The Beauty of Being First Lady

So I’ve decided to never be President. I can hear a few of you laughing already. Yes, I know it was unlikely that I was ever going to be President anyway. Now the fact is: I don’t want to be President. Barack Obama and the 43 men who preceded him, not to mention the men who ran and didn’t win, are crazy. People truly believe the President is some insanely powerful man who can do nearly anything. The simple truth is that he can’t.  He can’t go to war just because he wants to. Many people think that Pres. Bush did that. He didn’t. The Congress was behind him all the way. In fact, at the onset of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars , the majority of Americans said they backed him.

Abortion is a big one that I’ve talked about before. People will vote for a particular candidate because of his views on abortion.  The President has somewhat more control here.  He does nominate Supreme Court Justices. The nomination process is so rigorous and partisan today that it would be hard to confirm someone with a strong for or against position on abortion. If you couple that with the fact that the Court rarely overturns precedent, it turns out that not one President but many would likely account for any change in the law.  Once the Supreme Court rules, the President’s power wanes drastically.

My favorite misconception is that the President can do something about the economy.  Presidents like to act like this is true and the public is ready to believe it.  It’s complete nonsense though. First, we must understand that the economy is not scientific. To an extent,  there is math and theory behind it, but that can all be misleading.  Adam Smith talked about an “Invisible Hand” that guided the capitalist economy. Attached to that hand is a fickle, and nearly psychopathic, American public. You and I make up the economy. It is driven by consumption. We, and businesses, have to buy stuff to keep it going. Presidents try things like stimulus bills, and rebate checks, but if the American public doesn’t do what they are supposed to, it doesn’t work. The Fed can raise and lower interest rates to affect lending,l but banks then have to go along. It’s this uncertainty that allows economists to say one action will help, while others say it will hurt.

Caught in the middle of this is the President. The public pressures him to improve and affect things that he cannot.  And all of this ignores the fact that politics is always in the way. For every President who wishes to succeed there is a person who wants to be President that would be happy to make him fail.  That is why I don’t want to be President.  They go in with grand ideas and goals only to find a system bent on stopping them. One person doesn’t suffer from nearly as many of the political constraints, but still has a budget to do something good. That is the First Lady.

Since the beginning of the modern American Presidency (which I’m defining as FDR and after) First Ladies have been given the ability to advocate for causes they cared about.  To list a few from the past fifty years:

Betty Ford raised awareness for breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy shortly after becoming First Lady. As one of the most candid First Ladies she spoke openly about everything from sex to drugs.

Rosalynn Carter was a fierce advocate for mental health awareness. As well as being an active advisor to her husband she was an honorary chairperson of the President’s Commission on Mental Health.

Nancy Reagan spent her time as First Lady raising awareness about drug use. The famous “Just Say No” campaign was her primary initiative. In support of it Reagan drew upon her earlier career of acting and did guest spots on the t.v. shows “Dynasty”, and “Diff’rent Strokes.”

Both Barbara Bush and her daughter-in-law  Laura Bush, pushed for awareness about literacy and education. Laura Bush partnered with the Library of Congress to start the National Book Festival.

Most recently, Michelle Obama has taken on the cause of childhood obesity. She said she hoped her initiative called “Let’s Move.” She is also the only First Lady to plant a White house vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt.

What’s the point of all this. First Ladies get a huge budget and enormous resources to focus on issues that matter. They can avoid all the politicalcrap that gets thrown around.  One could say that First Ladies have a chance to make a difference that Presidents don’t. So I’ve decided to marry a woman who wants to be President, because God knows I don’t.

First Gentleman, sounds pretty good though.



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