Parliamentary America, Presidential Britain, Bishops versus GMA

An absolutely fascinating entry in TPM Cafe by Mark Schmitt:

A standard critique of Blair in the U.K.,.. is that he has brought a “presidential” style of leadership to the office. That’s partly a dig at his alliances with Clinton and Bush, and his American-style press operation, but it really means that he aspired to be a national leader based on his personal vision and charisma rather than the leader of a party with a coherent platform…

Under Bush in the U.S., on the other hand, we have moved toward something that looks a lot more like parliamentary government, in which the ruling party moves with a single voice and when it fails to do so, the whole order is at risk. If Blair is more national leader than party leader, Bush has styled himself as much more the leader of an ideologically unified majority party than any American president in decades, including those such as LBJ who had solid congressional majorities. He is the first president, for example, to handpick the Senate majority leader.

Schmitt goes on to observe that,

The phenomenon of parliamentary democracies that surely seems weirdest to an American is the fact that a single loss can bring down a government. We are accustomed to having our “accountability moments” at regularly scheduled intervals, with all sorts of congressional victories and defeats in between. And there’s something to be said for that. A president can be daring, can try to push Congress in certain directions, and can win some or lose some, get up off the mat and come right back and try again. Imagine, for example, if Bill Clinton had been prime minister rather than president. Rather than eight consecutive years in office, he would have been like one of those prime ministers who comes in and out of power several times, losing confidence votes, dissolving governments, and then forming new ones on new coalitions.

A great deal of Bush/Rove/DeLay’s success over the past five years has come from pushing through party-line votes as if they were confidence votes in a parliamentary system. Many of the votes pushed through with massive arm-twisting and unprecedented procedures, such as the Medicare prescription drug bill and the 2003 tax bill, were sold on the basis that the president needs the victory. You may not think this is good policy, wavering Republicans were told, but if the president wins, he gets reelected and we all win; we lose, and our whole edifice of power collapses.

And just as in a parliamentary system, that works until it stops working. And when it stops working, the government is finished. After reelection, the confidence vote argument lost some steam. Seeing Bush as a burden in 2006 rather than an asset for reelection, it loses still more. Having chosen to govern as a party, rather than national, leader, Bush has few of the resources that other presidents have had to salvage themselves, and the same goes for the Republican leadership in Congress.

And thus, Bush and Blair arrived this week at the same place, moving in opposite directions. The parliamentarian who governed as a president and the president who brought one-party parliamentary government to the U.S. have simultaneously reaced “the dusk” of their governments.

Read the whole thing. I’ve said before (and the observation isn’t my own, it’s culled from what others have pointed out) that there is an interesting trend going on in some parliamentary democracies. Prime Ministers are campaigning for office like presidential candidates and, once they win, they rule like presidents. Britain is an example (see above) but so is Israel; I wonder if the same thing couldn’t be said for India, and is taking place in Thailand (though it’s debatable whether the PM of Thailand, said to be headed on a collision course with the revered King Bhumibol, is acting presidential or merely setting the stage for a dictatorship). I tend to suspect that the mania for going parliamentary is yet another example of our insular tendency to latch on to a fashion at the point it’s already fading from the scene elsewhere.

Last night Ricky Carandang followed up on an earlier show pitting priests against priests (or, to be precise, priests against a priest, three critics of the government versus Monsignor Nico Bautista, who was gaudily dressed in a black silk uh, chong sam, apparently his clerical Halloween costume) with a show featuring Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Bishop Teodoro Bacani, and a Brother whose order or congregation belongs to the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP). The big to-do from the show came about near the end, after the guests basically kept echoing each other’s view that the position of the Catholic hierarchy will shift, against the President, but not quickly or dramatically (the speculation’s due to the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines having a new head, Archbishop Antonio Lagdameo). Philippine Commentary has argued that the seemingly inevitable shift of the CBCP to a position less supportive of the President, may be what’s needed to break the political impasse.

Anyway, the Brother, and I believe, one or two of the bishops, mentioned that ahead of the CBCP’s next meeting in January, consultations with the clergy have been called for. The AMRSP, officially critical of the President, and many priests and nuns have expressed dissatisfaction with the more moderate line of the hierarchy. If the bishops are willing to dialogue with their priests and nuns, and there will be a less coddling attitude on the part of the CBCP head, the Palace has reason to worry.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

20 thoughts on “Parliamentary America, Presidential Britain, Bishops versus GMA

  1. I believe it would help greatly if the religous groups namely, the Roman Catholic church heirarchy, INC, Bro. Eddie, Mike Velarde first make a declaration as to where their material economic interests lie rerlative to the government.

    During the height of the Asian financial crisis and when local banks were forced to consolidate , the funds of the Chrch was at risk as they have funds invested with the banks that were on the brink of insolvency. Case in point, the Urban Bank Investment Unit. The Archdiocese of Ceb’s funds were tied up with this banking unit. Bernardo Villegas was their adviser. During the term of Erap the bank was shut down but not liquidated. When GMA came into her power another probably (Export & Import bank) close to her took over Urban bank. I believe the major investor in Export and Import Bank was an Indonesian Chinese by the name of James Riaddy who is also known as the Mike jimenez of indonesia. He was also charged in cases concerning illegal campaign contributions to bill Clinton. He made a plea bargain.

    The funds were thus saved aas the BSP allowed a sweetheart deal for the incoming bank. Take a look at Archbishop- Capalla. He said not to get involved in politics but he loobby’s on behalf of coconut farmers over the coco levy funds. His self interest is obviously the material interest of his parishoners. But why get involved in the material interest of his flock. That is purely a political manuever. If other priests and bishops complain about high gas prices and VAT the government and some members of the Chruch tell them off. What gives?

    The New York times just reported that a well known lobbyist in the United States charged $9 million to a African “dictator” for access to Bush’s White House. But at least there noting is illegal as the only offense the guy could have committed was not reporting the fact of his engagement.

    Everyone cannot deny they have a self interest to protect. It would help if everyone identified their interest both physcial and metaphyscal. The INC, Mike Velarde, Bro. Eddie must be compelled also to expose their ties with government vis a vis their commercial interests.

    It is so so basic that self interest rules. Complete transparency is impossible but we have to get close to that. That is what the invisible hand is all about. The role of the state is to mitigate and arbitrate the natural conflicts within society. That means that for that to work civil society must be tranparent. That includes all members of society.

    A long time columnist of the New York Times just recently resigned for her perceived bias in writing. She got to close for comfort with the government and lost her objectivity. She resigned.

    How many people understand that in economics we are talking about human consciouness and for human interaction to work equitably information should be open to all.

  2. I was surprised to learn Karl Rove’s special assistant is a Filipino-American, Susan B. Ralston. She was recommended to Rove by her former boss, Jack Abramoff. Anyway, this is the same lady who seems to be favorite witness of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald for his investigation of the Valerie Plame leak case.

    here’s a photo of her:

  3. Even as we have now if we have an alphabet soups of parties
    You can see that one can easily jump from one party to the other.And one can go against his principles and the collective vote will be called crossing the partylines.
    Having people with scyzo and identity crisis in those parties makes it very democratic.

    Just look at look at JPE and Mirriam, they are in their in an age that people should know who they are .where they come from,where they stand and what they are made of.

    But are they alone in their scyzo and ID crisis? no even young guys join them now and maybe rot in age of scyzo.

    What the hell are values for taught in school and parents and sesame street just enter into politics then everything is erased…one may say iba ako sa bahay iba sa congresso
    They may shout at it other daw then rub elbows after.
    We can throw values in the basket and die confused.

    Now I say enter into politics everything gets thrown eh sa bahay palang me politics na so even before the term politics got invented me politika na even before the term gridlock got invented me buhol buhol na buhok na nagsasabunutan na magkapatid o magasawa…..

    Before I say anything tactless…adios!

  4. After a few minutes of relaxing breathing and drinking water
    I have moved to my other personality.

    The economic stand of the church? which church? we have many churches …one even when transalted translate to universal then what.

    I also saw that interview with set of priests one is for this and one is for that, I even saw a priest writing that it is about time church pay taxes. my gosh buti pa yung mga bata alam na nagbabayad na sila ng taxes bumili lang sila ng candy.Kahit na bigay ng magulang ang pera sila nagabot kaya sila ang nagbayad.

    Gleamy christmas as forecasted by a running priest..we don;t even Know what christmas is for because bata pa lang tayo santa clause na sino ba yung Jesus na yun tapos biglang mabubura sating isipan si santa clause pagtatawanan na natin ang mga barkada natin pag naniniwala ke santa.Bata pa lang tayo we were trained for the outside world of scyzoprenia ……….
    Kaya siguro maraming nanunuod ng Lost at survivor para makita kung pano mabuhay ang maga tao away from the world of politics marooned in an island…. after watching the first season of lost have they escape politics? now if one is voted out did they escape politics?

  5. Very interesting article. While i heard it mentioned before that Blair’s style was in the mold of US presidents, it did not occur to me that the Bush administration has operated in a manner much like that of a parliamentary government. This approach has until now suited one of the most ideologically-driven US administrations with its coalition of religious bigots, small government ideologues and a cabal of neocon would-be empire builders. By supporting each other’s agenda, they have managed to avoid legislative gridlock and engineer in five short years one of American history’s greatest leap backwards. For the sake of this planet, one would hope that it’s really twilight for these guys.

  6. at saka meron pa labanos mustasa…

    Who says there is such a thing as analysis paralysys….I recently tried the stemcell procedure and my paralysis was again back to analysis then later back to paralysis.

    I said gleamy parang detergent gloomy pala.
    This was for those suffering from winter and made an index o how much cloud is up in the sky tapos anong tawag sa syndrome na yun na nadedepress dahil sa winter.
    Hey!we don’t have winter here what’s the reason for gloom

    Going back to CBCP the last ace in the pocket as Chicken little may have thought so ..teka bakit ko nga ba tinatawag na chicken little yun ayaw nya ibalita na sky is falling…

    Bunye Ermita Urges Lagdameo to shun from politics..say what?
    pati ba naman sila pipigilan para lalo manggigil

    It’s sand in the hand ….squeeze them you lose them.

  7. Excellent point. Having arrived at the same point via different routes, the next question is, what is the next step for such national leaders as Blair and Bush? I would submit that the next stage of evolution for leaders are those that become internationalist in their hold upon the imagination of the global populace. I predict that in twenty years the dominant leaders will have consitutents that span many countries. Why? Because I think what has brought Blair and Bush to this point is the same thing that will mold new leaders that have a greater vision than Empire or Nationalism. I submit that the War on Terror will either unite nations or destroy them all. May I point out that along with the US, UK, Australia, the Philippines is really a part of something I like to call the Anglosphere. And we can have a greater say and mroe respect in that alliance than we think.

  8. From a religous, cultural and geopolitical standpoint, the presence of the Philippines in Muslim Southeast Asia, is a lot like Israel in the Middle East, both early outposts of the memes of Nationalism and Democracy, though we’ve certainly mutated into something else, as you point out. But I think we should be the Israel of the Anglosphere in this part of the world.

  9. Hi, a little correction, DJB. Southeast Asia is also strongly Buddhist and Hindu. But still, yeah, the RP occupies a somewhat anomalous position like that of Israel.

  10. Thanks for the amplification R. Yes indeed, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and the rest of Asia contains a billion Buddhists too. But the world’s most populous Muslim country is in SEA, Indonesia The Middle East likewise has many religions, cultures and ethnicities other than Islam and Arabs. eg the Persian Empire IS Iran, and I guess they used to be Zoroastrians (Maji).

    But Jews and Filipinos are unique in their respective millieus because of their ties to the West, which like MLQ3’s example is also contrapuntal:

    Modern Jews in Israel are balikbayans of a 2000 year old Diaspora, a return enabled by the West.

    Modern Filipinos are alisbayans of a 100 year old Diaspora to the West.

    I submit that the “bayans” in both statements are the same thing: the culture and reality of the Anglosphere.

    More parallels: It was Britain that made the state of Israel on September 11, 1922 making a home for the Jews. It was America that returned the Republic of the Philippines to the Filipinos on July 4, 1946 after teaching us reading, writing and ‘rithmnetic for the first time since Mahoma. (The Spanish never did.)

    Filipinos are NOT Asians, any more than the Jews are Arabs or Persians. Israel and the Philippines, Jews and Filipinos are inextricably a part of the Anglosphere (and a lil more distantly related to the “West” which would France and Spain.)

    Shoud we worry about every Fil-Am Friendship Day then (July 4)?

  11. Rather than comment anything senseless.

    I do enjoy the knowledge I get from reading DJB..
    Tapos napaparesarch pa ako sa mga hindi ko maarok.

    being in the blogosphere for merely a week made me learn a lot but one thing that must not be unlearned is objectivity…
    journalist or not one must have it always.
    sorry for my hit miss opinions and pretender stances…

    Thanks DJB, MLQ and the rest of the commentors

  12. Well, its too early to leave the topics on this blog.

    Quo vadis Philippines?

    As I may have said in other forums The recent move of the preident to go on the defensive offensive mode against the media and the church maybe the last nail in the coffin for her.
    That may have been her political suicide move unless her think tanks again claim resiliency or may even deny that GMA is against press freedom and has always been in good relationship with the CBCP.

    Come on people let us not fall for this time and again.

  13. Filipinos are Asians, undoubtedly. Whatever colonial accretions we have at the moment are just that: layers and layers of colonial moss. Somethimes we begin to think we have more in common with the West with all our baggage and the pervasiveness of Western culture, but we are very Asian. Our culture and experiences have more in common with the Indians, Indonesians, Thais, Burmese, Chinese, etc rather than the Australians, Americans or Europeans. We may speak English complete with the prescribed twang or drawl, but that only makes us good mimics. A mimic is not the real thing. No, we are not of the West no matter how much some of us may that to be. The Pinoy call center worker may be a political science graduate steeped in Mills, Jefferson and Marx speaking in a Midwestern accent in the 37th floor. Yet he/she at the end of the day rides a jeepney, wades through pollution/floods, makes the sign of the cross at the sight of a church, catches the telenovela on tv, eats balut and noodles, drinks beer with the barkada, exchanges text messages, sends the next sibling to school, and lives with parents to save on rent.

    We are not like the Jews either. Maybe the overseas Chinese and Indians have more similarities with the Jewish experience of diaspora. We don’t have the same temperament. Jews who leave their homeland end up owning businesses in other countries through luck and hard work. Filipinos who live their homeland end up slaving in Muslim countries, Hawaiian plantations, mainland orchards, in hospitals and nursing homes the world over.

  14. Yes the similarity betwen the people from India and those from Israel is to their going back to their home countries.

    As DJB put its sila balik bayan tayo alis bayan

    pero bago sila bumalik umalis muna sila.

    So time will come when all those alis bayans may come home afterall!

    Speaking of the jews the remaining jews left in the states control the us government and some powerful businesses..they have a good mix in the democrats and the republican parties and those that got away from the Nazis are now owners of businesses…..

    As to the call center mimicking just wait a few years for technology to catch up and make call centers obsolete and that part of the mimickry will somehow disappear …But as to other forms of BPO its another story.
    That idea that one day those that sacrificed as maids,nurses, engineers unwanted inventors will evolve into technopreneurs and do wonders for us..just wait and see if it reaches our lifetime.

    yes we are Filipino dominently malay influenced By the Indons and before that the negrito.
    Somewhere in between came the Arabs,the hindus,the chinese even before the spanish. We to once benefitted from the diaspora’s of other nations and they also beneffited from us.
    Even if Filipino is named after A spanish royalty nandyan na yan eh..we must remeber na kahit anong mangyari saan man tayo na tayo ay pilipino.

  15. On separation of chrcuh and State in the U.S. please note the actions of the CBCP in the U.S. Calling CBCP Philippines. Wake Up!!!

    ZENIT News Agency, The World Seen from Rome

    U.S. House Budget Proposal Disappoints Prelates
    Takes Aid Away From the Poorest, They Say

    WASHINGTON, D.C., NOV. 11, 2005 ( The proposed budget reconciliation bill of the House of Representatives fails to meet the expectations of U.S. bishops, who say the measures don\’t protect the most vulnerable.

    In a letter sent to the House on Nov. 8, the bishops cited several programs that serve the nation\’s poor — often children — that will lose funds if the legislation passes in its current form.

    Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, chairman of the Domestic Policy Committee of the U.S. bishops\’ conference, and Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, chairman of their International Policy Committee, signed the letter.

    Last February, the conference president, Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, wrote a similar letter urging Congress to remember that budget decisions \”will reflect not only economic policies but moral choices as well,\” and \”to give priority attention in the budget to the needs of poor and vulnerable people both here and abroad.\”

    The bishops said they were writing now to reiterate those priorities, and to share their view on how the bill may impact several key programs and the people they serve.

    The bishops underlined the negative affects the cuts will have on the food stamp program, health care for the poor, temporary assistance for needy families, child support funds, and agricultural programs that promote conservation.

    \”We urge you to remember that the federal budget is more than a fiscal plan; it reflects our values as a people,\” wrote the bishops.

    The letter urged the House to \”work for a budget that does not neglect the needs of the \’least of these\’ in our nation and the world.\”


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  16. The jeepney isn’t typically Asian, it’s only the Filipinos who use this most inefficient and uncomfortable means of transportatio, thanks to the lobbying force of jeepney drivers associations and the spinelessness of local officials.

    We are indeed a melting pot of different cultures, but we cannot be considered typically Asian. Nor do the typical Asians, such as the Chinese and Indians (populationwise, the majority by far) consider us typically Asian. However, that should not be cause to give us some kind of inferiority complex. Geographically, we are Asian and that is undeniable. We need to learn to accept ourselves for what we are and not compare ourselves to the rest of our Asian neighbors. We are different, although we also retain some similarities. We must learn to be at home with ourselves and with our being “different”.

    As for being the Israel of Asia, the only similiraty in that methaphorical statement are that we are the odd man out in relation to our Southern neighbors. But Israel is the fly in the ointment in the Middle East. We are not a belligerent or divisive presence, nor do we hope to be.

  17. Right now, the Philippines is considered by its Asean neighbors as the madwoman in the attic. Our previous role was the genius of the family but something went wrong along the way.

    Ah yes the jeepney. It is a typical Pinoy creation, a Western object transformed into something Pinoy by force of creativity and imagination. Other Asian countries did not warm up to the jeepney perhaps because the American presence there was not as pervasive and extensive as it was here. The jeepney is very Pinoy because it was definitely a non-elite and popular creation, sparking an industry that was also non-elite, and ferrying the masa public through decades across the islands. Of course it would take short-sighted leaders to institutionalize the inefficient jeepney–along with the tricycle and dirty bus–and make it a seemingly permanent fixture of our landscape. By now it should have gone the way of the caretela.

    Carl there is a school of thought that keeps telling us to make the most of our colonial hybrid culture, saying this is our advantage to be both of the West and the East. I recall Carmen Guerrero Nakpil and de la Costa spouting this attitude in must-read essays. This may sit well with us metropolitan chattering classes but where does this leave the better part of Pinoys in agricultural or coastal barangays where change happens slowly? Would they say they have enough West in them too to be this cosmopolitan creature? I think that there is little difference between a Javanese village, a Malyasian kampung, and a barangay in Nueva Vizcaya.

  18. Mr. Vaswani, thank you for your comment. That would be similar to the Queen of England’s decision to pay taxes and periodic calls for the Catholic Church to pay taxes on its property not used specifically for Church buildings and schools.

    Mita- I didn’t know that, how interesting!

    Karl, relax ka lang hehe.

    CJV: I hope it is, I really don’t like the way America has turned right. I remember the America of the Cold War and Reagan years, it was an optimistic place, at least.

    DJB, you’re actually hoping the USA and the world reembraces Wilsonian idealism, but it’s retreating to a more 19th Century style nationalism, don’t you think?

    Carl, I wouldn’t be sure. You underestimate the divergence caused by music, among other things, and religion.

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