The Corner

It’s the Stupidity, Economists

Here’s a footnote to my weekend column about the revoltingly unrepublican lifestyle of the modern presidency.

Walter Bagehot, the great English constitutionalist, used to distinguish between the “dignified” and “efficient” parts of the Westminster system — i.e., the monarchy and the executive. The United States combines them in one person. Judging from the 40-car conga line to stage a pseudo-browse at a mom-’n’-pop bookstore on Martha’s Vineyard, President Obama and the court eunuchs of the media seem to prefer the ceremonial side (“dignified” hardly seems the word for these leaden rituals).

But, whether in one person or two, the “dignified” and “efficient” parts of a functioning government are supposed to synchronize. Here was last week’s pre-Martha bit of ersatz presidential theater, in the less fashionable zip codes of Minnesota:

Passing trade deals is something that “Congress can do right now,” remarked President Obama Monday at a town hall meeting in Cannon Falls, Minnesota.

Really?

The truth is that Congress can’t do anything on free trade agreements “right now,” because the President has yet to send the agreements to Congress for final approval.

Oh.

I am assured by my liberal friends that Barack Obama is not intentionally attempting to destroy America. Let us also grant that an honorable man would not intentionally deceive the burghers of Cannon Falls for cheap political point-scoring. So what does that leave? That the president is merely ignorant and incompetent and doesn’t know his job?

That single line from a single speech is an almost perfect vignette of everything that’s wrong with the Washington leviathan. The American taxpayers pay for a luxury Canadian bus, dozens of accompanying vehicles, salaried aides, and federal speechwriters in order to zip the president halfway across the country to blame somebody else for something only he can do — if only he’d stayed back at the office.

In many organizations, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. We’re way beyond that. Not only does the president’s left hand not know what the right hand is even supposed to do, but his left hand cannot even issue a cheap self-serving whine about something his right hand has failed to do without blowing gazillions of taxpayer dollars.

Mark Steyn — Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist. That’s to say, his latest book, After America (2011), is a top-five bestseller in ...

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