The Congress legislates
The President implements
The Supreme Court litigates
That came home to me once again when I read David Frum's reaction to what Grover Norquist said at the CPAC Convention as well as several commentaries on it from the left. Here's what Norquist said:
All we have to do is replace Obama. ... We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. ... We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don't need someone to think it up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate.
Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States. This is a change for Republicans: the House and Senate doing the work with the president signing bills. His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.
Frum and others picked up on an important point...this was a veiled swipe at a potential Romney presidency.
But the truth is, we also need to see a more serious consequence to what Norquist is suggesting. He's basically dismissing the main role of the presidency in our democracy - implementation - and pretending like the person in that position is merely some kind of lead legislator.
I'm sure that would be fine in Norquist's book because he simply wants to drown government in the bathtub. But as liberals it should be anathema to those of us who see good government as the main goal.
Need I remind you of what happened the last time we put a Republican in charge of implementing government? We got a totally unnecessary war where planning and strategic implementation were thrown to the wind. We got "Good job Brownie" following Katrina. We got a completely politicized and ineffectual Department of Justice. We got an Interior Department consumed with sex, drugs and graft scandals leading up to the BP oil spill. None of that had anything to do with legislation. It was all poor implementation.
As Democrats we fall into this trap way too often. Most of our energy is focused on what the President is doing or has accomplished legislatively. Just take a look at most any list of President Obama's accomplishments. You'll very rarely see things about how FEMA prepared for a hurricane in New York, which probably saved lives and property during hurricane Irene. You'll not see much mention of the work Attorney General Holder is doing to clean up DOJ. The one thing we have heard more about is how effectively this administration planned and executed things like the mission to kill Osama bin Laden and the rescue of aid workers in Somalia. All of those - and many more - are stories of President Obama doing his main job...to implement good government.