Presidents’ Day was set aside so that America would have an opportunity to remember her greatest leaders. But it’s also worth reflecting on the institution of the presidency itself, both to celebrate its glories and to ponder its glitches. In 1787, nothing quite like this office existed anywhere on earth. Hereditary monarchs and feudal lords held sway across the Old World, and American states generally allowed only propertied men to vote for or serve as governors.
Are there lessons to be learned from the implosion of Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign over the past month? Several come easily to mind, from the virtues of campaign organization, to the importance of message discipline. But there’s another that deserves attention: namely, that serving as Speaker of the House is a highly dubious qualification in preparation for assuming the presidency.
On Jan. 4 President Obama made several recess appointments, in effect making an independent judgment that the Senate is in recess. Senate Republicans howled in indignation that the Senate is not in recess; they’d pressured the Democratic majority to keep the Senate technically in session in order to prevent the president from appointing Richard Cordray (or anyone) director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
So what does the Second Amendment mean? A lot, says the National Rifle Association. Not much, say gun-control groups. Until recently, it didn't much matter who was right--on all but the mildest of measures, the NRA had the votes (and the cash), and that was that. Then came Littleton. Now proposals for serious federal gun controls are in the air. Thus far, the House and Senate have failed to agree on any specific gun measures, and whatever Congress ultimately decides in conference promises to be modest at best, targeting only gun shows and youngsters.