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St. Francis Government Expert Weighs in on Presidential Race

By Raanan Geberer

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Increasingly, all eyes are on the upcoming presidential race, and here in Brooklyn we have one of the leading experts on the presidency — Frank Sorrentino, political science professor at St. Francis College.

Sorrentino is the editor of The Encyclopedia of the American Presidency and author of several books on political leadership in the U.S., including Presidential Leadership in the Bureaucratic State, American Government: Power and Politics in America and Ideological Warfare: The FBI’s Path to Power.

He is currently giving a lecture series at St. Francis on “The Presidency and Leadership in the U.S.,” and will give the last lecture in the series, “The President and the FBI,” on April 25.

We recently asked Professor Sorrentino several questions on how he sees the upcoming presidential campaign:

Eagle: What do you have to say about Rick Santorum’s withdrawal from the race for the Republican nomination?

Prof. Sorrentino: There are several reasons behind it. Ostensibly, it’s because his daughter is sick, but it could provide a graceful exit. The numbers were daunting. There was not only pressure from established leaders but from Republican congressional and gubernatorial candidates — a prolonged fight [for the nomination] could lead to a possible defeat for their own candidacies.

Eagle: Is the Tea Party a temporary phenomenon?

Professor Sorrentino: These groups will come and go, but they’re a manifestation of something that goes back to 1992 — the candidacy of Ross Perot. He was more centrist than the Tea Party, but his candidacy was mainly based on fiscal policies. He argued against the irresponsibility of both parties on fiscal policy, on deficits and the amount of spending in the GDP [Gross Domestic Product] that is devoted to government. These are constituencies that are strong in the United States, and the latest manifestation is the Tea Party. It may be transitory, but the movement led to a large number of congressmen [with their agenda] being elected in 2010.

Eagle: Given the fact that President Obama hasn’t succeeding in getting much of his legislation passed, what agenda could he run on?

Professor Sorrentino: The liberal agenda is still there. If you’re an incumbent president, what you would argue is that it still needs to be adopted — increased elements of  fairness in taxation, immigration reform. If you’re President Obama, what you want to do is create a contrast, to try to say the Republican alternative is unacceptable.

Eagle: Why was President Obama so unsuccessful in getting his legislation through even when the Democrats controlled both houses?

Professor Sorrentino: When the Obama administration took office, they felt the economy would recover more quickly and the Stimulus would have a greater effect than it did. Health care consumed them more, and it cost the leadership in the House and Senate so much in terms of resources that they were unable to go back to the well. They were unable to persuade them [Republicans and conservative Democrats] on other issues, like cap and trade and immigration reform.

Eagle: Why didn’t President Obama push more for the public option?

Professor Sorrentino: One thing the Obama administration tried to do is to get insurance companies to align themselves with the proposal. If they had gone too much with the public option, they would have lost that support.

Eagle: Why did the Brooklyn Republican Party come out for Romney so early in the campaign?

Professor Sorrentino: When a party doesn’t have much viability, there’s a tendency to go with a protest candidate. Here [in Brooklyn], they feel they have a chance of being successful. They probably feel the same way Rudy Giuliani and many others do, that a social conservative would be unacceptable [as a candidate].

April 12, 2012 - 5:08pm


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