Demeaning The Office

When President Bill Clinton’s affair with intern Monica Lewinsky was exposed, it was a new low for the office of president. It wasn’t the first affair by a president (or Clinton), not by a long shot. But the fact it was with an intern and he committed perjury behind it demeaned the office in a way that hadn’t been done before.

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It turned the 2000 election partially into a referendum on restoring the dignity, or at least the veneer of it, to the office. Thanks to the words and deeds of Barack Obama, that dignity needs to be restored yet again.

Disagreements over policy are common, and natural, really. And presidents have used language they, perhaps, would like to have back in hindsight. But their actions, at least their public actions, generally have been presidential. No more.

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With President Obama’s public refusal to attend the funeral service for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, he demeans the office in a way that transcends politics and exposes him as a small man who never grew into his job.

There are a lot of perks when you’re president. Your every whim is catered to – a kitchen staff on call, butlers, Air Force One, access to the rich, powerful and famous, living in the White House, and so on.

With that lifestyle comes certain responsibilities. The constitutional ones are obvious and enumerated. Beyond those are duties inherent in the office which, although sometimes unpleasant, are no less important.

The most important intrinsic duty of the president is to represent the people of the United States, not in policy but in person. The president can’t get drunk and stumble around in public, for example. That would be universally panned as beneath the dignity of the office.

Yet, other events, perhaps undignified on the surface, are simply tradition and “part of the job.” Every Thanksgiving the president holds a press conference, delivers a pointless speech, pardons a couple of turkeys and sends them off to live the rest of their lives on a farm somewhere. There are about a million things any president would rather be doing. But that has become part of the job, so they have to do it.

Another thing the president must do is show up at events that matter, that are markers in history, and to represent the American people because we can’t attend.

The president represents us at important, and sometimes only symbolic, events.

Derek Hunter is Washington, DC based writer, radio host and political strategist. He has previously worked for several prominent conservative non-profits as an analyst in health, education, technology and judicial policies, as well as a press secretary in the US Senate. Additionally, Derek helped found the Daily Caller, where he is a contributor. You can alsostalk his thoughts 140 characters at a time on Twitter.

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