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Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Head of What?

I remember reading years ago about how some democracies that separated the duties of the top leader had an advantage over the American system. The essay posited that by separating the duties of the head of state, such as a king, queen, or president, from those of the head of government, like a prime minister, leadership could be more effective. This would consist of the head of state being responsible for communicating and perhaps influencing the broad outlines of national goals and beliefs, largely through ceremonial, charitable, diplomatic and symbolic work, while the head of government would manage the cabinet and the daily business of administering the nation.

Please do not misunderstand: I am not advocating for a monarchy, nor do I necessarily support having a leader who is not elected nationwide. I am merely seeing that there might be some efficiency in having a leader who can really focus on making the important decisions. In the U.S., it seems that an effective President must spend all too much time speaking to the people and to leaders of organizations and other nations, participating in ceremonies and meetings, and campaigning. When do they find time to make reasoned, informed decisions on policy?

It seems that, deliberately or otherwise, we are experimenting with such a system now. Love them or hate them, the method of governance (as opposed to their policies) in the Presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush cannot be more different. Clinton, in addition to being a regular communicator, was apparently a micro-manager. In the various memoirs of the Clinton White House, one learns that he was interested and involved in the minutiae of policy and politics. Although it is still early, one gets the impression that while Bush sets the broad policy and political framework and is said to make all key decisions, he is not quite so involved with the details.

I strongly believe that there should be someone whose job it is to bring together all of the pieces of the policy pie, and the advice of the various factions in and around government. And we have little reason to believe that the need for leaders to communicate with the public will decrease in the foreseeable future. Is it reasonable to expect one person to do both?


Restaurant review: I had a really good crawfish etouffee at the New Orleans Café at 2412 18th St. NW in Adams Morgan, and the other food was good as well. So if you want a zesty taste of Cajun at a very reasonable price and in a good atmosphere, check them out.

And of course this week’s big political news is the rejection of re-redistricting in Colorado by that state’s Supreme Court: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A25091-2003Dec1.html While it is an open question as to whether this decision will change anything in Texas or nationwide, it is surely a decision of interest to all those watching 2004 elections. Few really see a Democratic takeover of the House as possible, but the new maps in Colorado and Texas push that possibility even farther out.