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“Friends Don’t Let Friends Run For President”: A Muddled Indictment Of GOP Senators By GOP Senators

Today’s most decidedly peculiar article is one by The Hill‘s Alexander Burns reporting that Republican senators really hate the idea of Republican senators running for president in 2016.

Fearful of a third successive Democratic triumph, concerned Senate Republicans are turning against 2016 presidential bids by upstart hopefuls within their own ranks.

In forceful comments to The Hill, GOP senators made it plain that they would much prefer their party nominate a current or former governor over Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Marco Rubio (Fla.) or Rand Paul (Ky.).

Those senators have created a buzz among conservative activists, but their colleagues in the upper chamber are eager to support a nominee from outside Washington with a record of attracting independents and centrist Democrats.

They worry that Washington has become so toxic that it could poison the chances of any nominee from Congress in 2016.

Now there are obviously multiple thoughts at play in this muddled indictment of senators by senators. Is the problem the particular “upstart” senators who are thinking about running (and is Establishment darling Rubio really an “upstart”?)? Are governors generally a better idea, or only those with “a record of attracting independents and centrist Democrats”? After all, senators run statewide just like governors do, and if you think about the GOP governors who may run in 2016, several (Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal) aren’t exactly famous for “attracting independents and centrist Democrats,” are they?

Interestingly, the most forceful senator on the record in this piece as deploring his peers as presidential candidates is Chuck Grassley, from a state that will have more than a bit of influence in culling the GOP field. Dean Heller is from another early state. But from reading Bolton’s piece, you’d think these worthies are speaking strictly from an abstract point of view.

Bolton offers the obligatory history lesson: Warren Harding was the last Republican to go straight from the Senate to the White House; the last three senators to win the GOP nomination (Goldwater, Dole and McCain) all got waxed. To read this account, you’d think maybe the GOP might have won in 2008 if the governor on the ticket had been the presidential nominee. Nor does the article’s “executives inherently do better” line tested against the reality that the 2012 cycle’s most spectacular flame-outs–Tim Pawlenty and Rick Perry–were both governors.

In any event, the senators-say-don’t-run-a-senator meme strikes me as just a data point for opposing candidates you don’t like for other reasons. The way contemporary politics works, all the handicaps senators used to face–particularly the inability to stand out in a body of 100 bloviators–have pretty much been obliterated by different standards of media access, which is how Ted Cruz became presidential timber so very fast. So don’t tell me about Warren Harding or even Bob Dole: once a pol has been elevated by party and media elites and public opinion into someone being Seriously Mentioned for a presidential run, it’s not that clear his or her day job matters all that crucially, except as a scheduling problem.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 6, 2014

May 10, 2014 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Wishful Thinking”: Does Business Success Make A Good President?

Mitt Romney’s chief qualification for the presidency, according to Mitt Romney, is his experience in the private sector. “[S]omeone who spent their career in the economy is more suited to help fix the economy than someone who spent his life in politics and as a community organizer,” he said in a recent interview.

But is that really true? Romney would hardly be the first man in the White House with extensive private sector experience, so we can test his claim by looking at the records of other 20th century presidents who came from business backgrounds. And those records suggest that private sector experience is by no means a guarantee of of a good president. In fact, it’s anything but.

Let’s begin at the bottom. That is where Warren Harding, president from 1921 to 1923, routinely ranks in historians’ presidential rankings. There’s little doubt Harding was a skilled businessman. After he bought an Ohio newspaper, the Marion Daily Star, and launched a weekly edition, the paper became one of the most popular in the country. Harding then profitably bumped off its rival to become the official organ for Marion’s governmental notices.

But none of that success made Harding a good president. The administration is most notable for its foreign-policy isolationism and a plethora of scandals culminating in the Teapot Dome Affair, called by one historian “the greatest and most sensational scandal in the history of American politics” before Watergate.

Next up is Herbert Hoover, who founded the Zinc Corporation in 1905 and was a wildly successful investor, making $4 million by 1914—$92 million in today’s dollars. “If a man has not made a million dollars by the time he is forty, he is not worth much,” Hoover once said.

But like Harding, Hoover turned out to be pretty much worthless as president. His policies helped grease the skids for the 1929 stock market crash, and most historians agree that his hands-off response helped trigger the Great Depression. Indeed, the day after the crash, Hoover said, “The fundamental business of the country, that is the production and distribution of commodities, is on a sound and prosperous basis.” His foreign policy wasn’t much better: He did little to stop the nascent Japanese aggression that would ultimately lead to Pearl Harbor. A 2010 survey ranked him as 36th of 43 presidents.

Aside from Hoover, Jimmy Carter was perhaps the most successful businessman to become president. He took over his father’s failed peanut-farming business and turned it around, making himself a wealthy man by the time he ran for Georgia’s governorship.

Again though, Carter wasn’t able to translate his peanut prowess into presidential success. Between stagflation, an energy crisis, the Iran Hostage Crisis and rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini, Carter was arguably the worst Democratic president of the 20th century. Indeed, despite being the sitting president, he nearly lost a primary challenge to Ted Kennedy in 1980, before being ousted from office by Ronald Reagan that fall. Carter averages 27th in the rankings.

George H. W. Bush, too, was an extremely successful businessman, working his way up from sales clerk in an oil corporation to founding his own two profitable oil companies. By the time he ran for Congress in 1966, he was a millionaire.

Bush 41 wasn’t a bad president—but neither was he a good one. His strength was foreign policy, where he skillfully wound down the Cold War and won the first Gulf War. But the economy spiraled into recession on his watch. Unable to convince Americans he knew how to fix it, Bush lost his 1992 re-election bid to Bill Clinton.

Bush’s son, George W., was less successful in the oil business. The company he founded, the aptly named Arbusto, nearly went belly-up before being sold. But he did do OK as the co-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, improving their performance and making a ton of cash. As for his presidency? Well, you know that disaster.

One other businessman-turned-president bears mention here. Harry Truman co-owned a haberdashery which went bankrupt in 1921. And yet, most historians agree Truman was a better president than any of those mentioned above. He implemented the strategy that would eventually lead to victory in the Cold War, recognized Israel, bravely avoided intervening in China, stared down Joe McCarthy, and helped usher in a period of robust and broad-based economic growth. Though unpopular when he left office, he is routinely ranked among the top 10 presidents, and has ranked as high as fifth in one scholarly survey.

None of this is to say that being a good businessman makes you a bad president, or vice versa. Whether there’s any correlation at all is hard to say, given the small size of the sample. But that’s just it. Romney’s central argument, boiled down to its essence, is that his private-sector success will necessarily translate into success in the Oval Office. And modern history tells a very different story.


By: Jordan Michael Smith, MSNBC Lean Forward, July 12, 2012

July 14, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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