Throughout history the president of the U. S. has always been judged, and held responsible, by the public for ever thing he does. This is still the case today. Since the mid 1930s things such as approval ratings, which measure a random sample of American’s opinion of the President, have existed. If the President is making mistakes, his approval ratings will drop, and conversely, if the President is making the populous happy, his approval rating will rise. Looking over some of my old notes I saw I had written down “success = glory, failure = blame” in the middle of a bulleted list under “Neo-Classical Model.” Reading over this, I kind of got the idea that a modern presidency can be classified as successful or unsuccessful by the Neo-Classical Model of Michael Walzer’s Dirty Hands.
I remember talking about how the Neo-Classical model seemed impractical in Section; however, the more I think about the model the more it makes sense to me. I think that success = glory and failure = blame is a perfect model for the judging the President. Within the Neo-Classical model, success or failure are measured by utilitarianism for the state, to an extent. This means that a President is successful if the ends justify the means for the state or country. Finally, the Neo-Classical model has only one right answer, and morality is more or less underscored.
Part of the problem with the Neo-Classical model is that it isn’t really fair to the person being judged to have clean or dirty hands. The Neo-Classical model doesn’t do a good job when determining whether one’s hands are clean or dirty. Instead, the Model does a good job determining the success or failure of someone. Failure = blame is the same exact thing as “as soon as you screw up, you are blamed.” The failure may not even be an individual’s fault, yet they are still blamed, and subsequently have dirty hands. I think this is kind of how approval ratings end up reading. A president’s approval rating drops if he makes poor decisions for the country, and rise if he makes good decisions for the country.
I think that the easiest example to look at using this model is Iraq. Iraq has been very expensive for our military, but more importantly, incredibly taxing on Iraq. Furthermore there were no weapons of mass destruction, which was our main purpose for invading Iraq. As a result of what happened in Iraq, former President Bush’s approval rating dropped. Iraq was expensive for the military, disrupted the country, and made oil more expensive. Iraq can generally be regarded as a failure because the ends didn’t justify the means. Because of this Bush was blamed, and his approval rating took a hit.
Another popular example that I couldn’t possible pass up using is the impeachment of President Clinton. Clinton is actually very interesting when looked at from a Neo-Classical perspective because he isn’t really considered a failure and blamed as the Neo-Classical model dictates. Clinton was one of the few Presidents who had a budget surplus. Also, Clinton’s approval rating rose during the scandal subsequent impeachment. Clinton certainly made a mistake when fooling around with Lewinsky, but from a Neo-Classical standpoint, one can view Clinton in a successful light. This is because Neo-Classical success deals with utilitarianism for the state or country, and a budget surplus is certainly nice for the country.
The biggest thing about the Neo-Classical model is the justification for actions. Good or bad justification translates into success or failure, respectfully. I think that the Neo-Classical model is a surprisingly effective, though unexpected, way to evaluate a president’s success or failure.