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Presidential Campaign News: Better to have said nothing…and phoning it in redux October 18, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

First up who saw the debate last night? I couldn’t due to a prior event, but by all accounts… well sheesh. Peter Casey doubled down on his earlier comments. What he thinks he is doing escapes me.

Meanwhile interesting to see how the non participation of the incumbent is becoming a story in itself. That’s hardly a good look. Kathy Sheridan wrote yesterday in the IT.

Presidential campaigns have a habit of turning to farce and personal destruction but this one is damaging the dignity of the office.
Although such circumstances are rare, a repeat should be avoided. The Constitution states that the president’s term of office expires at midnight on the night before the incomer’s inauguration (which means an 11-hour interregnum). It should be possible to amend this, to allow, say, for the president to resign at the outset of the campaign.

Sheridan asks the obvious questions:

It’s not a particularly long or demanding campaign; [the incumbent] is not doing a door-to-door canvass. So by declining to appear on an RTÉ flagship debate, what was the message? That he was placing himself visibly above all others? Limiting his exposure to vexatious questions?

Pat Leahy doesn’t mince his words either:

Whatever its other merits, Higgins’s strategy of campaigning on his own terms has so far a canny political judgment. He has shipped criticism from many political commentators, desperate for a competition, and has been accused of treating his opponents, and the process, with contempt.

They are understandable charges, and Higgins’s answer – that he is unselfishly protecting the office of the presidency to his own cost as a candidate – takes some neck. He has brushed aside questions about spending in the Áras, promising more information once the election is over. He has glided through respectful interrogations ever watchful for lese-majeste.

Interesting to read a slight note of criticism in the IT editorial too…

Taking on an incumbent, especially one as popular as Higgins, was always going to be a struggle. A sitting president clearly has an in-built advantage and Higgins has exploited that. Yet his campaign has been far from spectacular. He declined to take part in a televised debate on Monday, but instead of simply saying he wished to sit it out – as is his right – he produced an unconvincing claim that by skipping the encounter he was putting the presidency ahead of his candidacy, in line with the wishes of the Irish people (the official Áras an Uachtaráin diary was empty on Monday).

It pulls back later in the piece and offers a rather specious line in the following:

In focusing on trivia such as dog-grooming and the line-up in televised debates, the challengers not only sound unpresidential but waste time they could be spending making a positive case for themselves.


1. Alibaba - October 19, 2018

Am I the only one round here to argue for abolition of the presidential office? It’s an utter waste of taxpayers money.

Michael D Higgins stands head and shoulders above the other candidates. He has made known his distance from the Labour Party in this election. Instead he is the preferred candidate of the establishment for reasons of political expediency.

Surely the only issue is whether to vote for Michael D as the least worst contender or whether to spoil the ballot.


CL - October 19, 2018

The U.S and France manage quite well in combining the executive and head of state functions.
The Irish presidency is a relict of colonialism, with the president replacing the monarch.
Its a completely useless and wasteful office and its appropriate that the current campaign has descended into farce.


Alibaba - October 19, 2018

I hadn’t thought about the US or France. Well noted and said. I also think some other countries make public the number and detail of spoiled votes; not so here.


WorldbyStorm - October 19, 2018

I don’t know, I don’t regard it as a relic of colonialism, in fact I have a problem with executive Presidencies precisely because they tend to elide the state with the party in office – Trump is only one example of this but we’ve seen it before… when he speaks he speaks with the authority of both party, elected role and the Presidency of the state itself which can generate a bully pulpit dynamic. To criticise the President can (though norms are changing I suspect) be to criticise the state itself. And there’s a buffer there too between an executive arm that might get above itself. We’ve not had too much of a problem with that but there’s been one or two instances where Presidents have broadly done the right thing where in their absence an executive might have felt untrammelled.

And I think there is something to be said for the state being represented abroad and indeed around it by someone – quite apart from the division of labour rather than sending a Minister deploy the President. An example – back in 98 or so the community school in Kilbarrack I went to had it’s 20th anniversary. President McAleese arrived, was there for most of a day, was engaged, interested, non party political but definitely political and furthermore added something intangible but nonetheless real to the proceedings. For an area that had known huge deprivation over the years it was no bad thing for her to be there representing the state. Similarly in Dublin Central I remember asking Tony Gregory about it and while no fan of FF (!) he broadly saw such visits and engagements positively as bringing a spotlight to groups who otherwise a government would simply ignore. These are small things and yes, a systemic programmatic approach might address much of them. But that’s not the polity we live in or are likely to.


Michael Carley - October 19, 2018

Trump and Macron?


Alibaba - October 20, 2018

It’s true to say presidential ‘visits and engagements positively as bringing spotlight to groups otherwise a government would simply ignore.’ That presidents can enable this does seem sensible and welcome in principle, though much depends on the overall context.

To be frank, the tokenism, expense and carefully stage-managed aspects of these events really does irritate me.

I suspect that the US and France have distinctly different arrangements combining executive and head of state functions is one of the results of their revolutionary past.


WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2018

Agree completely – there’s a lot of tokenism and that’s a problem. I guess I’d be nervous about jettisoning something that has some soft power that under the last three incumbents hasn’t been the worst and in some ways has brought a spotlight to bear.


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