Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The book that each new president must read in week 1...

I've been working on a theory that I'll probably never be able to prove, and which is probably total bullshit, but my hypothesis goes something like this...

Since, perhaps, the end of WWII, and during the first week of his first administration, each new president has been handed a book that he's asked to read cover to cover. From Eisenhower to Obama, this book documents the reality of "the state of things." The book grows constantly because it has to encompass more and more and more. It covers everything: the domestic economy; domestic issues; the international economy; international issues; the environment; everything. It presents the "real deal," the way things are, the inside skinny on the reality each incoming president has to face. It contains all the bad news. It presents the historical record of programs and policies put in place by previous administrations and congresses and provides the rationale for why those programs and policies must continue, must stay in place; call the book the "Law for Inertia."

The book provides the overarching reality each incoming president must face regardless of promises he might have made during his campaign. It's what causes a liberal person to move right, a conservative person to move left. It's what forces each president to seem, simultaneously, to ignore his supporters even as he angers his opponents. It's what influences many if not most of the decisions each president must make. 

Presidents are not nearly as powerful as people give them credit (or blame) for, but they do have the advantage (or the curse) of having to read "the book." And once read, the reality contained within cannot be ignored as the new president is now painfully aware of what's going on. Each new president's choice is how to deal with all this new knowledge; his (or her) choices are clearly limited because of the book. She's riding a wave of history and has to do her best to keep from falling off the surfboard. He's along for the ride (as are we all). Given this, I might argue that John Kennedy read the book and might have chosen to fight against portions of it, and look where doing so got him and his brother. (But please note I said, "might argue." I won't do this now. What's the point.)

But my hypothesis doesn't consider who might be the keepers of this book. Let's do that now.

Someone has to be the keeper of the book, and if you examine history, if you look at almost every administration, there always seems to be a sort of dark under-lord (and it's almost always a man) who is the man, behind the man, behind the man. 

As each administration goes away as they all do, this person will often stay in the public eye. He might appear on Sunday news shows, might do interviews on late night talk shows, will certainly appear on cable news shows. He might appear at symposiums, on C-SPAN, at rallies, and at other public events. While the profile of this person varies from rarely seen to too-often seen, this former dark under-lord will maintain some presence, some place in the scheme of things even after his administration has gone away. Call him an elder-statesmen, although this seems far too generous. But his place is to watch, to monitor how the book is being respected or disrespected and to comment accordingly, but always without mentioning the book. The book goes beyond politics, beyond left and right and center, beyond anything but the reality it presents.

Perhaps it's the fraternity of these former under-lords, the Cheneys, the Kissingers, that comprises the keepers of the book. Who knows. But they just might be the ones tasked with watching over it, making sure their administrations and each new administration adhere to what the book presents, adhere to its reality, and make certain the new president adheres to it as well.

Anyway... this is my theory and hypothesis. Probably unprovable, possibly paranoid, and certainly silly. Nevertheless, this possibility has fascinated me for years. 
Dark Under-Lord: "Mr. President, you must read this book."
President: "Gulp... OK."
Hail to the chief.