1sunfight’s Weblog

November 22, 2008

Waiting to Exhale

That is what is happening in Washington, DC. They are waiting to exhale.

President Bush has been noticeably absent from the machinations aimed at righting the nation’s financial course. Analysts and key players differ over whether President-elect Barack Obama should get his economic team in place and take charge, or sit back and await his turn at the helm.

“Somebody has to speak up soon,” said CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, explaining that he understands why Americans are growing anxious and yearning for direction and leadership.

“I think … sort of the bottom feels like it is falling out for many people,” said Gergen, who has advised four presidents. “They sense there’s a total lack of leadership in Washington, that the White House is silent, the treasury secretary has been battered, the Federal Reserve can’t speak up. These automakers come up to Capitol Hill and fail. And the president-elect is silent in Chicago.”

Obama noted shortly after his election that “the United States has only one government and one president at a time, and until January 20th of next year, that government is the current administration.”


In the meantime the economy is falling apart, banks, businesses, entire industries are failing. People are losing their homes, jobs, and their sense of security. So where is our leadership?

President Bush has done nothing more than a cameo appearance in September with a two minute speech one night that was reminiscent of any Hoover speech given at the beginning of the Great Depression. A man completely out of touch with the world around and no idea what to do next. The next day he came back and made another cameo appearance, looking defeated and impotent. Bush, the lame duck president, has not been seen or heard from since.

On the other hand, President Elect Obama is in Chicago selecting his cabinet and planning for the day when he is sworn into office, January 20th, 2009. He is not the President of the United States yet, so he has no real power to do anything of any consequence. He might be able to influence George W. Bush, but that would be his limit.

So here we are, waiting to exhale just like we did after the election of 1932, only then it was different, there was a four month waiting period between the election and the inauguration. Hoover was a president incapable of stopping the freight train and FDR was a president in waiting. That was four months for the Great Depression to accelerate.

What happened at that time was the ratification of the 20th Amendment shorting the lame duck period by five weeks. It went into effect on January 23, 1933. The reason behind such a long period between the election and the swearing in of the new president goes back to our early days of a nation.

Early in the political history of the nation, the period between the election and swearing-in of elected officials was a small issue. With slow methods of transportation and the nature of the politician in the 18th century, the lame duck period was almost a necessity. In fact, once the November election was established, it was more than a year before newly elected congressmen met in December.

Given that the reason behind why there was such a long period between those two events it made sense then. Then in 1933 when the lame duck session was shortened. Since 1933 the world has sped up, a lot can happen in twenty four hours in the 21st century. Our method of transportation has definitely sped up, communications have sped up, and the world is integrated well beyond the scope of our Founding Fathers imagination. In fact, the world is even a much different place than it was when the 20th Amendment was ratified.

The waiting period between the election in November and the inauguration in January has become a detriment to modern America. The gravity of today’s problems demand immediate attention that cannot wait until January. They need immediate attention. It could be time to amend to the Constitution and have the swearing in moved to a month, or some other shortened period of time. Today’s world demands instant responses, not delayed responses from an era gone by.

I have no answer as what to do with our current situation. We have a weak, spineless president who will not do anything to lead and we have a president  elect who cannot do anything because he is not the president.

We need a new Amendment to the 20th Amendment. We no longer need a lame duck session any longer than is necessary to select a new cabinet and get the new government ready.

20th Amendment

1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.

3. If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.

4. The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.

5. Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.

6. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.


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