Thursday, February 18, 2010
16-year-old wows CPAC
Love is lovely. But it's not everything.
CONSISTENCY IS THE BANE OF SMALL MINDS. Sorry for that headline. But as I get older, it's amazing how young the youngsters begin to look. This is Marco Rubio, the rising star who is going to beat out Charlie Crist for the Republican senate nomination in Florida. Charming, attractive, intelligent, rooted in the right principles, and so very very young in the ways of politics.
Sorry for the headline but it's no joke that there's a problematic generation gap in the GOP. Much more than the Dems, whose ranks are filled with tottering greybeards like Biden, Byrd, Lautenberg, Teddy, Harkin, Specter, Mikulski, Murtha, Dingell, Rangel, and the plastic avatar Pelosi, the Republicans have a lot of promising young blood: Paul Ryan, Eric Kantor, Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin, Scott Brown, Michelle Bachman, Liz Cheney, Marco Rubio, and no doubt others we haven't heard of. Young not just in years, though many of them are well below the age of gray hairs and their imputed wisdom, but also young in experience on the national stage. Problem is, we need leaders NOW, and the Old Guard is too old and compromised by their experience to serve in the capacity we need. John McCain, Newt Gingrich, Lindsey Graham, Rudy Giuliani, Orrin Hatch, John Boehner, John Kyl, etc, etc.
So there's a temptation to, well, do an 'Obama' right back at them. Pluck some charismatic juvenile out of the crib and force them to let us follow them to the ends of the earth. In an era of instant celebrity and reality show media fads, it even makes a certain kind of sense. Pick the best looking horse and ride on the back of off-the-chart Q-ratings to glory, acclaim, and power.
Thing is, it doesn't work. The Democrats are finding that out right now, in excruciating pain. They passed up the old warhorse Hillary for a three-year-old flash in the pan who can't run in the mud or, apparently, on a cloudy day. And who, day by day, seems to be revealing himself as something much less than a thoroughbred.
No, I'm NOT working my way toward a Romney endorsement. Put that out of your mind. Don't like him, don't trust him, don't want a Commander-in-Chief with five sons whose collective experience of the military is zero. He may be a good man. Probably is. But I don't want him for president. Okay?
What I am building up to is a deadly serious warning. Don't commit the classic NFL mistake: draft a promising young quarterback in the first round and fling him into a starting role he's not ready for. Yes, occasionally (said very slowly btw), you get away with it. Matt Ryan did okay as a rookie. Flacco also okay. Rothlisberger, okay. But Republicans need a lot more than okay in their next turn in the Oval Office. Which doesn't mean that we need a media star. We've got one of those now. How's it going?
All that great young blood needs time to learn, to develop, to make mistakes and score wins in lesser arenas than the Super Bowl. Most importantly, we can't draft them because we're 1 and 15 and desperate. We need Peyton Manning but we don't have him. What do we do?
First and foremost, we let the babies incubate, including Sarah, Bobby, Scott, and Marco. They're not ready. One day, all or some of them will be. But not yet.
Second, we resist the temptation to seek out charisma as a credential of its own. It isn't. In 2012, people are going to be very damn sick of charisma.
Third, we try to remember what a president -- a good president -- is. He's an executive. He knows what to do in tight spots because he's been in charge in tight spots before. Which rules out senators. Who have never been in charge of anything but posturing, unless they were something other than senators before. We're looking for somebody who is, or has been, a governor, general, a major cabinet official, somebody who knows how to get things done in a public, political environment and has been accountable for the results. We're looking for somebody who sticks to his principles even when the going gets really really tough and still finds some way to solve problems. We're looking for somebody whose experience is measured in decades, not months.
Fourth, we have to prepare ourselves for the fact that he might not be good looking, rhetorically gifted, or sublimely inspiring in a debate. Hell. He might even be fat, gap-toothed, and hairy of back. But we need him in the interim. Let the beautiful babies come to full term before we ask them to sacrifice everything for their country.
Just a thought.