Sunday, December 25, 2011

Musings On "Outsiders" Running For President

As Our Most Sacred Lady Of The Tastefully Appointed Pant Suite pointed out, the Presidency is not an OJT job.

I have always hated the idea of an "outsider" because, first, it is pure BS when the job of President is being contested. Only the top tier of Professional Politicians go for the Presidency.

No one who runs for the oval office is an "outsider." Obama was on the national radar, and a hot item for the National Democratic Party from 2004 onwards. How do you think he got the nod for the Kerry Keynote address? He was a player, he was angling for national recognition / office from at least 2004. Add to that, he was a player in Illinois politics for years; and that he played in the sharped-elbowed politics of Chicago. He was no neophyte. He was no outsider. He was a professional politician looking to climb the ladder as high as he could. By performing due diligence, you would have found more than enough data to prove what a political animal was, and how he deliberately crafted an image that had no correspondence to reality at all.

Secondly, any top leadership job is a poor fit for the unprepared. I spent ages in the Navy, and they, plus the rest of the military, do not let untrained, unprepared men or women into critical positions. It is a slow progress to the top, and a ferocious weeding process. You don't want some clueless newbie running a CTF, or a Air Wing, or a battalion of infantry. The same goes for the Captains of Industry. DOW or AT&T are not going to hand the keys over to some joker who only ran a push cart; they want someone who has had experience in running a large institution. Only in politics do we expect a person with next to no executive experience to hit the ground running. It is one of the reasons our national politics are so messed up. We keep voting for "outsiders" who have little to no executive experience, and expect them to perform miracles.

I don't care who the politician is, two years in the Senate (actually less in Obama's case) is not enough time to gain any top level experience. I had problems with HRC's claims of competence, she was a lot less ready for the job than advertised; but Obama was even more unprepared than HRC.

And it shows, Obama has flailed in the toxic swamps of DC. He was utterly unprepared for the lock step opposition of the Republican Party. Far too many times he has played Hamlet in matters domestic and foreign, unable to fish or cut bait. He has reacted to crisis, been caught flat footed far too many times. His messaging has been plain awful, just mailing it in for far too long.

He blew one of the most lopsided advantages a Democratic President had viz the Legislative branch in a long time. His rank incompetence made 2012 a year of mass slaughter for Donkeys, both nationally and locally. He gifted right-wing cranks like Sara Palin with one of the most tone-deaf PR campaigns ever seen.

He was AWOL for most of the health care debate. He was AWOL from most of the stimulus debate. He utterly failed to do the spade work, and back-slapping, required to get Congresscritters in line. He made the political and managerial mistakes you would expect of a rank amateur. He did these things because he did not spend enough time in DC to really understand how that snake pit really works. 

Like it or not, the politics of DC require you to know certain players, and to have personal connections to them. There is a level of comfort and bonhomie required, an ability to rub elbows and engage in idle chit-chat. Obama utterly lacks this gift. (Clinton, on the other hand, had it in spades.) Obama's high-minded, cold, professorial personality is like fingernails on a chalk board for most DC pols. The only way he could have countered that was to put more time into the personal relationships that are the real grease that runs DC. Two years is not enough, maybe even HRC's time in Senate was not enough.

There are bare minimums required to handle a high level executive job. There are real world, experience hurdles that need to be cleared. I'm not sure that the institution of Senate offers these experiences. The moving parts of the executive branch are not the moving parts of the Senate.

Institutionally speaking, a governor or a cabinet head is better choice for the Chief Executive than a member of the Senate. Granted, the actual person occupying those job descriptions matters immensely. Still, all other things being equal, a man or woman who has run a state or the Cabinet Department is going to be a better bet to be a competent President, than a man or woman who has solely occupied a legislative office.

The worst possible choice for the office of President would look a lot like Obama, or Palin: a person who cut out of a responsibility to pursue other goals. Please note that both pols cut loose after only two years in office; one to gain filthy lucre, the other to gain the White House. Oh, and both claimed to be an "outsider," despite an entire life spent in politics.

I have no truck, and no patience, with the notion of a white knight "outsider" riding into the castle keep of a corrupt DC, and making things all shiny and new. There is more than enough data out there to show that this notion is pure pig swill. We have tried "outsiders" ever since Jimmy Carter and have rolled snake eyes with each and every one. DC is just too chock-a-block filled with man traps, tiger traps, bear traps, and other assorted snares for the uninitiated to survive. It would be better to just fall on your own sword and be done with it. No real "outsider' is going to slay the dragon that is the Beltway, they are only going to end up as a light snack.

That Obama actually thought that he could rescue the maiden fair from the evil clutches of the Beltway Beast was the worst kind of foolishness I have witnessed in a long time. It was an exercise in epic egomania, and excessive self-regard. It showed an utter disregard for the facts, and for Obama's own inadequacies. Politicians are a rather un-self-aware lot, but Obama took that common fault and put it on human growth hormone and anabolic steroids. I have never seen so intelligent a man so blissfully unaware of his own real faults.

In the end though, the fault does not lie with Obama, it lies with us. We keep electing "outsiders" to the office of President. We keep rolling the iron dice, and are surprised when the "outsider" does a face plant in office. It is insanity as defined by Einstein: doing the same thing over, and over again but expecting different results.
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