The Prattling Presidency

Wall Street Journal, October 13, 1994; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).


Our presidents have become big talkers. President Clinton, for example, is going across the country this week to sing the praises of his administration and of the Democratic candidates for whom he is campaigning. Even when there isn’t an election near, he is forever on the radio or running around the country making speeches, pounding the lectern, and asking the public to support his legislative program. He even employs his wife in this task.

Rather than object, the American people seem to think it altogether appropriate that the president should address them directly and on radio and TV. Everyone else does who has something to sell, so why shouldn’t the president? Still, there was a time when presidents were supposed to confine their talking to written communications addressed to Congress. In 1868, Andrew Johnson was impeached and put on trial before the Senate, in part because of his practice of making public political speeches.

American Enterprise Institute