“What will you do to reduce the power of the presidency?”
The disappointing answers I’d expect, in decreasing order of lameness:
- George Bush exercised power irresponsibly, I will do so benevolently — expected from many Democratic and some Republican candidates. Ignore history and put your trust in the candidate and his successors.
- Congress needs to get a backbone — expected from many Democratic candidates. Likely the candidate is a current or recent member of congress, hmm.
- Cut back government and the president has less power to exercise — expected from Ron Paul. I’m all for this, but it’s really a version of the first answer. Coming from anyone other than Paul, it is merely a particularly insincere version of the first answer.
- We need a strong president to lead the terror war — expected from many Republican candidates. This view may be more immediately dangerous than all of the above, but it isn’t nearly as lame.
I’m afraid I’d have a hard time providing a specific non-lame (and not pie-in-the-sky) answer myself, but what I’d want to hear are specific structural and cultural changes that would make it more difficult for the president to act in an unchecked manner. Every semi-viable candidate has plenty of paid wonks and fans to come up with a non-lame answer that fits their ideology.
One cultural change any candidate could effect right now would be to act like a job applicant rather than a contestant for temporary dictator — answer hypotheticals directly and express deference rather than refusing to answer or providing non-answers and demanding deference.