A correspondent sent me the following observations, as part of an ongoing conversation about the contest for the Republican presidential nomination. Although the flow weaves some, the remarks are worth reading:
The irony of Romney is that he’s very smart and obviously able. He was a good Massachusetts governor with heavy Democratic legislature and turned the Olympics around. His gaffes don’t bother me much; this news cycle would have hurt Eisenhower, Truman, and Kennedy. Making our presidential candidates run as if they were campaigning for city council is nuts.
The system is broken – I mean both Obama and Bush were/are poor presidents. Obama has, by his own admission, two friends! And he has no managerial skills; his White House is a mess with lots of political skills but little organizational abilities. From what from people covering him tell me: he is an incredible cold fish!
The second Bush’s experience was to delegate and then trust his appointees. …
The Senate is full of rich guys who made/inherited a lot of money and their political skills are all about being elected, not legislating.
Romney’s biggest issue is that he is a moderate. He may be a flip flopper, but for political purposes. Obama was elected by doing a terrific job of invoking hope and change – something we all want. But he is a poor governor. I am not a big Romney fan, but I believe him to be a tested pragmatic leader who will provide managerial skills to the federal government. If he were to do a good job, he will be a one-term president and, if elected, I hope he does a very good job. Flip-flopping? Of course, under the new Republican Party, social issues are the biggest marker.
Abortion, same sex marriage, etc., are social issues and bread and butter to the fringes of each party. Does anyone who has analyzed abortion really think we are going to outlaw it?
But we don’t govern on these social issues – we govern on the daily boring issues: the budget, regulatory responsibilities (we have way too many regulations, allowing too many companies to game them). Look at all the warnings we are given: if you read what it says about your toaster, you wouldn’t get near it! I believe that companies want the regulations so that they know exactly how to protect themselves.
My basic problem with Obama is that he has no relationships at all with Congress. His White House runs every department except Defense, CIA (Petreaus can do anything he wants, the WH is afraid of him), Justice, and State. You need to work Congress, building relationships and trust – Obama has zero relationships and trust.
People were outraged about torture, now we kill people whenever we want. As one reporter, who now covers the WH after spending years covering Israel, said, Israel decides on the rules of engagement and then states that every attack is legal if it meets those rules. We are mimicking Israel’s approach: rules made in secret, but adhered to. There is a lawyer next to the “pilot” of the drone; he has a chart that outlines the value of the target and the collateral damage that is acceptable, so as long as the attack is within the guidelines, that’s OK. …
To me, Romney is the best of mediocre lot. Unfortunately, I would probably accept Obama before any other candidate except Romney.
Well, there’s my rant! Hope it was readable, if not enjoyable!
A couple of points are especially worth emphasizing:
· The political process is broken: candidates spend their time fundraising rather than transacting government business. When I was in high school, that was true for representatives with their two-year terms and not for senators with their six-year terms. Now it’s true for all members of Congress – except those who have declared they will not run for reelection. There is no easy answer to this problem, e.g., terms limits will not solve this problem; candidates who max out the limit too often focus on running for another office.
· Social issues may be critical to winning an election but are tangential to governing a nation. Christians (including evangelicals!) have substantive issues (e.g., caring for the most vulnerable) that are central to governance. Those issues, not social issues (e.g., abortion, defining marriage) should determine for whom Christians vote.
· Governing is not synonymous with managing or campaigning. Governing requires a unique form of leadership few have. One of Obama’s weaknesses is that his relative youth gave him insufficient time to develop the leadership that would have enabled him to translate his vision into effective governance.