Bracketology — it’s a serious business. But did you know it’s also hurting America and providing comfort to our enemies?
No, this wasn’t a bit by Stephen Colbert. It was a suggestion made by former Speaker of the House and soon-to-be Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich last month.
Following a speech at the National Press Club, Gingrich sarcastically expressed his disappointment that French President Nicolas Sarkozy did not publicly unveil his Final Four picks, suggesting that it “allowed him to focus on Libya” rather than “Kansas, Ohio State — the things that were really important.”
Or, as he asked on Fox News earlier that week, “With all of these crises, how can you focus that kind of time and attention [on college basketball] as president of the United States?”
Let the collective eye rolling begin.
Does 20 minutes of recording a video for ESPN really demonstrate President Barack Obama’s lack of priorities?
But beyond the context of the comments themselves, Gingrich’s criticism speaks to a more pressing issue — people simply expect too much from the president.
This problem certainly does not fall on only one side of the ideological spectrum. Four years ago, Democrats were making these same arguments against President George W. Bush for golfing during the Iraq war, something for which Republicans are now criticizing Obama.
Heck, President Dwight Eisenhower had a putting green installed on the White House lawn.
“People really have no conception of presidential power,” said College senior Grant Dubler, who commissioned a poll examining public expectations of the president. The idea that a president’s every action is key to America’s survival “vastly overestimates the power of the president.”
These high expectations and criticisms are a byproduct of modern-day news.
“With the rise of the 24-hour news cycle … everybody is presidency-watching,” said Kathryn Tenpas, a Penn Political Science professor. Tenpas also noted that President Franklin Roosevelt took extended vacations and faced little to no criticism from the press for it. “I think it’s kind of a desperate criticism,” Tenpas added.
Beyond just vacation time, Americans also expect too much in terms of policymaking.
Dubler found that, in multiple areas of public policy, individuals of every age group and education level reported that no president in their lifetime had lived up to his or her expectations. One-fifth of those surveyed even believed the president has “absolute power” to influence the economy.
Not to go all Schoolhouse Rock on everyone, but doesn’t a bill need to go through Congress first? And even then, are there not elements of the economy beyond the control of the government?
Tenpas contended that many of these expectations are formed by the rhetoric of a presidential campaign. “They make all these numerous promises,” she explained. “The campaign plays into inflating expectations.”
But, in reality, the president is just one of many relevant actors in a larger system. As Tenpas suggested, perhaps if individuals were more informed about the nature of that system they might not buy into all those promises to begin with.
Instead of expecting every campaign promise to come true, perhaps we can be satisfied with compromises that are made. For instance, the compromise budget funding the government for the next six months signed by the president last week cuts $38 billion in government spending, which includes some cuts to the Pell Grant program.
But while the bill eliminates the summer Pell program, it provides $23 billion in Pell Grant funding and maintains the maximum grant at $5,550.
I’ve already expressed my opposition to Pell Grant cuts, but in terms of a compromise it could easily have been worse than it is.
If we accept compromise, perhaps we won’t have to hear some new accusation next month about how Obama’s trip to Hawaii is increasing the unemployment rate.
Evan Medina is a College senior from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. His e-mail address is medina@theDP.com. Peace Not Politics appears every other Tuesday.Comments powered by Disqus
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