Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John McCain, Rudy GiulianiÂ
Driving into work this morning I caught a bit of Bill Bennett’s guest host – his name escapes me now – who was discussing both the Democratic and Republican field of candidates. The question he was pounding was “who has the qualifications to be the President?” His criteria centered around three skillsets he believes a President should have:
1. Foreign Policy experience. After all, constitutionally speaking, a president’s main function is foreign policy.
2. Military experience. I admit this looks good on a resume, but I’m not sure how jumping in and out of fox holes while firing a machine gun lends itself to being a good President. Perhaps this should be restated as “military officer experience in a time of war.” Now THAT is impressive. One with this type of background has probably made life and death decisions that effected people other than himself.
3. Executive experience. Has the candidate actually run anything – a city? A state? A business? But more importantly, has he or she run it effectively?
Missing from the radio talk show host’s analysis was policy making, an obvious attempt (in my view) to discredit the qualification of legislators running – Clinton, Obama, Biden, etc., on the Democratic side.
Also missing, and probably not even considered, was the ability to take advice from those more experienced in various areas than you. Though that is nearly impossible to measure and predict, one can get a feel for it if they watch candidates closely enough. Take Rudy Guilliani, for example. Can you imagine trying to tell him anything? He already believes he knows it all. Consider Barack Obama, who has stated he has superior judgement that anyone else running. Would that lead to him filling his cabinet with “yes men” whose only purpose it to re-enforce what he’s already decided? How about John McCain? His pig headed position on the Iraq War seriously throws any future decisions by him in doubt.
History has shown the most effective presidents cover their weak spots with expert advisors who they will actually, for better or worse, listen to. George W. Bush thawed out a slew of cold war-era GOP cronies who effectively led his presidency to ruin.
Both FDR and JFK surrounded themselves with the greatest minds of their day in economics, foreign policy, and national defense.
Bill Clinton’s economic team of Robert Rubin, Lloyd Bentson, Leon Panetta, and Alice Rivlin, all deficit hawks, succeeded in convincing the President of the importance of balanced budgets. In fact, Bill Clinton’s team of advisors – from Madeleine Albright to William Cohen, from Bill Richardson to Robert Rubin – were so competent that they made a great President look like prophet.
Isn’t that what we really need in a president? Someone humble enough to know he or she doesn’t have all the answers? Someone willing to look to others for input before making life altering decisions?
I’m not downplaying the benefits of the three so-called qualifications listed above but we have had some turkeys for Presidents who had all three.
I started this piece by mentioning a conservative talk show host’s take on the 2008 presidential field. Back in the 90s, another one made a lasting impact on his listeners in regards to Hillary Clinton. In an attempt to emasculate the President, Rush Limbaugh, and then by extension the entire conservative movement, was fond of saying the First Lady actually wore the pants in the White House and she was behind every policy coming from it. Taking those sentiments to their logical conclusion, Republicans were stating Hillary was actually the President!
Now, no one in the real world actually believed that but in 2008, the Republican’s job is to rewire the thinking of their party. Now, they must convince them, Hillary wasn’t really all that instrumental in the Clinton White House. If they fail to successfully flip flop on this, they run the risk of further cementing Hillary Clinton as a co-architect of the 8 years of peace and prosperity of the 90s and, thus, making her appear to be the most experienced in the field.
On the other hand, is it really that ludicrous to credit Hillary Clinton with some of the success of the Clinton Presidency? As mentioned above, the mark of a good leader is the ability to listen. After long hours in meetings with Secretaries of this and secretaries of that, is it really far fetched to believe William Jefferson Clinton ran ideas by his wife and made decisions based on those conversations? Most people will agree that in all aspects of their lives the final sounding board before a decision is made is their spouse who can often provide a bit of insight so obvious the experts may have missed it.
So, the original question: What does it take to be “President?” The wisdom to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you in certain fields, the judgement to listen to them, and the ability to take the opinion of the one who knows you best into consideration.
Because of this, I believe Hillary Clinton is the best equipped to be our next president. She’s an intelligent and savvy person in her own right, she has a cache of potential experts standing by to fill her cabinet and finish what they started in the 90s, and she has the best personal adviser one could hope for.
(for centrist news and opinion, visit DonkeyDigest)