http://www.realclearpolitics.com/horseraceblog/2009/09/does_obama_have_a_republican_p_1.html September 30, 2009 Does Obama Have a Republican Problem? We all know that President Obama has a Republican problem, namely the 200 or so Republican members of Congress who refuse to go along with his health care reform plans. However, I think he might also be developing a republican problem. Namely, I think he is having trouble keeping his ego within the boundaries of an office that fundamentally reflects the republican quality of this country. It is difficult to nail down precisely what "republicanism" means. It has had different meanings in different places at different times. In the United States, it conjures up the notion of self-government: the people are capable of ruling themselves, and the authority of the leaders derives from the consent of the governed, rather than some aristocratic pedigree or superior position in life. The evidence of American republicanism is all around us. Consider, for instance, the title of address for the President of the United States. Originally, Federalists like John Adams desired a grand title, something like "His Highness." However, the simple phrase "Mr. President" was ultimately adopted. Anybody who walks down the 1600 Block of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. will notice that the house of the most powerful person on the planet lacks the grandiosity that one might otherwise expect. Compare this residence to the head of the House of Windsor. Or how about the old home of the French House of Bourbon. The first home is the residence of a republican leader. It is formal and respectable, but not grandiose. In square footage terms, your place might be larger than the President's. You might also make more money than the President. Lots of people do, seeing as how we do not pay him that much. George Washington wanted to turn down the princely sum that the First Congress was prepared to pay him for his tenure. Generally, Washington's modesty and self-restraint helped establish the republican quality the office retains to this day. Ironically, the sense that the President is no better than any of us is a major reason why the office is so powerful, or at least why it can be. A President who appears to be of the people, rather than above them, can more easily rally them to his cause, thereby forcing the Congress to do as he likes. It is not coincidental that the first stirrings of the modern, powerful presidency can be seen in the administration of Andrew Jackson, who was thought by his opponents to be the leader of a mob. Since he emerged on the national stage, Barack Obama has not been the model of American republicanism. This was the case during the campaign, and it continues today. Juxtapose the simple respectability of the White House with these images taken from the Obama-Biden campaign website. This is why I was not surprised to see that video of schoolchildren being taught to praise President Obama like he is a deity. Ultimately, the campaign that President Obama waged hinted at such ideas. Is it a shock that a few, overly enthusiastic supporters thought it appropriate to proselytize in such a fashion? That "Progress" picture is easily the most non-republican of the bunch. The image suggests that Obama's campaign is somehow a source of goodness for the people. From a republican standpoint, the imagery in the picture should be reversed, with the people being the source of goodness from which the candidate benefits. I had hoped that the President would find his inner republican upon ascension to the office. I have been disappointed. His speeches are too full of references to himself. His omnipresence suggests a disregard for the people's tolerance levels, as well as for the idea that ours is a limited government and we are entitled to enjoy our lives without these constant executive impositions. Additionally, I share Michael Gerson's sentiments regarding his address to the U.N., which was typical of other speeches he has given to the international community: Obama's rhetorical method in international contexts -- given supreme expression at the United Nations this week -- is a moral dialectic. The thesis: pre-Obama America is a nation of many flaws and failures. The antithesis: The world responds with understandable but misguided prejudice. The synthesis: Me. Me, at all costs; me, in spite of all terrors; me, however long and hard the road may be. How great a world we all should see, if only all were more like...me. On several occasions, Obama attacked American conduct in simplistic caricatures a European diplomat might employ or applaud. He accused America of acing "unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others" -- a slander against every American ally who has made sacrifices in Iraq and Afghanistan. He argued that, "America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy" -- which is hardly a challenge for the Obama administration, which has yet to make a priority of promoting democracy or human rights anywhere in the world. There are two problems with the attitude that Gerson has correctly identified. First, it's fair to criticize the actions of the previous administration to a point, but speeches like his U.N. address often move beyond that to suggest a broader failure, one that implicates the mass public. For instance, the best rejoinder he has to those who question the "character" of his country is: "look at the concrete actions we have taken in just nine months," which he suggests are "just a beginning." This rhetoric does not befit the leader of a democratic republic, especially one as great as the United States of America. The President should be willing and able to defend the "character" of his country beyond his own, inconsequential-to-date actions. Second, the implication here is that his administration has sanctified our character. No administration can do that in a republic because no administration possesses the moral standing to offer such a blessing. He is the equal of the people in every measure. He temporarily holds an office whose magnificence is dependent upon the goodness of the people he represents. Yet this President implies a claim to such moral superiority - in the above quoted sentence, then later on when he says: "The test of our leadership will not be the degree to which we feed the fears and old hatreds of our people." No President should suggest that his people would fall prey to fear and hatred were it not for his leadership - even if he thought this were true. And he surely should not air such "dirty laundry" to an international audience that does not understand how this country actually functions. Instead, he should claim that he leads a great people who have the wisdom and equanimity not to fall prey to such fears, and it is his hope that he can emulate them. Ultimately, this President stands a better chance of success if he embraces the republican character of the people who imbue his temporary position with its power and majesty. The fact is that we are a republican people who tend not to think that anybody is better than we. If we begin to intuit that the President thinks he is better, it could impede his efforts to rally us to his side. It is also a fact that staunch republicans created the presidency, and the office reflects their preferences even after 220 years of intervening history. By explicit design, the President is not a leader-for-life. Instead, he must face the judgment of his peers just 48 months after he wins the office. The Constitution endorses the view of the supremacy of the people because it delineates a timeline for when the executive power leaves the President and returns to the people (originally, as represented by the state governments). As if that were not enough, the 22nd Amendment forbids a President from seeking a third term, meaning that the people of this democratic republic will be around long after the Obama Administration has come to an end.