September 9, 2008 - September 2, 2008
I don't know if it's occurred to
anybody in just
but the Democrats are basically offering us three one-term senators as
their best candidates for President. Edwards was a one-term wonder,
Obama's a tad under that, and Hillary's a tad over. None of the three
has any executive experience, military experience, or entrepreneurial
experience. They've all spent more time campaigning for national
office than they have serving in national office. The bald truth is
that collectively, they have a total
of 18 years of relevant experience for being
the nation's chief executive and commander-in-chief, about half the 35
years Hillary is claiming for herself.
Oh, that's right. Her husband is making similar claims:
Excuse me? Is Bill Clinton the one person in the country who doesn't
know that his wife was running for president before she served her first day in
the senate? It's rolling the dice to go with Obama? And how is it that
it's not a pure crapshoot to go with Hillary?
Let's be honest here. The experience advantage Bill Clinton keeps citing for his wife has to do not with her scant experience edge in the senate but with the years she spent with him while he was governor of Arkansas and president of the United States. Isn't it time to think about this supposed credential seriously? Plenty of commentators have been flippant about what can be called The Great Assumption, but how much time have her backers and critics spent actually analyzing Hillary's so-called presidential qualifications?
First Ladies have a lot to do, but being a confidante, adviser, promoter, defender, and helpmeet to an executive is not at all the same thing as sharing equally in that executive's duties, responsibilities, decisions, accomplishments, and failures. While Bill was organizing the U.S. military response in Kossovo, Hillary was organizing the White House Easter egg hunt. While Bill was managing federal budget compromises with the Republican congress, Hillary was managing the White House Christmas decorations. The two jobs may be complementary in some massively lopsided way, but one is hardly training for the other.
Much is made in this context of the fact that so many wives have been appointed, and subsequently elected, to replace dead husbands who were senators and congressmen. But being a backbench legislator carries more accountabilities than responsibilities. If constituents don't like your votes, they can fire you in the upcoming special election, and in the meantime, there's little chance any decision you make will cause economies to tank, soldiers to die, or emergencies to balloon into disasters. Unless and until you become a legislative leader, in fact, you can spend a lengthy legislative career hiding out in the undergrowth of party loyalty. Taking the oath of office as an executive, on the other hand, means accepting full responsibility as the boss from Day One. (Unless you're the Publisher of the New York Times.)
If just being there were an adequate credential for the presidency, the United States would have elected a lot more vice presidents to the nation's highest office. Yet in the twentieth century, sitting vice presidents had a five times better chance of getting promoted by the assassination, death, or resignation of their boss than by the electoral approval of the voters. Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Gerald Ford inherited the presidency without an election. Only George H. W. Bush won the presidency at the ballot box while serving as Vice President. And that's not because the Veeps weren't trying. Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon, and Al Gore all sought to succeed their presidents and failed to pass muster with the voters, the latter two as heirs apparent to popular two-term presidents. (If someone wants to point out that Nixon won the White House as a former vice president, please remember that his opponent was another vice president. One of them had to win. Also note that Walter Mondale and Henry A. Wallace tried the same feat as Nixon. And failed.)
Why this dismal record? Because even being vice president isn't enough like being president to convince the electorate you have what it takes to sit in the big chair. While vice presidents do get elected by official ballot, take an oath of office, attend meetings, preside over the senate, fill in for the president on numerous state and diplomatic occasions, and stand ready every day to step into huge responsibility at a moment's notice, they are still not walking in the president's shoes, merely treading in his footsteps. First ladies, on the other hand, are not elected, take no oath of office, and in fact have no official or constitutional duties of any kind. It's entirely possible for a First Lady to spend her husband's years in office doing nothing but show up at photo-ops -- and rather difficult to prove conclusively that she has done otherwise. How on earth does this constitute any kind of credential?
This isn't South America, and as far I can tell Hillary isn't running as Evita anyway. For one thing, her husband is still alive.
Does that mean we ought to let her get away with running as Chance the Gardener or as Zelig instead? Just
because some past
president her husband tells us we should?
By the way, if you think there's anything sexist about my argument,
I'd be delighted to hear from everyone who backed Mr. Thatcher to
succeed his wife as Prime Minister of the U.K. or Mr. Meir to succeed
his wife as Prime Minister of Israel.
EXTRA CREDIT ASSIGNMENT. Hillary told David Gregory on NBC this morning that voters should select a candidate "based on our records." I didn't know First Ladies had "records." I always thought they had "styles" instead. So I'm trying to rectify my own ignorance here.
I promise to publish the best essay that compares and contrasts the historical "records" of at least five of the following First Ladies of the United States (FLOTUS) during their husbands' terms in office:
- George Washington's
- Thomas Jefferson's
- Andrew Jackson's
- James Buchanan's
- Abraham Lincoln's
- Teddy Roosevelt's
- Warren Harding's
- Woodrow Wilson's
- Franklin Roosevelt's (excluding cousins)
- Dwight Eisenhower's
- John F. Kennedy's
- Lyndon Johnson's
- Gerald Ford's
- Ronald Reagan's
- Bill Clinton's
- Jed Bartlet's
- George W. Bush's
Essays should focus on FLOTUS accomplishments and failures with respect to legislation passed, treaties signed, cabinet and other executive appointments, judicial nominations, foreign policy, military adventures, domestic initiatives, national crises, political movements, executive ability, all-around leadership, intangibles (face/figure/fashion/fidelity/fecklessness/frenzy/felonies), and historical legacy.
If you must, add other FLOTUSes than those named, but remember that allegations of substance abuse, stupidity, insanity, murder, occultism, adultery, homosexuality, incest, corruption, obstruction of justice, usurpation of power, and bribery/extortion constitute the politics of personal destruction and are not "records" per se unless they resulted in criminal convictions.
Be factual, analytical, tendentious, sententious, and amusing. Or at least amusing.
Actually, if you're not going to be amusing, don't bother. I've read enough tedious crap already this week.
Submissions can be made in the Comments Section or to the site email address (accompanied by a notification in Comments that an email submission has been made).
The prize is everlasting glory. And maybe a fat book contract with the kind of publisher who thinks history should be more about women than anything else. We'll let you know.
EXTRA EXTRA CREDIT. How many of the presidents above would have been willing to obtain an obscure and complex revenge against their wives (FLOTI) for the grievances that inevitably accrue in catastrophically unhappy marriages? Say, if you were the best politician of your generation and you were married to a castrating shrew who had made your entire life miserable despite political and popular success, how willing would you be to sabotage her life's dream under cover of "helping" her with "well intended" political "missteps" that guaranteed her ruin?
A really really bad week in
American political life. There's no way to dance around that sad fact.
The two Iowa debates may not have been funny, but they were certainly
follies. PBS thought it would be amusing to choose as emcee a nakedly
biased martinet who would do her utmost to belittle and sabotage the
Republican candidates in her own adaptation of The Weakest Link game show.
To this end, she broke into every single Republican response with
repeated reminders that they had overrun her 45 second time allotment.
Her expression never varied from a rigid sneer, and for just a moment
when Fred Thompson defied her kindergarten request for a show of hands,
it looked as if she might haul out a paddle and spank his bare rear end
on the spot.
Speaking of rear ends, though, hers was the sole amusing aspect of the event. Would she have been quite so imperiously self-satisfied on that stage if she'd known what she looked like from, er, behind? If she has a husband, which we tend to doubt, this would have been a good time for her to ask him the infamous question, "Does this suit make my ass look big?" On the other hand, her putative husband was probably crushed beneath her chariot wheels so long ago that he wouldn't have had the nerve to tell the truth even this once: "Yes, dear. It makes your ass look as enormous as Hillary Clinton's."
That comparison probably occurred to her quite spontaneously when she
viewed the video of her pogrom against the Republicans. Which might
explain why she was so cold to Hillary in the Democratic debate the
next day, even though she simply oozed good will to all the other Dem
candidates. She dispensed with her metronomic time cues and at times
she laughed, even simpered,
in her appreciation of the astounding liberal wisdom the candidates
were able to remember word for word from their stump speeches.
But she's not the only ridiculous figure in this sorry pair of circuses. The Republicans were mostly awful, despite Fred Thompson's brief outburst. As Malkin has pointed out (and as you can see in our top graphic), the leading Republicans all raised their hands to indicate that they believed in Global Warming and that it was principally caused by human activities. If Thompson had been given the minute he asked for, he would probably have agreed too. Since Global Warming has become the political flag under which all the anti-American, anti-capitalist forces in the world are marching, any Republicans who really still are Republicans (and not Democrats-Lite as the Iowa Republicans in attendance were) would be well advised to start noodling a way to engineer a brokered convention for the purpose of nominating someone other than these patsies to run against the Dhimmicrats.
The Hillary-Obama-Edwards-Biden-Dodd lineup performed just as poorly. Their answer to every question is to raise taxes on the "rich" (i.e., everyone who makes more than $75,000 a year) and plunder the Defense Department to raise money for the next uncontrollably huge entitlement in their vision of socialist Utopia. They think they can hold the entire world at bay by engaging in endless talks with certified monsters and that this threadbare strategy will somehow offset the tsunami of antipathy they plan to create by adopting dramatically more protectionist trade policies. It all sounded great to the Des Moines Register's little czarina, and the indications are that it also went down well with the Iowans in the audience.
What do we have so far? Debate events intended to be a forum for selecting the next occupant of the most powerful office in the world formatted and run like a cheesy game show. Candidates from both parties who appear to have no clue about the complexity of the issues confronting the nation or even which ones are the most vital to address. Great.
And then there's Iowa. A state which has by mysterious means become a kind of gatekeeper of the presidential nomination process. Iowa. A state which appears by its questions and its audience reactions to have no interest at all in contemporary immigration issues, the fundamentalist Islamic threat, the dangerous storms of hatred in the middle east, or in fact the existence of ambitious competitor nations outside the borders of the United States. What do they care about? Ethanol. Ethanol and however much "free" shit they can get from the federal government by agreeing to higher taxes for the nasty rich people on the east and west coasts. They also like people to be nice. You can say anything you want as long as you wear a bright superficial smile while saying it. The Democrat audience thought John Edwards came across as "authentic." Let me repeat that. The Democrats in the audience thought John Edwards came across as "authentic"
TIME OUT FOR DEEP BREATHING EXERCISES.
They also had no problem with Joe Biden's plan to pay for universal health care by looting the Defense Department during a time of war and dismantling the missile-defense program at a time when their country is entering the most dangerous period of exposure in its history to missile attacks by rogue nations who have openly declared their intention to destroy us.
ANOTHER TIME OUT.
Okay. It's probably true that we're stuck with one of the candidates who tap-danced his or her way through these most recent debates. But isn't it possible that we could at least do something about Iowa?
How about throwing them out of the damn United States? Let them go play in their cornfields, make ethanol instead of food, and then drink themselves into a coma with the stuff. We sure wouldn't lose any sleep over that outcome. Here's what a new improved map of the continental U.S. would look like: