It’s so easy being president, because everywhere you turn, people have advice. There are staffers, Cabinet secretaries, pundits, random people on the street, the servers in the White House mess — all of them eager to tell you, the president, why your policy isn’t quite good enough, why it’s too feeble, too wimpy , too liberal and too conservative. The president will give a speech this afternoon on his long-term plan for fiscal discipline, and it will incite yet another eruption of advice, disapproval, and what is technically known in the field of political science as tut-tutting.
What I think the president should do — my advice, in other words — is turn off the TV, put away the newspapers, power down the computer, ditch the Blackberry in a drawer, and spend an hour or two doing stuff like ordering battleships to change directions, and designating various mountains and forests and dilapidated pioneer cabins as national monuments — the kind of thing that’s just innately presidential.
He needs to get himself feeling all powerful and whatnot.
Then give the speech and don’t worry about persuading people. Don’t worry about what Paul Krugman will think of it. Don’t anticipate what the polling will show.
Don’t try to win the argument.
Don’t try to explain the logic of your position within the context of the alternative proposals and disparate philosophies.
Don’t get all nuance-ish.
There is no winning arguments in the world of fiscal policy. All roads lead to rancor, debate, obstreperousness, outrage.
But what a president can do, and what no one else can do as easily, is say: I’m in charge, this is my plan, this is what I’m gonna do, and I’m confident this is the right path for everyone. Behold my steady hand at the wheel.
He needs to say: I’m not being fuzzy or vague, I’m not kicking the can down the road. I’m the president. Let me reiterate that: I’m the president. This morning for fun I designated the common parakeet as an endangered species, just because I could. This Saturday I’m coming off the bench for the Miami Heat because they need help with their offense from beyond the arc.
This is what presidents do and I am the president and this is how it’s gonna be.
(I hope it’s not too late for him to change the text of his speech.)