If, as is possible, you become the next President of the United States next week, I have a few hopes and dreams of my own which I would like to see you fulfill. These are not difficult in terms of your personal choices, but they are very difficult in terms of how the American people and past presidents have come to define the role and acts of the presidency.
First, you need to strip away the cult of personality that has accrued over the past several presidents. While I am not categorically opposed to political rhetoric designed to appeal to emotion, the use of such rhetoric as a basis for every speech is a characteristic of a cult of personality. For instance, the use of personal stories as a basis for making a point is not argument. It usually has nothing to do with whether a policy, actions, or plan is prudent or correct, and simply serves as an attempt to "legitimize" one's own argument, and make it more difficult for the other party (such as one's debate opponent or party opponent or whom have you) to respond without looking scrooge-like. If we are to have free and open and reasonable debate about policies, you must avoid characterizations of "we're the good guys, look how much Susie of Lowwater County, AlaHampshirnia loves our legislation" and deal with questions on the merits.
With that said, it is time for the President to stop injecting himself into legislative debates. That the president runs on a platform consisting largely of "job creation", "tax plans" and other moves primarily in the realm of Congress is already an indicator of how much the lines between the executive and legislative have been blurred. If you really want to be presidential domestically, focus first on limiting or eliminating the fourth branch of government - the administrative agencies - which are largely a force of unchecked bureaucracy, and responsible for so much of the stifling regulation which faces Americans in this time. Second, focus on appointing Supreme Court justices (of which there will surely be several during the next administration) who are committed to upholding the Constitution, to the rule of law, and to a judicial role of narrow decisions which only go as far as necessary to uphold or overturn laws. In the seminal case of Youngstown Sheet and Tube v. Sawyer, Justice Black, writing for the Supreme Court, argued:
In the framework of our Constitution, the President's power to see that the laws are faithfully executed refutes the idea that he is to be a lawmaker. The Constitution limits his functions in the lawmaking process to the recommending of laws he thinks wise and the vetoing of laws he thinks bad.Lately, the President has amplified his role in legislation, making all sorts of promises that he cannot fulfill, and chosen to ignore laws he does not like. Be prudent, Governor Romney, and avoid spending all of your time as a deal maker between recalcitrant members of Congress and as a figurehead for your preferred legislation. Finally, if you truly believe that legislation is imprudent, unwise, or unconstitutional, do not be afraid to veto it. Do so, then hold a press conference announcing why you did so, in order to make your case to those to whom you are responsible - the citizens of the United States. If you seek only to veto legislation that the common citizen can neither read nor comprehend, you will do much for this nation. As James Madison noted in Federalist 62:
What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not but that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed? What farmer or manufacturer will lay himself out for the encouragement given to any particular cultivation or establishment, when he can have no assurance that his preparatory labors will not render him a victim to an inconstant government? In a word, no great improvement or laudable enterprise can go forward which requires the auspices of a steady system of national policy.In regards to foreign powers, where the President has a great deal of power as commander in chief, being a leader involves much more (and sometimes, much less) than a projector of military force. This is not to undercut the role of the military in protecting allies and interests abroad. With that said, you should be wary of intervention in causes that seem likely to "promote democracy". Often it seems, in military intervention, there is no correct choice - witness the ongoing disaster of Libya and (potentially) Iraq. If we must intervene, we should not do so as a friend of one warring party or another, but as a force for order and seeking peace. As writers such as Russell Kirk have noted, democracy is an organic creation, appearing out of combinations of Christian ideas on, and common law implementations of, limited government, separation of church and state, sources of authority, and so on. We cannot implement our fashion of democracy in countries outside of our tradition - such is very difficult, if not impossible, and you should try to avoid committing our armed forces, or even making a case for committing them, on that basis.
This brings me to another area. In this administration, and in those past, the President has been more likely than not in recent years to commit troops to ongoing conflicts (read: Libya) without bothering to seek the permission of Congress. Congress has been more than acquiescent in the President's adventuring around the globe with our military forces. You must take steps to restore the balance - seek Congress's permission as set forth in the Constitution before you commit troops to any conflict. And as I said before, be wary of this. The great among the Founders were very suspicious of a leaders' ability to commit armed forces without consent of Congress, and indeed, found problematic all foreign entanglements. Witness George Washington in a 1796 letter:
I have always given it as my decided opinion that no nation has a right to intermeddle in the internal concerns of another; that every one has a right to form and adopt whatever government they liked best to live under themselves; and that if this country could, consistently with its engagements, maintain a strict neutrality and thereby preserve peace, it was bound to do so by motives of policy, interest, and every other consideration.You, Gov. Romney, and any who seek the presidency, would do well to read the Founders, to review the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers, to seek liberty through self-restraint and restraint of nation, and to grow freedom via creation of order. We cannot long remain whip-sawed from one extreme to the other, with constant changing of laws and foreign adventure - this will plummet us into poverty and tyranny.