Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Transition Spokesperson Establishes President-elect Obama as 'Ruler'

Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of the Obama-Biden transition team, and the person rumored to be President-elect Obama's choice to fill his vacated Senate seat, has finally let the cat out of the bag. 

"Given the daunting challenges that we face, it's important that President-elect Obama is prepared to really take power and begin to rule day one."

Ms. Jarrett made this statement while speaking to Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press, in one swift sentence she has confirmed the fears of some that an Obama presidency, without lack of loyal opposition, could allow Americans to do some political tourism without leaving home.  We may have an opportunity to experience what a constitutional monarchy would have been like, if things had gone differently in the years of our nation's birth.

The phrase "take power" is borderline, but does the Obama administration really want to begin by establishing that President Obama is a 'ruler'?

Ruler, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary:

rul·er, (rōō'lər) n.

1. One, such as a monarch or dictator, that rules or governs.

If you prefer, WordNet.com also defines a ruler as, "a person who rules or commands; 'swayer of the universe'."

If we strip it down to the root - rule - it might be okay.  Right?  It turns out there is no hiding place there either.  All definitions of 'rule' in the context of governance, and when used as a verb in conjunction with a singular object (e.g., a person who has been elected president), imply some form of autocratic governance.

After two-hundred and thirty-two years of independence from a monarchy maybe it wouldn't hurt, I suppose, to sneak back onto that old horse and see if the ride wasn't really as bad as we thought.  Alexander Hamilton didn't think it would be so terribly awful.  Plus, it just isn't fair that Britain gets all the fun of having royals at which to poke fun, and leaders tend to look more respectable on the world stage when wearing a sash.  We should be open-minded.

With all seriousness, American presidents heretofore had been very careful about how they verbally defined their place in government.  Even FDR never used the verb 'rule' in reference to the function of his office, and he would be one who could have used it correctly.

Ms. Jarrett, or some member of the transition team, should issue a statement of clarification.  Although her words were almost certainly a slip of the tongue (Vice president-elect Biden's first press conference will likely put this gaffe to shame), as a law school graduate, she would be well-advised to remember that words carry meaning in our society.  There are those of us who expect her to select them carefully so as to not be confused as signaling a radical shift in our system of government.

We did elect him, after all.  I think the least we deserve is some recognition that he understands the limitations of what we elected him to do.

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