The Magazine

Two Heads, One Body

What could possibly go wrong in a co-presidency?

May 27, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 35 • By TEVI TROY
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The White House is a notoriously difficult and competitive place to work. When I first took a job in the Bush White House, I called a friend from the Clinton White House, who gave me three words of advice: “Watch your back.” Similarly, former Bush chief of staff Andy Card used to tell a story of his start in the Reagan White House, in which an officious woman would not place his seating card for a meeting until he had revealed whether he came from the James Baker or the Edwin Meese faction of the staff.

Beyond the internal intrigue, there is the problem of the co-presidents’ partisans outside the White House as well. The abuse George W. Bush got from the right on immigration, or that Barack Obama gets from the left for extending the Bush tax cuts, would pale before the opprobrium that would descend on the co-president who was deemed too compromising with his colleague from the other party.

Towards the end of Two Presidents Are Better Than One, Orentlicher acknowledges the unlikelihood of his two-person presidency becoming a reality, meaning that this volume is more an intellectual exercise than a realistic reform plan. And that’s probably a good thing. We need to recognize that the system we have, for all of its flaws, is going to remain in place, and we must do our best to promote good policies through that system. Clearly, there are dysfunctions in Washington and problems with the presidency. But adding another president will not solve these problems—although getting a new president might be a good start.

Tevi Troy is author of the forthcoming What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Pop  Culture in the White House (Regnery).