Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Revised Constitutional Goal for the US President.

It was recognized at the 1789 Constitutional convention in Philadelphia, that the role and purpose of the President were weak, and the position of George Washington made it awkward to improve it. The idea of a Constitution had been him, and he steadfastly refused to participate in its formulation. Making him the first president made improvement even harder because any major changes would seem like a criticism of his example. As a matter of fact, he had little interest in the subject, his innovations were sparse, and his main concern had a focus of creating a mechanism for paying to defend the country in a war. He didn.t does his job so badly, and the two big oceans did the rest. Remember how easily Thomas Jefferson thwarted the only specific request he made, to limit the size of each congressman's voting district -- an amendment already ratified, In retrospect, that was an unworkable proposal, but it was not defeated by foresight, it was defeated by the maneuver. A more experienced parliamentarian would have noticed that proposals to identify goals and successes by Washington, would have been enough; strategies to identify and punish failures were the job of someone else, probably the Legislative or Judicial Branch. The best the situation would permit would have been to specify failure to succeed as the only sure sign of failure. That pretty well means the first President to fail in a poorly defined way, will get a free ride. The ancient constitutional drafters fell back on assassination as the unspoken remedy for an undefined problem, we have found that disgrace is largely enough. It wasn,t enough for Napoleon or Joan of Arc, so we, like the British must resort to the mercy of foreign courts to devise punishments for the crime of defeating us. The French have never recovered from their experiences, nor have we, when we tried to deal with Hitler, Mussolini, Indian tribes, or Confederates. A historical review of displacing sovereigns is not encouraging, We must not do it lightly, because we will not do it perfectly. Amending the Constitution. Confine the effort; keep it sparse and brief. If possible, make it self-balancing and leave the hard parts unspoken. This President has done some things I don't like, some of which he probably regrets. We have a Constitution we venerate and congratulate its success for reasons we often do not understand, and so we are afraid to touch it. Somehow, we made it mostly flexible enough and durable enough. We have simple goals; we want a President competent to protect us from unknown perils, and free to do so. If he fails, rules and customs must be discarded; replacing him must be successful and brief.

Originally published: Tuesday, January 08, 2019; most-recently modified: Tuesday, June 04, 2019