The Permanent Presidential Holiday

The wingnutosphere and its devotees are amusing themselves today with the fool’s errand of trying to turn Clint Eastwood’s bizarre appearance at the Republican National Convention into a positive moment in the campaign. Their device: declaring it a “National Empty Chair Day” where patriotic Americans will display empty chairs in their yards or business fronts and so forth to dramatize Eastwood’s incoherent claim that Barack Obama isn’t doing his job.

The irony of this effort, aside from the obvious folly of drawing still more attention to the low moment of the Republican Convention, is that when you think about it, the conservative model of presidential leadership in a bad economy is to do nothing. Fiscal stimulus? Of course not! More effective regulation of big banking institutions? Never! Kill all the regulations! And what conservatives have asked–nay, demanded–of Mitt Romney is that he sign the Ryan Budget as rapidly as possible and then, well, do nothing, unless he chooses to spend his time trying to outlaw abortion or start a nice little war with Iran.

So aside from their successful obstruction (certainly during 2011 and 2012) of most of Obama’s attempts to create jobs or otherwise address the country’s economic problems, today’s Republicans don’t believe in anything that would involve active presidential leadership anyway. (Recall that the very term “laissez-faire” comes from the alleged response of seventeenth century French business owners to an eager request from a mercantilist public official for action items to help them). Lord knows that in Tampa Romney and Ryan did not outline a practical agenda for what they’d do in power. So maybe those empty chairs represent not an indictment of Obama, but of those who want to take over the presidential chair and keep it permanently empty.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.