f_0018765_16047

f_0018765_16047 - The Presidency: A Need for Greatness...

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Spring 2010 The Ambassadors REVIEW 1 The Presidency: A Need for Greatness Again David M. Abshire President of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress Co-Founder of the Center for Strategic and International Studies United States Ambassador to NATO, 1983-1987 he experiences of the last four American Presidents have shown that the Presidency is in trouble. I am referring to the Presidency as an institution of leadership. This distressing phenomenon has taken place at a time when our nation is in trouble fiscally, could be at a tipping point of decline globally, and could witness a possible decline in the standard of living for the next generation. The Founding Fathers invested what they considered were extraordinary powers in the Commander-in-Chief, especially considering that they had revolted against a monarchy. The Founding Fathers did not—and could not—allow for what they called in the Federalist Papers “factionalism.” The Founding Fathers felt that such factionalism could destroy Democracy. Today, we would label factionalism as polarization, single-issue politics, shrill talk radio, and the lack of a culture of civility in the Congress. This mélange hinders accomplishing the first principle of Presidential leadership—national unity of effort—which is vital to overcome the severe challenges facing the United States. We achieved this unity of effort when we prevailed against our enemies during World War II and the Cold War. In more placid periods of American History, such factionalism and partisanship did not present a major problem. For example, vindictive personal politics were the norm when John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson confronted each other in the 1820s and 1830s. Some in the Adams camp insulted Mrs. Jackson, calling her a woman of ill-repute—a wound from which Jackson never fully recovered. Such partisanship did not disturb the course of American history then, but extreme partisanship today can indeed disturb the course of history. I published a book the year before the Presidential election, entitled A Call to Greatness: Challenging Our Next President . It was made available in draft to the candidates. I wrote that a storm was then gathering that threatened the new President’s prospects for success. This storm was eroding America’s strategic and financial freedom of action, including the threats of an over stretched military, two simultaneous wars, international terrorism, and financial insecurity—imperiled by our addiction to debt, easy credit and runaway healthcare costs that were driving businesses overseas. We also were— and still are—over dependent on foreign oil and a rapidly declining basic education system. Little did I calculate that the new President would face a financial catastrophe exceeded only by the Great Depression. Internationally, the new rising economic superpower, China, had become our banker. No wonder that our chief negotiator abroad, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, complained that “we have to address this deficit and the debt of the United States as a matter of national security not only as a matter of T
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f_0018765_16047 - The Presidency: A Need for Greatness...

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