Symbolic Presidency

Matt Yglesias raises a good point about John McCain’s pork-busting, um, hogwash which was on full display on Morning Joe. (Go to Yglesias for the clip). But here’s the point.

But surely McCain doesn’t actually think the president should veto this bill, right? After all, McCain himself voted for it and is urging the House to pass it. That’s because the bill is very important, so it needs to be passed even if there’s some crap associated with it. Which is how things work — you don’t attach your pork items to trivial pieces of legislation that people are happy to throw overboard, you attack them to the important bills that need to pass. McCain is fond of observing that you can’t vote “present” when you’re President of the United States. Which is true enough. But you also can’t cast churlish protest votes. A Senator is often in a position to vote against a bill just to make a point, sure that it’ll pass anyway. But a president can’t veto a bill just because it includes a tax break for manufacturers of toy wooden arrows — if it’s an important bill, he needs to sign it.

I really don’t have much else to add other than this is just another way in which John McCain doesn’t fully grasp the difference between being a Senator and being a President. A Senator can bluster all he wants about us all “being Georgians” or cast symbolic votes in the Senate, but there really isn’t such a thing as a symbolic veto or reprecussion free Presidential sabre-rattling.

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