The Charlie Brown Theory of Presidential Power


Greg Sargent of the Washington Post had a complaint this week about how the media’s portrayal of Obama’s Presidency differs from reality.  He thus wrote a piece, titled, “The Green Lantern Theory of Presidential Power”.

The basic explanation goes like this:  he believes many in the media believe the President can transform the political debate into any form he wants (much like the Green Lantern uses his ring of power to do the same) and thus their criticisms are unfair; they ask too much of this President.

Sargent makes some fair points.  Clearly, no President can force the issue if Congress is unwilling to listen.  And I don’t doubt for a second that this Congress largely ignores President Obama.

But the other end of the spectrum comes from liberal defenders of Mr. Obama, who, to continue with Sargent’s line of thought, buy into what I will call “The Charlie Brown Theory of Presidential Power”.

I am sure you hear the liberal complaint often: that Mr. Obama is a poor, victimized soul, because the mean, instransigent Republicans simply are unwilling to accept his glorious plans to save America.  Instead, when the President is ready to make a deal (who again, in their point of view, is willing to compromise left and right to placate the conservatives in Congerss), the Republicans, in their minds, talk and talk and talk…, and at the last second pull the football out from under him, as Charlie Brown/Barack Obama goes flying through the air and lands on his ass.  If only the GOP didn’t pull the football, Obama would surely nail the game winning field goal!


Let us get real, shall we?  Yes, the President does not have some magical ability to bend the will of those in Washington.  He must convince, coerce, and compromise to get that done. This is nothing new.  Liberals act like this is some grand alteration in the political dynamic of our nation’s capital.

Maybe some should watch the movie Lincoln.  In that movie, we see Abraham Lincoln cajole, strong arm, and actually even bribe members of Congress in order to get the 13th Amendment passed.

This is not unique in American history; not in the least.  Go read the papers of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan….even George W. Bush.  It is the same thing.  And they had the same complaints that Obama did.

I admit the acrimony in Washington is at a recent high.  But to absolve Mr. Obama of part of the blame is ludicrous.  From his first day in office, Mr. Obama has…well, acted like the community organizer that he is.  Community organizers do not look for common ground.  They look for acrimony, tumult, and challenge the status quo (Read:  people in the center).  That has been what Obama has done.

And shockingly, many in the center and on the right oppose him.

The lesson here is that neither the ‘Green Lantern Theory’ nor the ‘Charlie Brown Theory’ are totally accurate; most analogies aren’t very accurate.  The truth is that the GOP opposes much of what Obama wants because he is far to the left of the mainstream.  Obama, on the other hand, can’t do what Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan did, which is sacrifice major components of his political beliefs, because that is not who he is.  He has been a life long agitator, not a leader and conciliator like Governors Clinton and Reagan.  It simply is not in him to make the sacrifices necessary to bring the other side to the table.

And so round and round we go.