You often read and hear descriptions of the job title of the American president: Commander in Chief. Head of the Executive branch. Comforter in Chief (during times of national tragedy). Decision Maker. We also are told about the authority the president has: Nuclear weapon release. Executive Orders (EO...but these only apply to the Executive Branch and can be struck down if illegal). Presidential Decision Memorandums (PDM). Appointing Federal judges. Deployment of Armed Forces. Finally, we are told of intangibles the office brings: Bully pulpit. Policy maker. Influencer. What we don't often think about is what the president cannot do: Cannot spend money (unless Congress gives it to them). Cannot raise money (unless Congress authorizes it). Cannot make laws (Congress does this).
So what should we want then?
What is a good presidents primary responsibility to the American people then? The Convincer in Chief. A president's main function is to convince the majority of the American people, and the majority of Congress, to support, legislate and fund those things that were promised prior to being elected. The important word here is "majority"...not just the Americans that voted for them...or fellow congressional party members. We expect debate, compromise, win-win, whatever it takes to implement those policies. If a president can't do that, then what are they doing? We don't need a CEO spewing policy memorandums. We don't need royal decrees that are unconstitutional, unenforceable and eventually overturned in the courts. Follow-through on policy promises is the standard by which we should judge if we are getting our money's worth from the president. Instead, we tend to let mainstream media convince us, that, for example, economic indicators are a standard of presidential success. That is 20th century thinking. In this century, a standard such as continued economic growth also has a cost; namely climate change and overuse of unsustainable resources. So if the standard is wrong, and the long term results are unacceptable, why are we paying attention to things like economic metrics when deciding if a president is doing their job?
How are we doing?
Not good and getting worse I would say. The current Convincer in Chief, has not really done much convincing as far as I can tell. The one thing that was a success was the First Step Act as part of judicial reform. It had bipartisan support. There are to many failures to list. So choose your standards wisely when deciding what a successful president is, and is not.