Greetings, non-citizens and/or future voters! As you may recall, I recently explained to (at, whatever) foreigners and children how the United States’ political parties work. Since that was a rousing success – mostly because neither of you have command of my language to voice your objections – I’ve been tapped to now explain the three branches of our government.
The three branches are the executive, legislative and judicial branches. These were delineated all the way back in 1789, when a group of self-selected landowners (mostly lawyers) met to secretly and kind of/sort of illegally overhaul our existing government as outlined in the Articles of Confederation. This was the now legal framing of our famed Constitution. Perhaps you’ve seen it on your tour of Ron Paul’s breast pocket?
To reflect this spirit of open contempt towards our law of the land, they intentionally set up a lawyer-driven three-way deathmatch between three equal branches. This cage fight is called “checks and balances,” which was based on the use of elbows and fleet footwork in Senate-floor cane brawls.
Because of the amount of information involved, and because every element of our government is ripe for jokes, I’ve divided this into a three part series. This week, it’s the executive branch.
The Executive Branch
If you’ve been bombed (or droned) in the past 50 years, then you’re already familiar with this branch. It consists of the President, the Vice President, and the President’s cabinet, which is a group of secretaries the President selects to think about all the things voters would rather not, like transportation and safety.
They all work in the White House, which is discernible by being made out of white marble, unlike every other building in Washington, D.C. The President, however, gets to live there, which makes him the only person in the national capitol area with a commute that takes less than an hour.
Every organization needs a leader, an idea-man. Basically, somebody to blame when the world turns to shit. Our scapegoat is called the President.
The President is elected by all registered voters in the nation … kind of. It’s actually a complicated affair that nobody wants to talk about until their preferred candidate loses. Let’s just say that it’s like voting for Prom King, if by voting you mean electing a prom committee to pick one for you. (If you’re from a country that forbids dancing, then replace “prom king” with “dictator” and “prom committee” with “military junta.”)
You may have noticed that I keep referring to the President as “he.” That’s because we’ve never elected a woman President; their menses disrupt Congress.
Once elected, the President has the powers of signing bills into law or vetoing them if he thinks the penmanship is atrocious. He can also issue executive orders, which are like laws, but totally not if the wrong person asks.
The President is also the Commander-in-Chief of our nation’s military. In recent years (if you consider over half a century as “recent”), the President has used this position to send our military into other countries for peacekeeping, to support our allies and to preemptively stop jerks from leering at our monuments, but never for war. It may look, feel, sound and smell like war, but it’s not because Congress hasn’t said so.
Impeachment proceedings, legislative veto overrides, judicial reviews and re-elections every four years.
The Vice President
Even a scapegoat needs a scapegoat sometimes. That person is the Vice President.
This is a tradition that was originally issued as a punishment to the first loser in the Presidential election. It was quickly determined, however, that, while it’s fun to kick a politician when he’s down, it’s even more fun to pick a prize idiot that would never, ever make it to the final round.
Vice presidents are chosen for a variety of qualities, but most often these are based on the President himself. In fact, picking the Vice President is the first decision a President makes, and this is done before he’s even elected. If he can’t get this decision right, then it’s assumed that all of his other decisions will follow suit.
Like a well-intentioned arranged marriage, the Vice President must possess the qualities that a presidential contender lacks so that they may compliment each other for a more-rounded ticket. If the President is from the north, then he might pick a Veep from the south. If he’s more of a thinker, then he’ll pick a dumbass cracker from the Midwest. If he’s an idiot, he’ll pick Machiavelli’s prince. And if he’s an African-American, he’ll pick the bumbling white guy who looks like your uncle that almost became a priest.
The Vice President has only one power: if the Senate vote reaches a tie, then he may cast the deciding vote. After all, this is America, not soccer.
Other than that, the Vice President bides his time with whatever projects the President sends him. That’s not to say he isn’t respected. President George H.W. Bush posted all of his Veep, Dan Quayle’s drawings on the White House refrigerator where Barb and all the servants could see them.
However, like magic, the Constitution returns any dark spell back upon the caster times three. So, if the President becomes incapacitated, then the rube he picked automatically becomes the new president.
Impeachment and microphones.
As explained before, the president’s cabinet is not a hutch the president selects because the White House is fully furnished (as enacted by the National Park Service to keep out Billy Carter’s kegorator). Rather, the cabinet is a group of hand-selected experts to manage the nitty-gritty details of government.
Most of these positions manage exactly what you’d think based on their title, except the Secretary of the Interior, who manages our several outdoors areas. And while many of these members are called secretaries, presidents haven’t tried to bang them since Kennedy. (Those positions are now called interns to avoid complications like whether paying them makes them prostitutes.)
All cabinet members must report to the President, who then determines whether they get to keep their jobs. If they do really well, then they get ambassadorships.
The First Lady
There’s one last position in the executive branch, but she’s not mentioned in the Constitution, and that is the President’s wife. Much like the Vice President, she’s traditionally selected before the President’s election, but don’t tell that to Presidents Tyler, Cleveland and Wilson.
Once a President is elected and married, that woman is called the First Lady because she was the first woman in the world to see the President before he put his wig and makeup on back in the 18th Century.
Because the Constitution grants no powers to the First Lady that she doesn’t already wield in the non-touristy areas of the White House, she must pick a pet cause to work on. Some have selected children’s literacy, others children’s fitness. Betty Ford chose drinking because, seriously, have you tried to make a kid read or exercise?
Again, because she’s not mentioned in the Constitution, nothing can stop the First Lady. Not even the Grimace.
And that’s just the executive branch. Tune in next week for the legislative branch.