Several weeks ago Drew and I chatted about the role of a figurehead (i.e. a president) in a nation as large as the United States. My argument was that a president could never properly represent so many starkly different economies, industries, and communities as there are states. Why should I then expect him to be anything other than a symbol? I'm leery of "real" people who embody symbols yet also wield power, because their actions correspondingly take on moral value, whereas the congress of a local town can make mistakes without risking democratic legitimacy: the small-town errors lie in the mechanism rather than the symbol itself.
Drew's argument was that a symbolic figurehead can actually encourage small communities, especially if that figurehead strives to embody the same grass-roots change that is required for any real national change. In that sense, rhetoric and language are important, even if that language is vague. If it is empowering, it is worth it.
We both agreed, however, that if a president of a large nation is to make any pragmatic changes, there will be liberal waste, and we should accept this, choosing wisely which decisions we allow him/her to make.
I think the U.S. credit crisis poses a good example of a both symbolic and pragmatic issue. The issue is local and wallet-sized, national and powerful, and we can address it as a pragmatic problem without delving too deeply into the morality of borrowing. The Federal Reserve (the United States' central bank) regulates the monetary value of the dollar by telling private banks how they can borrow. The Federal Reseve sets interest rates and meets with the president as his dubious "Working Group on Financial Markets." The Federal Reserve also operates on a huge deficit, which basically goes unmentioned to the public. The president needs to address the power of the Federal Reserve immediately, at the very least, creating more transparency so that people like you and I know what's happening. The president's Working Group on Financial Markets should divulge their findings, tell the country what they're doing, and enumerate the Federal budget. This is the best way to solve credit on a local level: education of the people.
Here is Ron Paul discussing pricing with the Chairman of the Fed Reserve.