Rob Schwarzwalder

Barring impeachment (and those of us old enough to remember Watergate should dread the prospect) or an unforeseen tragedy, Barack Obama will be president for more than three years longer.

A restatement of the obvious, perhaps, but the media are full of stories about the collapse of the Obama presidency. From Obamacare to immigration reform, the President’s agenda is viewed as moribund.

It is as though some commentators think that Mr. Obama will simply slink away into political irrelevancy, becoming little more than a charming presence at various functions but with little practical authority over public policy.

Nonsense. In June 1993, Time cover-storied a floundering new president named Bill Clinton as “the incredible shrinking President.” Mr. Clinton, of course, went on to a resounding reelection win and, despite the Lewinsky scandal, enjoys a good measure of national affection to this day. His record as president, for good and ill, was formidable.

That’s because any president has remarkable authority. He heads 15 Cabinet and six Cabinet-level departments and, as openings allow, appoints the leadership of such agencies as the CIA, the NSA, the DIA, the Federal Reserve, the FBI, NASA, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Presidents nominate all federal judges, from the Supreme Court on down. Yes, they need Senate confirmation, but given the recent change in Senate voting rules made by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), those nominations now have an almost unimpeded likelihood of approval.

Any president remains Commander-in-Chief of the largest and most powerful military in world history. In the case of a national emergency, he has great latitude to do whatever he thinks wisest for the security of the nation.

We also have to remember that personnel is policy: Men and women who make and implement public policy, whether through the regulatory system or their behind-the-scenes work at their posts, have a tremendous impact on the life of the nation. In the words of presidential scholar James P. Pfiffner,

Since Roosevelt’s Presidency, the Executive Office of the President has gained about 2,000 people, and the number of political appointees has increased to more than 7,000. Setting aside White House staffers and about 3,000 part time Presidential appointments, each new President fills about 3,000 positions with his or her partisans.

Rob Schwarzwalder

Rob Schwarzwalder serves as Senior Vice President for the Family Research Council. He oversees FRC’s Policy department, including the Marriage and Religion Research Institute.