Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The mandate and the cabinet

Is it possible to win a mandate in an election? Some liberal commentators, still in denial about the US elections, have been arguing recently that George W Bush did not get the mandate of his people because 49% of the votes cast went against him. This is a curious argument – for an election victory to count as a mandate, then, precisely what is the threshold of votes that a candidate must win? Some commentators are tempering their criticism by saying that Bush did get a mandate, but only for some of his policies, not all of them. This is even more curious – surely by winning the elections he got a mandate to govern as he sees fit, within the checks and balances enshrined in the constitution. Nothing more and nothing less.

At the very least, Bush won a mandate to choose his own cabinet. Going by some of the outrage that the replacement of Colin Powell by Condoleeza Rice has raised, you’d think that Roe v Wade was being overturned. As a Washington Times editorial puts it, “The new liberal line is that the president is surrounding himself with ‘yes men’ and ‘flunkies’ whose sole responsibility is to toe the administration line on everything.” John Podhoretz writes in a a piece in the New York Post:

They claim, in all seriousness, that Bush is exceeding his political, executive and electoral authority by nominating experienced administration officials to serve in his Cabinet. These choices are bad, they say, because — get this — the president is daring to appoint people who are a) loyal to him (horrors!) and b) don't disagree with him enough (meanie).

Podhoretz cites some of the criticism from eminent publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN, before pointing out:

We Americans elected him because we want him to exercise his judgment. We elected him to serve as the steward of our interests and the representative of our views. What we Americans know, based on his campaign for re-election, is what he stands for, what he believes, what he's done and what he says he'll do.

He was not elected to provide a forum for the healthy debate of Colin Powell's views. If he chooses to listen to Powell, that's his right and privilege. But it is equally his right and privilege — under the provisions of our system, which allows him to fire anybody he chooses from a political appointment to the executive branch of the U.S. government — not to listen to Colin Powell. [Itals from original piece.]

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