Paul Ryan Would Be A Superb ‘Prime Minister’ For President Trump
Donald Trump recently cinched the requisite number of delegates to be the GOP presidential nominee. In exploring the storied endorsement dance between Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, the New York Times reported, from a conversation with Ryan:
Mr. Ryan did, however, go on at some length about his displeasure with Mr. Trump’s apparent lust for executive power.
‘This is one of my big concerns,’ he said.
Ryan is on to something big. It is something Trump just might find appealing.
The first clause of the first section of the first article of the Constitution of the United States provides that All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States. Among other Congressional powers are those to lay and collect taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce, establish and uniform Rule of Naturalization and Laws on Bankruptcies, regulate the value of Money, write patent and copyright laws, declare War, raise and support Armies, provide and maintain a Navy, and appropriate (meaning spend) money. That’s a lot of power.
The powers of the presidency, enumerated in Article II, are far more circumscribed. Those primarily include serving as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, making Treaties (with two-third of Senators present), nominating (with the Advice and Consent of the Senate) Ambassadors, public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other constitutional Officers, providing information on the State of the Union, recommending for consideration measures he considers necessary and expedient, and taking Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.
Over the years, the presidency has taken on an “Imperial” quality. This is a deformation of the Constitution’s original intent. It also holds a distinct opportunity for the unconventional Trump should he choose to seize it: restoring the presidency to its true nature without surrendering any of the pomp.
For those understandably dazzled by the White House, let it not be forgotten that many regular citizens walked into Abraham Lincoln’s White House to make an appointment to see the president to discuss issues relating to the business of the federal government. As recorded by Ronald D. Rietveld in The Lincoln White House Community, Volume 20, Issue 2 of the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association: “Lincoln never denied the people’s right to see him.”
More recently, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a far smaller staff than that of a modern presidential motorcade. Nelson W. Polsby cited an observation by Joseph Alsop:
There literally was no White House staff of the modern type, with policy-making functions. Two extremely pleasant, unassuming, and efficient men, Steve Early and Marvin McIntyre, handled the president’s day-to-day schedule and routine, the donkey-work of his press relations, and such like. There was a secretarial camarilla of highly competent and dedicated ladies who were led by ‘Missy’ LeHand… There were also lesser figures to handle travel arrangements, the enormous flow of correspondence, and the like. But that was that; and national policy was strictly a problem for the president, his advisors of the moment (who had constant access to the president’s office but no office of their own in the White House), and his chosen chiefs of departments and agencies.
The president is the Head of State. For many reasons, the president always had and always will have privileged standing and disproportionate influence.
Yet the federal government is a multi-trillion dollar enterprise, larger than any president can cope with even with a White House staff (including executive branch career civil servants on detail) of over a thousand. Plus a massive federal career civil service in the executive branch.
The sheer scope of the federal bureaucracy is mind-boggling. If it were a city it would rank close to America’s fourth largest, Houston.
And it is a rather a mixed blessing. As President Obama recently reminisced:
Because as Bob Gates told me when I first came in — I think it was my first or second week — I said, well, what advice do you have, Bob? You’ve been around seven presidents. You’ve served in Washington, in the administration. He said, Mr. President, the only thing I can tell you for sure is that you’ve got about two million employees, and at any given moment in any given day, somebody, somewhere, is screwing up.
The pre-bureaucratized presidency seems like a fine fit for the self-confident Donald Trump:
Asked on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ who he talks with consistently about foreign policy, Trump responded, ‘I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.’
‘I know what I’m doing and I listen to a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people and at the appropriate time I’ll tell you who the people are,’ Trump said. ‘But my primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff.’
Trump’s statement, of course, evoked a great deal of incredulity in an expertise-besotted (rather than results-oriented) political elite. Do consider how badly the “experts” have delivered on the promise of economic growth with justice. Trump promises to be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” A bureaucracy could be rather a hindrance.
It is crucial to do the right thing, yet is just as crucial to do the thing right. Trump’s spirit is willing but the ticktock of delivering tens of millions of good jobs can be daunting. Trump is more leader than manager. The solution?
As I wrote recently in Donald Trump Confronts The House That Jack Built:
Fuse Trump’s intuitive grasp of the spirit of equitable prosperity with Ryan’s fine-tuned grasp of the way the world works and critical mass is achieved to the benefit of both and of America. The Kemp recipe for growth with fairness, a value both men share, is the great opportunity to unify the GOP and win this fall.
This does not suggest that Trump, if elected president, should surrender the prerogatives of the presidency. Far from it. That said, as Wikipedia defines it, “a prime minister is the official [to] execute the directives of the head of state.” The fine points of such execution can be rather tedious. Ryan has the belly for it.
America has no Prime Minister, an office implicit in a parliamentary form of government where the executive power is vested in the legislature . America is different. Yet this model could be an example worth emulating in part.
As Paul Waldman at The Week aptly observed:
House Speaker Paul Ryan, as you will learn in almost any article about him, is a wonk’s wonk, so full of wonky wonkiness that never before has Congress seen a leader who cares so deeply about the substance of governing.
If Donald Trump authentically promised, and then fulfilled the promise, of making Paul Ryan the moral equivalent of his prime minister this could be a marriage made in heaven. It could fuse Trump’s intuitive grasp of economic growth with justice with Ryan’s policy mastery. This recipe could make Trump “the greatest jobs president that God every created” and Ryan an historic Speaker and possible successor to the presidency. Win win. And then some.
F.H. Buckley wrote recently in The American Spectator that “The constitutional conservative wants to return to a constitution of 1787….” Trump could restore Congress’s constitutional role and thereby fulfill, in spades, the presidential oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
If Trump were to so do he might unite the GOP, Independents, and Democrats who are uneasy with the Imperial Presidency. He also could save himself a lot of the tedium attendant to the presidency. There is far more at stake than merely earning Ryan’s endorsement.
Trump as president with Ryan as de facto prime minister might restore the Constitution as well as ignite job creation and economic growth with justice. Such accomplishments could go a long way toward Making America Great Again.
Originally posted on Forbes.