The Promise of Prime Ministers and Presidents

When President Obama looks across the table at his guest of honour this evening, one wonders if his lamb may be complemented by a taste of envy. Both he and Prime Minister Trudeau will enjoy what will certainly be an exquisite meal. Like the campaigns that brought them to office it will be precisely planned, and no doubt executed to perfection.

Along with a meal this evening, they share progressive values, beautiful families and enormous popularity. Yet the President knows Mr. Trudeau has two things he can never share in. A majority government under a parliamentary system, and more time.

Both men reached the pinnacle of their respective governments on platforms of hope, change, and a call to inclusion. There are no doubt many values the two hold as common ground. Though we learned this morning hockey may not be among them.

Past the pomp and circumstance of the official White House arrival earlier today, it was not hard to see a genuine friendship and affection has developed between the two. Seeing them side by side I had to wonder what more President Obama could have done with the powers of a Prime Minister.

Free from the hostilities of an obstructionist Republican congress, what could the President have achieved in his eight years? Were he head of the Legislative branch of his government, and not just the Executive, how much more could he have done for Americans?

Would Americans be safer from the scourge of gun violence in their country if the President had the sort of free hand a Prime Minister does to pass laws? The U.S Constitution’s much debated second amendment might make it impossible to bring their gun laws closer to those working well all over the world. Still, if whatever steps the President did want to take were certain to pass on the Hill as they would in our House, how many lives might have been saved?

Under President Obama the lives of roughly 20 million Americans have been improved, many literally saved, thanks to Obamacare. Likely the piece of legislation he will be best remembered for, it represents a step towards the health care Canadians see as sacrosanct. Unfortunately, it is the smallest of baby steps and far from sacrosanct if Republicans have their way in November.

Come November, Americans will elect a new President and two months later President Barack Obama’s remarkable term in office will come to a close. From a strengthened economy, to expanded health care, historic diplomatic deals with China, Iran, and of course Cuba, to call President Obama’s term successful would be an understatement.  That Republicans would call it otherwise, does not make it so.

The voices of anger and fear leading the GOP, thrive on the same politics of division and ignorance as those the Prime Minister defeated in last year’s election. People breeding resentment to grow their chances of victory are not unique to either side of our shared border. Canada and the U.S will be well served if their shouts are rendered to whispers again by the electorate. Should the platform Americans choose to embrace be one built for them all to stand taller, Canadians will have as much reason to celebrate.

At tonight’s State dinner Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama will break bread, and toast one another to celebrate in the way old friends do. Consequently, I hope the President will offer some advice as friends do as well. If the President has one advantage over the Prime Minister it is that he can look back at his time in office, while Mr. Trudeau is still looking ahead towards much of his own.

The President should remind his friend to reach as high with his ambitious agenda as he can in the time he has. Term limits or not, there’s one thing Prime Minister Trudeau surely knows just as well as President Obama. Eventually, all good parties come to an end.

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