Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Experience a President Needs

Democrats will surely nominate a senator, and if John McCain can't go all the way, Republicans will name a former governor or super-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who insists that a president needs executive experience to run the Executive branch.

History suggests otherwise. In 1960, Richard Nixon used that argument against John F. Kennedy and, in the early months of JFK's Administration, it looked like Nixon might have had a point as the new President mishandled the Bay of Pigs disaster.

But Kennedy trumped his inexperience with two crucial qualities: He took responsibility for his mistakes and learned from them, in contrast to George W. Bush, whose resume as an executive did not help him do either, and Nixon who... But you know the rest of that story.

Instinctively Kennedy surrounded himself with the best people ("You can't beat brains," he would say) and insisted on hearing all sides of an argument before he made a decision, as he did during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Those qualities would satisfy even Giuliani, who wrote a book about leadership but has had trouble practicing his own principles, as his Bernard Kerik albatross and the bitter 9/11 complaints of New York fire fighters suggest.

For a President Obama or McCain, the first days in the Oval would not be a test of management skills. What will count is their vision for America and determination to translate it into political reality. Voters are instinctively doing the right thing by focusing on that.


Yellow Dog Don said...

I was a B-52 crew member on the Christmas 1972 missions over Hanoi and Haiphong which ultimately led to John McCain's release from the Hanoi Hilton.

I would have expected him to have vehemently condemned the prisoner abuse which the present administration has condoned.

He more than most people must know that torture is futile for extracting reliable information and is degrading to the torturer.

GiromiDe said...

Working against Dubya's resume is the fact that the Governor of Texas doesn't really do anything. The Lt. Governor has more inherent power.

While Senators haven't found their way to the Oval Office very often, I believe they'd be good consensus-builders, as JFK was. Better this than bull-headedness or letting the advisors run the show.

OutOfContext said...

"While Senators haven't found their way to the Oval Office very often, I believe they'd be good consensus-builders, as JFK was."
Remember, these are 21st century Senators. Congress hasn't been about consensus building for a good while now.
Still, I think Obama and even Clinton could do it--Edwards, not so much.