Do the editors of the New York Times’ opinion pages ever exercise editorial control over their content? I missed Gail Collins’ ignorant and obtuse entry yesterday while traveling, but it’s worth highlighting for its sheer stupidity. She wants George Bush to resign now so that Barack Obama can start running the country before the inauguration:
Thanksgiving is next week, and President Bush could make it a really special holiday by resigning.
Seriously. We have an economy that’s crashing and a vacuum at the top. Bush — who is currently on a trip to Peru to meet with Asian leaders who no longer care what he thinks — hasn’t got the clout, or possibly even the energy, to do anything useful. His most recent contribution to resolving the fiscal crisis was lecturing representatives of the world’s most important economies on the glories of free-market capitalism.
Putting Barack Obama in charge immediately isn’t impossible. Dick Cheney, obviously, would have to quit as well as Bush. In fact, just to be on the safe side, the vice president ought to turn in his resignation first. (We’re desperate, but not crazy.) Then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would become president until Jan. 20. Obviously, she’d defer to her party’s incoming chief executive, and Barack Obama could begin governing.
As a bonus, the Pelosi presidency would put a woman in the White House this year after all. On the downside, a few right-wing talk-show hosts might succumb to apoplexy. That would, of course, be terrible, but I’m afraid we might have to take the risk in the name of a greater good.
The problem we have is not a vacuum at the top, but an overactive executive throwing money away like there’s no tomorrow — and which has actually intimated that to excuse their actions. They’ve spent more money in a few short weeks than any time in American history. At the same time, Bush has negotiated a status-of-forces agreement with Iraq and worked with the G20 to coordinate other economic policies. He’s not taking two months off, although Congress might take most of December as a vacation.
Beyond her ignorance of the President’s schedule, Collins shows a remarkable ignorance of the Constitution and of American government. Let’s focus first on the practical implications of her suggestion. The sudden resignation of the duly elected executive would bring government to a standstill. Obama hasn’t had enough time to transition between the Bush administration to his team, and Pelosi hasn’t even thought about it. What happens in the meantime? Congress hasn’t even received the nominations of the political appointees from Obama. The new White House staff hasn’t even been chosen.
And Pelosi will suddenly be able to run the executive branch? Uh, sure. Collins bases this on the fact that she has two X chromosomes and nothing else. In fact, while celebrating the idea of making a woman temporary President, she then says that Pelosi will simply do what another man will order her to do. That little bit of irony somehow escapes Collins, along with common sense and procedural issues.
More importantly, no one voted for Pelosi to be president. The succession act Collins references exists to ensure continuity in case of disaster, not on the whim of a constipated New York Times columnist whose need for instant gratification apparently outweighs the rest of her cerebral processes.
We have representative government with legal processes in place to protect against instability and abuse. Bush has the responsibility to fulfill the rest of his term and to assist Obama in transitioning smoothly between the two administrations in order to ensure the stability of the US government. Our constitutional form of government is strong enough to allow for this kind of transition, which it has for 220 years.
Obama will be President on January 20, 2009, and not before. If Gail Collins can’t wait for that date, then perhaps the New York Times should send her on an extended leave of absence so that she doesn’t further embarrass herself or her paper in the next two months.