perceived as being unworkable.” Americans may have been unhappy with Reagan’s successors, but not because the presidency itself is in trouble.

Well, so much for that idea, as the above article at the Post highlights.