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Tilting at Windmills

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January 30, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

VISIONS OF THE PRESIDENCY....Over on the left sidebar we have a new web-only piece by Sean Wilentz that takes a look at historical governing styles and proposes three different models of presidential leadership. First are the "strong presidents," who usually have lots of Washington experience and act as hands-on executives. Second are "advisory presidents," who generally rely on a circle of counselors for basic information and guidance on major policy decisions. Third are "engineer presidents," who base their leadership on competence, technical skill, and moral purity. But not every president falls neatly into one category:

As Johnson and Reagan showed, individual presidents can, at different points in their administration, exhibit aspects of more than one of these presidential models. Some candidates, likewise, may promise to combine diverse elements of what they see as leadership, such as Obama's blend of the aide-reliant advisory mode and the post-partisan purism of Hoover and Carter.

Wilentz's examples of both the advisory mode and the engineer mode are uniformly disastrous, so this is a fairly unsubtle way of telling us that he's pretty unenthused by Obama's potential. And not for the first time, either.

But your mileage may vary. Wilentz, I think, engages in some sleight of hand by basically blaming every presidential failure of the past century on bad staff advice. But there's a mighty big thumb on that scale. After all, FDR listened to his Brain Trust, Truman had Clark Clifford and George Kennan, and Reagan had Jim Baker and Donald Regan. Surely those count on the plus side?

But hey — give it a read and decide for yourself. Whether you agree with Wilentz's specific examples or not, he provides an interesting framework for viewing presidential leadership. And especially on the Democratic side, where Obama and Hillary Clinton have largely similar substantive views, the race is all about models of leadership.

Kevin Drum 1:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (84)

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Comments

And what category of president does Bush fall into?

Posted by: Tom Ames on January 30, 2008 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

In order for Hillary to be "Strong President" she would first have to win the White House which she won't do against McCain, not with McCain pulling in independents and some Dems. She certainly would do wonders for GOP GOTV efforts though.

Posted by: elmo on January 30, 2008 at 1:42 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting concept, but the article was fairly weak. It did suggest Obama would combine the two worst approaches -- advisor reliant approach and the engineer approach of Hoover and Carter (nice compliment there!). He also ignored Hillary and McCain. Would Hillary be the bad engineer or the good leader? Using his categories, McCain fits best in his stongest category - the leader. Hard to see him as an advisor or engineer type.

Wilentz' approach also over simplified things. Anyone elected president would be a "leader" type of person to some extent. Their success or failure is governed more by how they handle the specific challenges they wind up facing.

Posted by: brian on January 30, 2008 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

As all week, Kevin's searches long and hard to find some obscure place where someone tries to show why Obama won't be a good president. Anyone who truly thinks that he is being objective needs to get a brain.

Over the last few weeks (Hillary's loss in Iowa)I feel the passive-aggressive annoyance of why we should doubt Obama's ability. Yet he won't just come out and state that he is for Hillary. As stated in an earlier post, his company is a huge donor to the Clinton camp.

All I ask is please quite playing "I'm for Obama, just asking honest questions that need to be asked" and admit that only Hillary will make you happy

Posted by: Mike in Chicago on January 30, 2008 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

I have ZERO interest in what Wilentz has to say about this presidential race (or presidential leadership). The man has been shamelessly whoring for Hillary. Enough already. STFU, Dr.

Posted by: Andy Rooney on January 30, 2008 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

I don't want to sound harsh as Wilentz is surely a far better writer and analyst than I will ever be, but....this seems like pseudo-scientific hand-waving. Placing presidential performance into 3 categories (and rather odd categories -- do strong presidents not rely on competence? why is that trait associated with the bad engineer presidents?) which he admits poorly fit a number of presidents seems uninformative.

Predicting the fitness of a candidate based on past presidents is hard. The sample size of past presidents is small and the way the country works has changed over time. Washington now is not the Washington of half a century ago.

Honestly, I think the best predictor(s) of success are simply who will work the hardest and who is the smartest. I know...Malcolm Gladwell thinks thinking doesn't matter. Whatever. If you want to go beyond that, you can list the crises the next president will likely face: terrorism, recession, energy crisis, possible pandemic, something unknown. Educated guesses about how the candidates would repsond to each one and how effective that response would be would be much more informative than saying Obama is an aide-reliant engineer and Hillary and McCain are "strong".

Posted by: Rock on January 30, 2008 at 2:19 AM | PERMALINK

Not to sound shrill here, Kevin, but Wilentz has "come out" (to use the phrasing in the Newsweek piece linked below) for Hillary some time back. It's not like he is a disinterested observer, despite his credentials. When you put a Samantha Power piece up on the sidebar, call me.

Wilentz's argument in favor of Hillary's presidency in Newsweek:
http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/stumper/archive/2007/11/16/making-the-case-for-hillary-clinton-by-sean-wilentz.aspx

Posted by: Mike P on January 30, 2008 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

Mike in Chicago: "Anyone who truly thinks that [Kevin] is being objective needs to get a brain."

You're hardly one to talk about political objectivity. Besides, it's Kevin's blog. He can say whatever he wants. At least he's offered you a platform to disagree.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 30, 2008 at 2:46 AM | PERMALINK

Wilentz, I think, engages in some sleight of hand by basically blaming every presidential failure of the past century on bad staff advice. But there's a mighty big thumb on that scale. After all, FDR listened to his Brain Trust, Truman had Clark Clifford and George Kennan, and Reagan had Jim Baker and Donald Regan. Surely those count on the plus side?

Cutting analysis Kevin, and why I always read you. It would be easy to overlook this signification of the failures without applying the same standard to the successes.

Posted by: Jimm on January 30, 2008 at 3:02 AM | PERMALINK

You've made me see the light, Kevin. I am going to support Hillary.

You were right the whole time, and eventually the tipping point was that I realized it was Hillary Clinton that makes me feel like fighting for this country, it is the image of Hillary Clinton that first springs to mind when I think about the solution of the struggles this country is facing in the world, it is Hillary Clinton who can lead us to surplus-creating economies, it is Hillary Clinton who can temper the fears of a nation by staring into the cold eyes of, say, a Vladimir Putin and making him blink, it is Hillary Clinton who will not be compromised by the Chinese, Hillary Clinton who will restore the greatness of our past to the current White House, Hillary Clinton who will mend the fences necessary to create a moral coalition of support, and it is Hillary Clinton that can help pass meaningful legislation. When I think of all these things, I think of Hillary Clinton.

All of the preceding, however, is bullshit. You know it, and I know it. The more one looks at ones hopes with Hillary, the more they are revealed to involve her husband. So, go ahead, and vote for Hillary because you want Bill. It's such a good rationale (Clinton presidency then = good. Clinton presidency now = good.), I don't know why I didn't endorse her sooner. And, by jove, I just loved how patronistically Bill dubbed Barack as the token "black candidate" with his Jesse Jackson remarks. It's commentary like this from an ex-President taht makes me feel so warm and fuzzy inside.

I have chosen my candidate, and he is the guy who has galvanized voters whom Hillary would bore to death. He is the guy who has inspired others to participate, and to give this country a second look. He is the guy who made you, specifically, feel inspired after his victory in 90%+ white Iowa, before you retreated to the familiar comfort of cynicism and snark.

Barack Obama said it matter of factly when he said that if he were to be the nominee he would be able to gather Hillary's supporters. But his real question was, would Hillary Clinton be able to do the same for his? Do you see that enthusiasm for a Hillary Rodham? Fake tears can only go so far.

Posted by: Boorring on January 30, 2008 at 3:28 AM | PERMALINK

Furthermore, my friends, Sean Wilentz, known as one of our leading historians, provided an excellent article, "The Worst President in History?" in the May 4, 2006 edition of Rolling Stone.
He explains how historians assess the past from widely divergent points of view. Kevin, you might be selling him short on the issue of political advisors as opposed to the big picture...

Nonetheless, I highly regard Wilentz's opinion, and
find this Princeton treasure to be a most fascinating analyst.

P.S. Wilentz noted that in early 2004 an informal survey of 415 historians found 81% considered the current GWB administration "a failure."

He himself noted--and I loved the wording--"Bush's alarmingly aberrant take on the Constitution..."

Posted by: consider wisely always on January 30, 2008 at 3:53 AM | PERMALINK

I don't get the impression that Obama would rely on instincts and not facts. The whole point of getting advisors with different outlooks is to get challenging information. The problem with Bush is that he insists his advisors cheerlead whatever policy is in place. This is what has led to the blindness of the Bush administration, not the fact that Bush has advisors.

Posted by: PE on January 30, 2008 at 4:01 AM | PERMALINK

I also believe that he is a tad simplistic regarding his categorizing of Presidents. It is clear listening to his phone conversations that LBJ, for instance, was always against pulling out of Vietnam, even when he was serving under JFK. He wanted to win because he wanted to win. He was hardly a President who merely followed the advice of his advisors.

Posted by: PE on January 30, 2008 at 4:10 AM | PERMALINK

how would Hillary and Obama's leadership models be different they both seem like leaders that would rely on their own technical expertise supplemented by a bunch of advisors.

Posted by: bryan on January 30, 2008 at 4:24 AM | PERMALINK

Clinton's foreign policy advisers are troubling as are Obama's economic team. I see Obama going with a "bi-partisan" cabinet (Lieberman as Secretary of Unity) and Clinton recycling some of the Bill administration people.
Obama is more high risk/high reward while Clinton is middle of the road pragmatism and competence.
Both are going to be severely restricted by the economic and foreign policy mess the US is currently in.

Posted by: J J & M on January 30, 2008 at 4:24 AM | PERMALINK

What category of President does GWB fall into? The 'Spider Hole' category.

Posted by: parrot on January 30, 2008 at 4:26 AM | PERMALINK

Wilentz's article is pure pigbath. No one, and that includes Wilentz, can enumerate or categorize the characteristics of a great, or even competent, president.

Take a look at the three arguable greatest American presidents: Washington, Lincoln, and FDR (okay, I'm a liberal). Of the three, only Washington seemed from the outset to be destined for greatness. But, of course, he was already great.

Lincoln was a frontier trial lawyer (get it, trial lawyer), a minor state legislator, and a one term congressman with a depressive personality. He was elected president because he opposed slavery. No one predicted he would be a great president.

Roosevelt was a blue blooded political hack who rose to prominence in the Democratic party mostly by virtue of having the same last name as Teddy Roosevelt. From all appearances he was a president destined for mediocrity.

So what's the common thread linking these three personalities to greatness. Damned if I know. And neither does Wilentz.

aa

Posted by: aaron aardvarka on January 30, 2008 at 4:49 AM | PERMALINK

What Lincoln and Washington both did was bring in strong personalities into their cabinets, personalities that were often at odds with each other. What scares me most about a Hillary Clinton administration is that I think she relies on a small group of people with whom she has worked with in the past. Loyalty comes first and diversity of thought comes second.

Posted by: PE on January 30, 2008 at 5:14 AM | PERMALINK

FDR was a two-term governor of New York when it was the most populous state.(11% of the total)
He created a state relief system and unemployment insurance as governor. While these were not signs of greatness, they clearly were signs of a progressive bent and support for activist government.

Posted by: DeWitt Place on January 30, 2008 at 5:35 AM | PERMALINK

The article isn't at all persuasive in my opinion. Honestly, I don't think the author tried very hard.

Posted by: Gary Sugar on January 30, 2008 at 7:07 AM | PERMALINK

I think that he is absolutely correct. As for FDR, he did get himself into a bit of trouble during one of his administrations(when he attempted to pack the Supreme Court.) FDR was a shrewd man who listened to a lot of people-including his wife-and who seldom betrayed what he was thinking. And events during his presidency more or less propelled him into action. I think that Kevin is being too simplistic to say that Roosevelt listened to his advisers-he didn't always act on their recommendations.

By the time Bush leaves office, God knows what mess will be left behind for the next president to clean up. I want someone who is thoroughly familiar with how Washington works. Obama has simply not spent enough time there to master the bureaucracy.

It just seems naive to think that he will be able to foster bipartisanship. I don't believe that the Republicans are interested in working with Democrats. Their views of what govt. should be and how it should work are totally different.

I am a cynic, I know, but I think that the minute the next president takes office, the Republicans will be scheming to undermine him or her and to take back power. The characteristics that make Hillary Clinton so unpalatable to so many are exactly the characteristics that make her well-suited to take on the Republicans.

Posted by: Susan on January 30, 2008 at 7:10 AM | PERMALINK

You forgot moron presidents.

Posted by: rbe1 on January 30, 2008 at 7:20 AM | PERMALINK

And especially on the Democratic side, where Obama and Hillary Clinton have largely similar substantive views, the race is all about models of leadership.

—Kevin Drum

Strongly disagree. "Models of leadership" have nothing to do with it. As Kennedy stated, it's about the past vs. the future -- unless Obama gets caught up in this kind of wankey nonsense.

And I don't think he will -- he's learned his lesson.

Posted by: Econobuzz on January 30, 2008 at 7:42 AM | PERMALINK

I didn't see an "Out Of Control Moron" category. Where are we supposed to slot Bush?

Posted by: Toast on January 30, 2008 at 7:53 AM | PERMALINK

I have to tell you all, I'm really starting to lean more toward voting for Hillary next Tuesday.

I had been leaning towards Edwards, as support for his forthright advocacy of good causes, but I'm starting to think I'd prefer to send a giant "F.U." to the damn media for trying to run her out of this race.

But I think Wilentz does have a point, and this is another reason I like Hillary. I think Obama may have moire electoral upside than Hillary (maybe) with all that "unity" talk, but I think you seriously have to be a fool to expect that he'll get bipartisan cooperation from the Republicans just because he's so damn charming.

Posted by: gustav on January 30, 2008 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

I don't agree with this reductive argument, that because Obama emphasizes vision and leadership style, therefore he must be weak on substance and knowledge.

While it may be true that at this moment Clinton is more steeped in legislative minutiae, Obama is not exactly GWB. By all accounts he is a brilliant and thoughtful guy. I get the sense that he would be involved in policy details as President, just that he doesn't see that as his primary asset since many people in Washington understand policy. It's the vision that separates him from Clinton.

Posted by: chili on January 30, 2008 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

great article - explains in clear and concise manner why to a reasonable mind Hillary is the best choice at this point in history and why Obama, if the far left and the evil that is Oprah get their way, why Obama will be reminding people of Carter by the time his first term is done.

And Kevin your points about FDR and Truman are addressed in the article - did you doze off half way through or something? Or is your growing bias towards Obama clouding your view of things?

Posted by: guff on January 30, 2008 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

It would help if people actually knew some presidential history. For instance, that FDR was considered an intellectual lightweight who upset many in the party because he refused to outline specifically how he'd solve the problems of the Depression. The words "New Deal" weren't even uttered, I don't believe, until the convention.

But if we include "visionary presidents" in that list, it makes it hard to have the piece go in Hillary's favor.

Posted by: geml on January 30, 2008 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

You should have said Jim Baker and George Shultz, Don Regan was a clown. But the real reason I'm afraid of Hillary is that she's promised to scrutinize every piece of paper a la Carter/Hoover, and has a 35 year track record of bad judgment on what she'll do on the basis of that scrutiny. Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review - he knows something about summarizing and digesting the important elements in an argument or fact pattern and how to delegate the rest - Hillary has never shown that capacity.

Posted by: bukarin on January 30, 2008 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

The article is flawed because its three categories, 'strong', 'advisory', and 'engineer', are arbitrarily chosen and do not form any sort of exclusive set. It's like trying to classify all food as either being 'Good', 'Best if eaten with soup', or 'Hamburgers'.

Posted by: lampwick on January 30, 2008 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

yeah, no way is Hillary winning against McCain. if he's already winning among Republicans who oppose the war- McCain, who showed Iraq was perfectly calm by visiting a market with a brigade of American troops, snipers, and helicopters, McCain who says he'll be there for hundreds of years- Hillary's wishy-washy for it/against it back and forth is going to guarantee four more years of selling the country to China and Saudi Arabia in return for magic bean-style tax cuts. don't forget the Roe vs Wade-overturning judges McCain swears he'll appoint.

Posted by: jim on January 30, 2008 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

No, the race is not about "models of leadership." I'm not one who ever really understood the rabid Clinton hatred of the right in the 1990s. 90+ percent of the ugligness of the decade was the Republicans fault, not his. But to simply deny that there's something smary about the guy is to deny the obvious, and to lie to oneself. And not to see that Hillary was the worse half of that couple's instincts is to be more blind still. (She was always the one who wanted to circle the wagons, and fight the evildoers--it was never a good idea.) Bill was, in his way, bigger than his flaws, and bigger than his enemies. She isn't. I understand that you, and most of your readers, are averse to making character judgements about political leaders. (We can't really know; they all do it; who could be genuine under the scrutiny; who could even live a life or think a thought will all that press attention.) But some things are obvious but to the blind. Her flaws will be magnified 1000 times in the crucible of the presidency. She is (to quote the much despised AS) "Nixon in a pantsuit." Democrats wil rue the day she is nominated.

Posted by: Matt on January 30, 2008 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

There are two kinds of people in this world, those that divide people into two groups and those that don't.

These "X kinds of Y" theses are usually just cleverly constructed, internally consistent models of reality that confirm the biases of the modeler. In other words, total bullshit.

And I should know, I'm a "performance consultant."

Why not just make your own list of why Obama sucks and not waste our time linking to "analysis" like this?

Posted by: lobbygow on January 30, 2008 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

When we've just been through 8 years of hell with a president who relied on advisors and was disinclined to take charge of paperwork we better damn well choose someone who will. Consider the August 6 2001 PDB "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US". Here's Obama: "I ask my staff never to hand me paper until two seconds before I need it, because I will lose it. And my desk in my office doesn't look good. I've got to have somebody around me who is keeping track of that stuff”. Obama goes on to state he is not about bureaucracy. Apparently chairing his subcommittee is also beneath Obama and obviously there are major problems with this imperial view of leadership.

The president has to be someone who is a worker bee as well as a queen bee - and Obama just wants to be the queen bee.

If what was needed was a someone to "inspire" us then we should get a mascot not a president. If what we needed was simple talk about hope then we should elect a teevee preacher. If what we needed was a "fresh face" then we should elect a figurehead or a celebrity from Hollywood. We probably do need someone who can reach across the aisle and shake hands, but when you reach across and get a clenched fist (which is about what the Republicans are going to show you) you better be able to pull some bureaucratic levers.

Posted by: Chrissy on January 30, 2008 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

It's like trying to classify all food as either being 'Good', 'Best if eaten with soup', or 'Hamburgers'.

Ha! Very funny.

I suspect that an analysis based on zodiac signs would be more useful because it is less arbitrary. At least one could argue seasonal effects in early childhood development or the influence of being treated by a horoscope reading public as though you confirm the traits typically associated with your sign.

I can just imagine Wilentz's delight when he came up with a way to group Hoover and Carter together.

Conventional wisdom says we're screwed anyway, because senators supposedly make horrible presidents compared to "executives" like governors and mayors. I'm guessing this will be the talking point that Mitt clings to through Super Tuesday. "I'm the only excecutive in the race."

For a country that supposedly values the myth of the "rugged individual," we sure are a bunch of slipper licking authoritarians. I guess we've decided that monarchs are way cooler than public servants.

I look forward to the 100 years war between the Bush and Clinton dynasties.

Fun times.

Posted by: lobbygow on January 30, 2008 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Rock: "Honestly, I think the best predictor(s) of success are simply who will work the hardest and who is the smartest. I know."

Just to follow up with research findings: I/O psychologists estimate that IQ, the kind measured on IQ tests, is the best predictor of success in complex jobs, r = .53, accounting for ~25% of the variance. The personality trait of Conscientiousness (working hard, obeying the law, setting goals and being ambitious) comes in second, iirc, r = .34 or ~10% of the variance. If only the USA had listened to the experts when choosing between GWB and Gore in 2000 or GWB and Kerry in 2004! No contest between GWB and Gore/Kerry.

Unfortunately, if one is trying to decide among Obama, Clinton and Edwards, these predictors are no help. All three are smart and hard-working.

I loathe these grandiose categorization schemes. So Clinton is the best of the three, a strong executive with "lots of Washington experience" who will "act as a hands-on executive?" Or maybe she will be a micro-managing, polarizing, conflicted executive with parody of a husband. Perhaps Obama will be that rare bird, a man of vision and inspiration AND Washington experience equal to Clintons and a hands-on style. Or maybe Obama will be a dreamy, out-of-touch advisory president who relies on moral purity to bring the unruly masses in line.

Looking at the past, rationally identifying themes and then using these simple categories to predict future performance of real people is a poor use of post-hoc reasoning.

Posted by: PTate in MN on January 30, 2008 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

I've already chimed in. But there's an interesting divide among democrats (me), liberals (me) and liberal liberals (me) here. Some people just aren't turned on by Obama's speeches and rhetoric. Some are (me), and find it profoundly moving. To me, any many others, it reaches beyond the trite (always a danger when you reach for meaning), and touches the civic sublime. To me, it evinces a quality of thought and characer that is a once in two generations event. To me, if you don't see it, you're already dead to even the possiblity of romance in politics, and resigned to to working your way, always and every year, through a grubby world. So be it.

Posted by: Matt on January 30, 2008 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

The characteristics that make Hillary Clinton so unpalatable to so many are exactly the characteristics that make her well-suited to take on the Republicans.

This is what worries me about our country. So many on both sides have reduced this to a zero sum game. It's become a self fulfilling prophecy.

We don't have public servants who govern anymore. We have political celebrities that campaign 24/7 and rely on various special interests to fund the product marketing. Obama, Edwards, McCain and any number of candidates from both parties correctly diagnose this illness, but it doesn't inoculate them against the infection.

I don't think politician as product is a new phenomenon. What's new is that the election cycle never ends, and that the funding required to sustain that cycle is well beyond the reach of any "normal" American citizen.

How long before each candidate's name is modified by a corporate sponsor like our sports stadiums and college bowl games?

Hmmm... that reminds me of a topic that might be of interest...

Posted by: lobbygow on January 30, 2008 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

I find it very interesting that the article did not mention BILL Clinton in its analysis. Perhaps that's because he didn't fit the criteria of the first category in that he didn't have "washington experience". In fact, very few presidents would meet that criteria since very few presidents are elected from Congress (where, presumably, one would gain "washington experience").

Let's all go back in time for a moment. Bill Clinton was an enigma before he became President. He was from a backwater state that not shown much under his leadership (like 48th of 50 in education, for ex). Using this "model", Bill would not have been an ideal choice for president, but most Democrats would agree he was a very good president (all BJs considered).

Now we have Obama vs HRC. HRC has positioned herself as the candidate of experience and dedication that, "in these difficult times" is necessary to lead America forward. Obama says his vision is substantially different in that the politics of the last 20 years is part of the problem and that he would lead America with a different energy or passion.

These are substantively different approaches. And, as has been much discussed on this board, there is a wide variation in opinion on the matter. And I don't think that this article sheds any more light on this issue. In fact, it's pseudoscience and wouldn't fail the laugh test at a peer-reviewed publication.

That being said, I want to make 2 points. First, it is clear that a vote for Obama is more than a leap of faith than a vote for HRC. With HRC we know what we're going to get, for better or worse. With Obama, we have a less clear idea. But, I would like to remind you that by all measures, this is the EXACT same situation that occurred in 92. Gephardt and Gore would have been the candidates to fulfill the authors preferred president model. They were the known candidates. They were the experienced candidates. By 2007/8 standards, we should have nominated one of them to be the candidate. But we took a chance and went with the outsider who made us feel good and the rest, as they say, is history.

I find irony in this.

Second, stop repeating the mantra that there is no difference between HRC and Obama. This is Clinton Cool-Aid. There is a CLEAR difference in foreign policy approach. Clinton is a hawk who supported the war, favored confrontation with Iran, and has repeatedly taken hardline positions in the debates. Obama fits more closely into the Liberal Internationalism school that the first Clinton took to heart. He never supported the war, he favors negotiation and diplomacy (even with dictators), and wants to work through international institutions to bring positive change to the world. By all measures, this philosophy is just better than the hawkishness that HRC has embraced to look "tough".

Posted by: Nobcentral on January 30, 2008 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Rather scandalous not to have the category "visionary Presidents" don't you think?

Posted by: Neil B. on January 30, 2008 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

My vision of the Presidency is thus-

The President of the United States is the defender of Capitalism. He should endeavor to de-regulate and un-tax and free the individual for commerce. Any government entity that stands in the way of the free markets should be struck down by the swift hand of the President.

The President defends America. He should launch an immediate crusade against the enemies of America and enlist millions in this fight. He should wear a blue suit and a tie at all times. Ronald Reagan would not set foot in the Oval Office without a coat on--something liberals cannot understand. The President is a CEO, after all, and the boss can't be seen padding about in board shorts and a Doobie Brothers t-shirt.

The President should have his own sword. I cannot for the life of me figure out why this never caught on. Washington had a sword about his person at all times, as did every other man of his day. For one thing, the sword is handy for fending off assassinations and bandits. Had Lincoln had a sword, he might have been able to turn around and cut off the pistol hand of John Wilkes Booth. Had McKinley been wearing a sword, he could have plunged it into the chest of his assassin and cried out for help from the Pinkertons.

A sword is handy for saluting and for clearing objects out of the way. I'm not talking about a Samurai sword--that would be stupid. I'm talking about a ceremonial sword, the kind used by the military. Duh.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 30, 2008 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Some candidates, likewise, may promise to combine diverse elements of what they see as leadership, such as Obama’s blend of the aide-reliant advisory mode and the post-partisan purism of Hoover and Carter.

I'm surprised to find some of the assumptions that have become axiomatic in the discourse about Obama reflected in this transparent piece of advocacy: purity, facile bipartisanship, inexperience. I didn't encounter the "purity" stuff until I revisited this board and discovered it to be standard issue in the anti-Obama arsenal. "Purity" simply never comes up in my many conversations with actual supporters. It is not a fundamental part of Obama's appeal.

The "post-partisan" meme has also been misrepresented to suggest that Obama believes he can charm the opposition into voting for his agenda. That's absurd. Rather, Obama thinks there are portions of the electorate that are ripe for the picking, if only the Democrats can attract them, to build the working majority necessary to support progressive ideas. Reasonable people can disagree about Obama's ability to foster this movement, but at least get the premise straight.

Also, if we are to accept Wilentz's 3 categories, where's the evidence that Obama would settle into "aide-reliant advisory mode"? Because his desk is messy?

Posted by: Lucy on January 30, 2008 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

>"The President should have his own sword"

Brilliant... ROFL

Meanwhile, in important news, the economy has now 'officially' tanked.

Posted by: Buford on January 30, 2008 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Ptate,

I agree that intelligence has to be high up in the factors for success, but it takes more - mostly good judgment, however you might try to measure that.

ps Bush scored higher on military intelligence tests than Kerry. Don't know how Gore scored, but he has never struck me as real intelligent.

Posted by: brian on January 30, 2008 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, in important news, the economy has now 'officially' tanked.

No it hasn't. We had "slow" growth in the 4thQ. I invested in rental properties, so things are going gangbusters for me. I have a vacancy rate of less than 10% because the collapse of homeownership means more people are renting. Don't have a hissy fit because you couldn't see it coming. That's why pros play the stockmarket and joes go home with lunchboxes.

Growth means we are still on the positive side of things. You can whine about anemic growth, but there was no decline, you see.

Military ceremonies feature swords all of the time. I think the President should have a blue handled sword adorned with the Eagle, and the head of the Eagle should turn to the arrows clutched in his talons [War] when we are at War and the head should be turned towards the...not sure what else he holds. Scrolls? A Christmas wreath looking thing? I have a splitting headache and cannot tell.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 30, 2008 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

I think I might love the hungover Norm even more than the...er...clear-headed one.

Posted by: shortstop on January 30, 2008 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

It's an olive branch, Norm. Have you heard of those?

Posted by: shortstop on January 30, 2008 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

You know what's an even better predictor than Wilentz's "I Luv Hillary" categories? CHARISMA.

Charismatic: Washington, Lincoln, TR, FDR, Kennedy, Reagan.
Uncharismatic: Adams, Grant, Coolidge, Truman, Nixon, Carter.

NOW which side are you going to pick, Dr. W?

Posted by: calling all toasters on January 30, 2008 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

Some of the leadership abilities Hillary doesn't have. She doesn't seem to find or create other leaders. Her speeches are about her herself. "I am committed to" etc..She doesn't collaborate well except when she is trying to raise funds and then she gets mired in scandal..She doesn't have charimsa...She doesn't inspire...She has moderate experience, but few achievements...She is not known for her intergrity...What she does have is the Clinton name, (all things Clinton) and the correct gender for half the electorate. But as part of her Commander -in-Chief vision model that Wilenz talks about in Glenn Greenwald's words, " her years long support for the Iraq war and general support for Bush's war -loving policies" are worth considering and then rejecting.

Posted by: Steve Crickmore on January 30, 2008 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

The President should have his own sword.

Omigod too funny!

Posted by: Lucy on January 30, 2008 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

toasters: Barney has charisma! Also inspires young people not just in this country but around the world. His purpleness bridges the red/blue divide. He's transformational! Inspirational! He's not beholden to the old culture wars and Vietnam thinking. Not afraid to be a hopemonger. Boldly going where no dinosaur has gone before.

toasters, grab your special Obama flag and hop aboard you Big Wheel and inspire.

Posted by: Chrissy on January 30, 2008 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

It's an olive branch, Norm. Have you heard of those?

I have not. What exactly does an olive branch mean? Is that a peacenik thing? Is that a thing that is normally extended? What about the dove as a symbol of peace? Does that make sense, though? An Eagle, clutching a dove in its talon? I grew up in a time of strife called "The Cold War" and I don't know if you're old enough to remember it. I know nothing of Not War and don't care to think about the Clinton Years these days.

So there should be two Presidential swords. One for War, one for Not War. I suppose the one that isn't being used would have to be stored in a closet somewhere. Who would have custody of the closet? Could someone take the War sword and go to the Congress and demand War? I remember reading about President Adams and his desire to wear a military uniform while President so that he could start a war with France. While I don't think the uniform would work [because of liberal snarking about the 'codpiece' of the flight suit worn by our President in 2003] I think a ceremonial sword that must be present as the symbol invested with the inherent authority of the President means a great deal, symbol-wise.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 30, 2008 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

Sad news. Apparently Edwards is out. The !@#$%%!!!!! msm has once again triumphed in taking out the best and leaving the least objectionable to corporate America.

Posted by: Chrissy on January 30, 2008 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

Charismatic: Washington, Lincoln, TR, FDR, Kennedy, Reagan.

You have the order wrong. It goes Washington, Reagan, Lincoln, then the rest. And Kennedy doesn't belong on this list.

Washington carried a sword. Hamilton carried a sword. Mr. Jefferson was too afraid of being stabbed to carry one. Madison carried two swords, at one point, because of the threats against him levelled by people who thought he was a poor President.

I don't know why you people don't understand symbolism. The crown jewels are the symbol of the British, the sceptre is the symbol of [I'm drawing an uncharacteristic blank here].

The faberge eggs are the symbol of Russia. The Emperor is the symbol of Japan--I don't know what he carries around. The Little Red Book is the symbol of the Chinese premier. The jaguar skin spotted hat is the symbol of an African potentate. Does the king of Spain have a sword? I'll wager that he does.

So what is the symbol of the American President? It should be a sword. Two swords. War and Not War. And it should be raised before Congress to command their allegiance to America while passing legislation. That's my belief, anyway.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 30, 2008 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

by all means, froth at the mouth at obama's charisma while giving edwards a complete pass on his voting record, chrissy. his policies were excellent, but his own record contradicted them, and you managed to avoid ever addressing that. you were too in love with the image rather than the substance.

going to be fun to watch shards of your exploding had scatter from coast to coast when edwards endorses obama.

Posted by: as it unfolds on January 30, 2008 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Apparently Edwards is out. The !@#$%%!!!!! msm has once again triumphed in taking out the best and leaving the least objectionable to corporate America.

Yes, well, what chance did the Breck Girl have of taking my money and giving it to dopes like you? None. Zero. This country tolerates a populist, but won't elect a populist. It's bad for business.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 30, 2008 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

I have ZERO interest in what Wilentz has to say about this presidential race (or presidential leadership). The man has been shamelessly whoring for Hillary. Enough already. STFU, Dr.

Even leaving aside his partisanship, I think Wilentz's opinions are just horseshit. Nothing a smart 11th-grader couldn't come up with.

Posted by: David in NY on January 30, 2008 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Chrissy--

LOL. Somehow I knew you would find Barney charismatic. When 3-year-olds get the vote, this will be relevant.

But it's not really germane to the question of PRESIDENTS and charisma, is it?

Posted by: calling all toasters on January 30, 2008 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Well, Chrissy sounds like a 3-year old with access to her mom's computer.

Posted by: GOD on January 30, 2008 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

It's interesting the JFK isn't on the list. Didn't he live long enough to do enough to be rated?

Charisma is not always a good character trait. Huey Long, Billy Graham and Hitler were charismatic too. Please don't jump on me, I'm not equating Obama with Hitler. I'm just saying that if the speaker is engaging enough and hits enough emotional buttons, the audience gets carried away with the emotion.

On my list, Edwards was in the lead. Now I have to figure out who has the best skills to run the country.

Posted by: mlynn on January 30, 2008 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Bill Clinton had charisma but the difference is that after hearing Obama you believe you could achieve anything. After hearing Bill Clinton you believed he could achieve anything..and he still does.

Posted by: Steve Crickmore on January 30, 2008 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

I was paraphrasing an old quote on the difference between Churchill and Hitler but I believe it is apt: "It has been said that after meeting Churchill you beleived you could achieve anything. After meeting Hitler you believed that he could achieve anything!"

Posted by: Steve Crickmore on January 30, 2008 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Huey Long, Billy Graham and Hitler

Hey, that's a fantastic list. Just the other day, I was reading a serious academic study of politics and the one reference that the author kept making over and over again was to Long, Graham and Hitler. It's like a shorthand in American politics--one always refers to Long, Graham and Hitler in passing. Everyone gets it, and everyone picks up on it. There is instant connection with the reader when you can link the governor of Louisiana from the 1930s, a still-living Evangelist, and the Nazi dictator. They just fall from the tongue, so easily are all three of them combined and linked and cited.

[rolling eyes]

And you morons wonder why I think you're all wrong about this business of politics.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 30, 2008 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

lampwick: It's like trying to classify all food as either being 'Good', 'Best if eaten with soup', or 'Hamburgers'.

LOL!!!

Matt: "Some people just aren't turned on by Obama's speeches and rhetoric. Some are (me), and find it profoundly moving. To me, any many others, it reaches beyond the trite (always a danger when you reach for meaning), and touches the civic sublime. To me, it evinces a quality of thought and characer that is a once in two generations event. To me, if you don't see it, you're already dead to even the possiblity of romance in politics, and resigned to to working your way, always and every year, through a grubby world. So be it."

I agree wholeheartedly and admire how well you have stated this. I also find Obama's speeches profoundly moving. Your comment reminds me of another comment I saw recently that Obama was reframing SuperTuesday into a referendum about our national character, not about the candidates. I don't see that characteristic, that ability to reframe how Americans think about themselves, in Wilentz's taxonomy.

I look at Obama, and I wonder if we are observing the emergence of a once-in-a-lifetime leader. Many of us are so battle-scarred from our own American-style culture wars that we can't believe he is the Real Thing. But when I listen to his speeches, when I look at his support among the young, I find that I would rather believe that he is such a leader and risk disappointment than to be cynical or pragmatic about his potential in the WH.

Posted by: PTate in MN on January 30, 2008 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Many of us are so battle-scarred from our own American-style culture wars that we can't believe he is the Real Thing.

You and me both, sister!

I have the [figurative] bumps and scarred flesh on my back from being whipped [in the figurative, not literal sense] for my conservative principles by hateful liberals and disgruntled losers in the culture wars.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 30, 2008 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

mlynn--
Charisma is not always a good character trait.
Neither are loyalty or bravery or thriftiness ALWAYS good traits. But looking at American Presidents, charisma is probably the single best predictor of success. Now, Reagan's charisma worked against liberals and Kennedy's worked for us, but that's not our choice this year. Our choice is between a liberal who is very electable and likely to be effective when in office, and one who is less electable and likely to be ineffective.

Posted by: calling all toasters on January 30, 2008 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

disgruntled losers in the culture wars.

Uh, I don't think "losers" means what you think it means.

How's that anti gay marriage amendment going?

Posted by: lobbygow on January 30, 2008 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

do strong presidents not rely on competence?

Is Bush not a strong president?

Posted by: thersites on January 30, 2008 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Jimmy Carter helped to free Iranians and Nicaraguans from US hegemony while president. He does not receive enough credit for that. Those are greater accomplishments than anything negative he did while president.

Reagan does not receive enough criticism for all of the Nicaraguans and El Salvadorans he killed. The blood stains from their murders should color every opinion about his presidency.

Machismo American attitudes are used to judge American leaders. Reagan's kicking somebody's ass (even if it was El Salvadoran nuns) means more to Americans than restoring popular rule in impoverished and foreign controlled countries.

Posted by: Brojo on January 30, 2008 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Normie carries a sword because, well...
Oh, I promised not to talk about that anymore!

Posted by: Mrs. Rogers IV on January 30, 2008 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Jimmy Carter freed Nicaraguans from U.S. hegemony? Really? And Iran, too? How exactly did he do that?

Posted by: Pat on January 30, 2008 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

That article was a complete waste of time. But, Norman Rogers posts are always dead-on.

Oh, and John McCain is going to be the next president.

Posted by: MikeKC on January 30, 2008 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

the race is all about models of leadership.

And honesty, vision, and competence.

Btw, as others above, it seems, I am sick and tired of ignorant so-called libs buying the GOP and media spin that Carter was an ineffectual POTUS. I suppose that 20 yrs from now, your kids will assume as fact that GWB is the best POTUS of the last 100 yrs....

Posted by: Disputo on January 30, 2008 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Edwards giving up surprises me. It will bother Kevin and the rest of the folks who hate Bill Kristol, but I think Kistol's recent column that Kevin labeled as "banal" was the first one that suggested Edwards would drop out before the Thursday debate.

Why didn't Edwards just stick in to pick up some delegates and perhaps be a force at an open convention? I thought he was angling for another VP nomination, but that seems wrong. You know he still wants to be president someday, so he must have concluded quitting now is the best strategy for achieving that objective in the future.

Posted by: brian on January 30, 2008 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Jimmy Carter helped to free Iranians and Nicaraguans from US hegemony

You nincompoop! Jimmy Carter sentenced the Nicaraguan people to a lifetime of destitution at the hands of the bloodthirsty Sandinista regime and the Iranian people to a lifetime of Mad Mullahs and nuclear winter.

It is because of people like Brojo that no liberal will ever be elected President in my lifetime. And I have at least twenty years left. My Father lived until he was ninetey.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 30, 2008 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

First of all,

Strong is a loaded word. Second, why when we discuss Political Leadership, we never discuss political talent?

There is an art to getting legislators to vote, There is an art to rousing the masses, etc.

LBJ and FDR got the most done because they had the most political ability.

Posted by: jimmy on January 30, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

I think Hillary proves that ideas and principles do not necessarily generate effectiveness in a President. Opposing her initiatives would be such a badge of honor by the right wing, I think her administration would be a continuation of the Bush disaster. I think Obama will carry enough personal dynamism and credibility to the office, he will move mountains. All things being equal, we know Hillary could not be an effective President without a massive shift in Congress. It is the personal dynamism which makes a President. Political enemies must choose battles very carefully against a personally popular leader. I did not see that category articulated. Bill Clinton is antithetical to his wife in that.

Posted by: Sparko on January 30, 2008 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Wilentz is an excellent student of the American presidency. His book on American Democracy is one of the best studies out there. I just finished Krugman's Conscience of a Liberal and he provides a lot of good analysis on the current political situation and the work necessary to get a national health care plan. These are guys worth listening to.

....As Kennedy stated, it's about the past vs. the future .... Econobuzz at 7:42 AM

The new 'bamabot slogan: Forward to the Past, forgetting that it took LBJ to pass JFK's cherished ideals. These Obama trolls have become tiresome tendentitious twits.
Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review .... bukarin at 8:56 AM

New voting criteria. Gotta be a lawyer. Oops, so was Edwards so was Clinton
....it reaches beyond the trite....Matt at 9:22 AM

Nostrums of bipartisanship don't really sound all that romantic in an era in which the hyper partisan and malefactors of great wealth have taken over most American institutions.
....Obama thinks there are portions of the electorate that are ripe for the picking,.... Lucy at 9:44 AM

Poll after poll have shown that Democratic policies and positions are the more popular ones with the electorate. Obama has shown no greater ability to promote this than has any other Democrat, but has show his willingness to triangulate from the right on Social Security and health care.

Don't know how Gore scored, but he has never struck me as real intelligent. brian at 9:47 AM
Despite your opinion, he knows his stuff and has been prescient on most issues.
....after hearing Obama you believe you could achieve anything..... Steve Crickmore at 10:30 AM
That sounds like one of those corporate meetings that generate enthusiasm among the sales force. Dale Carnegie redux. So what did Obama achieve today?
....charisma is probably the single best predictor of success....calling all toasters at 11:01 A
Christian conservatives thought Bush as charismatic. Republicans still believe. Huey Long was one of the more charismatic American governors.
.... My Father lived until he was ninetey.ab-Norman Rogers at 11:55 AM
That was because he knew you would squander the inheritance on Ripple Posted by: Mike on January 30, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Obama has shown no greater ability to promote this than has any other Democrat

...except for that pesky under-thirty demographic...you know, the one that's so hard to get to the polls...that comes out in hordes for obama and stays home for clinton...

Posted by: as it unfolds on January 30, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

The new 'bamabot slogan: Forward to the Past, forgetting that it took LBJ to pass JFK's cherished ideals.

What, exactly, in Hillary's career leads you to believe she is LBJ?

Posted by: Another Mike on January 30, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK
...except for that pesky under-thirty demographic.....as it unfolds at 1:21 PM
They're so reliable, that 9% of the electorate: always the future, never the present. (Do you notice that she outdrew Obama 44 to 43 in Florida?)
What, exactly, in Hillary's career leads you to believe she is LBJ?Another Mike at 1:23 PM
What, exactly, in that remark makes you think that she is will be the successor to an Obama presidency? What, exactly, makes you think I claimed what I didn't? Just because some claim that Obama is JFK doesn't make him so. JFK was not able to get much of his agenda passed. Posted by: Mike on January 30, 2008 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, but the race is not all about models of leadership. That's where the problem with the analysis is. A leadership style is useless if you are not elected or, even if elected, have no constituency. You cannot govern if you are not allowed to govern, and Hillary will not be allowed to govern, not by the media or the political class. I like Hillary, I really do, particularly whenever I hear her speak and see her command of the issues; but I don't want either a Republican or a paralyzed Democratic administration in the White House. It's time to turn the page.

And the idea that Obama cannot be a strong, hands-on President is just nonsense.

Can we all just quit playing Magic 8 Ball here?

Posted by: dathon on January 30, 2008 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Norman you fool, get your facts straight. Reagan rarely wore a blue suit in the oval office. He was very partial to brown suits however. And it is very likely no African potentate ever wore a jaguar skin hat, as jaguars are a new world cat. Leopard skin maybe, but not Jaguar. And by the way, the Sandinistas got voted out of power once we stopped making war on them, so no one suffered a lifetime of anything under them. As for blood thirsty, the Sandinistas really don’t compare to the government we installed in Guatemala, which did condemn Guatemalans to a lifetime of bloody violence (over 500,000 killed).

Posted by: fafner1 on January 30, 2008 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is the new Ron Paul: A cult.

Posted by: Pat on January 30, 2008 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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