Presidents consistently overpromise and underdeliver. What they need to say to get elected far outpaces what they can actually do in office. President Obama is a perfect example. His 2008 campaign didn’t just promise health-care reform, a stimulus bill, and financial regulation. It also promised a cap-and-trade bill to limit carbon emissions, comprehensive immigration reform, gun control, and much more. His presidency, he said, would be change American could believe in. But it’s clear now that much of the change he promised isn’t going to happen — in large part because he doesn’t have the power to make it happen.
You would think voters in general and professional media pundits in particular would, by now, be wise to this pattern. But they’re not. Each disappointment wounds anew. Each unchecked item on the to-do list is a surprise. Belief in the presidency seems to be entirely robust to the inability of any particular president to make good on their promises. And so the criticism is always the same: why can’t the president be more like the Green Lantern?
If you, like me, are not up on your comic book heroes, here’s the explanation:
Wait, how did the Green Lantern get involved in all this?
The Green Lantern Corps is a fictional, intergalactic peacekeeping entity that exists in DC comics. Members of the Corps get a power ring that capable of creating green energy projections of almost unlimited power. The only constraint is the willpower and imagination of the ring’s wearer. There was a long period of time when the ring was ineffective against the color yellow but in more recent comics that’s just “the Parallax fear anomaly” at work and with enough courage and willpower, the ring works just fine against the color yellow.