To Heckle the President, or Not?

Over at CNN, John Feehery argues that it’s better not to heckle. I agree, but for different reasons.

Feehery’s line of thinking is that the office deserves respect. Holding one’s tongue is a matter of decorum. “The president is the commander-in-chief, the leader of the country, and in many unspoken ways treated as a king.”

Technically, the president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and of nothing else. The rest of his job consists of humbly executing the laws given him by the Constitution and the legislature. That’s why it’s called the executive branch.

Feehery, a partisan Republican, here manages to out-conservative Edmund Burke. Royal rhetoric pervades his piece – evidence of how far the presidency has strayed from its intended purpose. The cult of the presidency endures.

Don Boudreaux’s approach to the presidency is more realistic, if less romantic:

[T]he notion that the U.S. presidency is lofty or respectable in any ethically significant sense is ludicrous. As Saul Bellow said about politicians, “they’re a bunch of yo-yos. The presidency is now a cross between a popularity contest and a high school debate, with an encyclopedia of clichés the first prize.”

Hence the real reason to let the president have his say without being heckling him: politicians make themselves look bad far more effectively than any heckler could. He doesn’t need the help. Just take his ideas seriously:

-We can save money by spending $900,000,000,000.

-We can contain costs by isolating people from the costs they incur.

-The Medicare/Medicaid model works. Expand it.

Presidents are unremarkable creatures. Borne of much talent for campaigning and little for governing, more love for power than for principle, and the unyielding belief that they know best, presidents have the worst kind of hubris. This is perhaps their only regal trait.

President Bush thought he could win two simultaneous land wars in Asia, and use military might to build a new nation in Iraq. Hubris.

President Obama thinks he can run the auto, financial, and health care industries at the same time, all while controlling global climate patterns. Hubris.

Feehery is right that President Obama should not have been heckled. If not for the sheer harm his office causes, it would not merit the attention.