The president’s job description, found in Article II of the Constitution, is a simple one. He is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. He may nominate judges and ambassadors, and make treaties, with the Senate’s approval. He may “give to Congress information of the state of the union,” and “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”—and that’s about it.
Compare this short list of duties to President Obama’s actual activities this month: flying from state to state on Air Force One, attempting to persuade a disillusioned base that Democrats’ policies have helped the country despite all evidence to the contrary, blaming his predecessor for everything from the recession to the weather, and urging voters to get behind Democratic candidates on November 2. For the remainder of October, he will spend few, if any, full days in Washington.
In short, he is desperately trying to hang on to his majority, and has forsaken his legitimate, constitutional duties for the thrill of the campaign trail. Perhaps Obama is only reliving the glory days of his 2008 campaign—which is understandable, considering the level of public animosity towards him a mere two years later—but Americans are not paying him $400,000 per year (plus benefits) to campaign for his buddies.
Obama’s presidency will resume on November 3. Until then, he is the Campaigner-in-Chief of the Democratic Party.
Not that he’s the first, as students of political science will be quick to point out. Clinton campaigned extensively for Democrats in the months leading up to the election of 1994, which, from their perspective, turned out to be a disaster, and other presidents have talked up fellow party members in anticipation of mid-term thrashings, but does the fact that a thing has been done before make it right? Whether it is legal or not, should a sitting president place the welfare of his party before that of the American people?
No. Obama is the President of the United States, not the President of the Democratic Party, and he is paid by the taxpayers to look out for their best interests, not those of career politicians struggling to hold onto their seats. If he is to spend the month of October on the campaign trail, perhaps he should forfeit one-twelfth of his salary, and hand the reins of power to Vice President Biden. Better yet, he should stop campaigning and start doing his job.
Besides, there is no evidence that his backyard talks or staged town hall meetings (which are sponsored by the Democratic National Committee and filled with friendly supporters) will have a positive effect on the mid-term election. Some analysts suspect he’s doing more harm than good, as was probably the case last year when Republicans won a round of special elections, despite Obama’s vocal support for their opponents. This fall, the president’s tour of the country has been marked by silent crowds and frustrated supporters who don’t know what to make of their savior’s failure to keep his campaign promises—and not all are naïve enough to buy into his “Republicans are blocking progress” defense.
If Republicans are as successful next month as they hope to be, and reclaim the House and—less likely—the Senate, Obama will have two years to waste as a “lame duck” president, a figurehead ignored by both Congress and the American people. He’ll have plenty of time in which to enjoy his new hobby, traveling the country and complaining about patriots, which seems to fit his personal version of the president’s job description.