Because of the unique feature of our constitution that makes the president both the head of state and the head of government, every presidency operates on two levels. The head of state operates on the legislative level. The head of government operates on the executive level.
Most presidents are good at only one or the other and most choose to spend the majority of their energies on the legislative. They therefore temper their executive activities so as not to interfere with the political nature of their legislative activities.
For what it’s worth, history will likely show that President Barack Obama was good at neither. It is true that when he enjoyed veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress during the first two years of his presidency, he managed to push through the nearly $900 billion “stimulus” and, of course, “Obamacare.” But for the six years following the mid-term election cycle in 2010, nothing of note bearing Obama’s imprimatur made it through Congress. For three quarters of his presidency, Obama had next to no success as head of state.
Thus he pivoted to being head of government. In the Obama second term, virtually all presidential activity was conducted via executive action and much of that action was quickly struck down in the courts.
Depending on what ultimately happens with Obamacare, historians will record that little of lasting legislative or executive consequence happened on Barack Obama’s watch.
We are now coming to understand that President Trump, in a departure from prior administrations, sees himself primarily as the head of government.
It is true that he has no major legislative victories so far and that his legislative future is rather cloudy. But on the executive side, his presidency so far is a smashing success – a fact that is little reported in the mainstream media.
The first thing an executive president can do is address federal agency regulations and President Trump has – with a vengeance. Regulations that have crippled American businesses of all sizes – but most of all small, independent businesses – are being stricken on an almost daily basis. (The fact that you may not know this is a reflection of the biases of the White House press corps.) The economy is responding with rapidly increased hiring, a solid uptick in manufacturing, second quarter GDP growth at twice the rate of the average of the Obama years and a soaring stock market.
On the world scene, North Korea blinked when at last stared down by a determined U.S. president, ISIS is in its death throes and Iran and Syria are coming to the realization that the U.S. now means business.
On matters close to home here in Texas, the national media has had no choice but to admit that the federal response to Hurricane Harvey has been timely, competent and successful.
All of this is because of executive action taken by an executive president. We have not had a true executive in the White House in recent memory. This is what one looks like.