George Graham

Being U.S. President is Not as Easy as You Might Think

Sometimes I find myself grumbling about President Obama. What’s the matter with that guy, I wonder. If I were president…

And then a still, small voice at the back of my mind sets me straight.

If you were America’s first black president, it admonishes me, you would probably run and hide.

In the complicated system of government that the Founding Fathers gave America (diagram above), progress is subject to roadblocks at every turn. The deck is stacked in favor of the status quo, and barriers abound to keep the unwashed multitudes from storming the gates of privilege and power.

Its called “checks and balances,” and it has to be the most frustrating system ever devised. To get anything done, the president needs cooperation from Congress and the courts. Obama can count on neither.

The Founding Fathers were all landed gentry and the last thing they wanted was a democracy. What they set up was a “republic.” All men are created equal, they proclaimed… except…

Except the slaves, for one.

And except the rich. Turns out that in America the rich are a lot more equal than you or I.

The way things are, the rich can legally influence the lawmaking process by contributing to politicians’ campaigns. It’s called lobbying, and it’s done right out in the open. Take out your checkbook and buy a member of Congress.

With the Republican Party shamelessly in the pockets of Big Oil, Big Business and big shots, the president has been repeatedly frustrated in his efforts to fix the massive problems he inherited from the Bush era. And worse, his reform agenda has been sabotaged by members of his own party, presumably to further the interests of their campaign contributors.

Increasingly, the courts are also siding with the rich and powerful.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that corporations are citizens just like people and can spend as much as they like to influence the outcome of elections. And the lower courts are doing their part to keep the Obama Administration from effecting meaningful change.

You will recall that U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman struck down the president’s six-month ban on drilling in the Gulf while the BP disaster is studied. And you probably know that the judge held stock in the drilling companies.

Now, three administrative judges within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have ruled that President Obama lacks the power to close the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump.

They say it was Congress that set up the Yucca Mountain dump and only Congress can close it.

I wonder whether those judges own stock in nuclear power plants.

What puzzles me is that during the Bush years, the courts repeatedly reinforced his “executive power.” But then he wasn’t black. And he wasn’t trying to help the downtrodden.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for