Monday, September 5, 2011

Not Michele Bachmann...Not Now

The most recent Rasmussen poll has Rick Perry far ahead of the perennial campaigner, Mitt Romney, and Michele Bachmann.

Here is my quick take on the relatives strengths and weaknesses of the three candidates: "A Tonic for Campaign Fever." If you are a political type like me, you are looking for someone to believe in. But there's lots to keep me sober in this field. Besides, when Mitch Daniels declined to run, I swore myself to political chastity. I shall never love again...or at least not until 2016 or '20, depending on how things turn out.

I was easy on Michele Bachmann in the column. But here I can speak more fully. [Update: Sept.7 - Bachmann's campaign manager, Ed Rollins, has left the cause, conceding that it is a Perry-Romney race at this point. This seems to seal Bachmann's place as a footnote to the 2012 campaign.]


It is interesting that in these times of high unemployment the Republican Party is having a hard time finding applicants for the President’s job. Consider Michele Bachmann, Congresswoman from Minnesota. She’s a fiscal and moral conservative. These are policy positions that are promising for anyone seeking the Republican nomination. She has cared for 23 foster children, something speaks highly of her personal character. But here is why she will not and should not get the Republican nomination.

First, she is only a Congresswoman. The only person ever to have gone straight from the House of Representatives to the White House was James Garfield in 1881. There is a reason the path to the presidency is either through a Governor's mansion or a Senate seat.

Unlike the office of Congressman, Senator is a statewide office. For this reason, Senators are more inclined to consider the broader interest of a wider constituency. By constitutional design, however, Senators take a broader view of public affairs because of their involvement in presidential decision-making. They confirm the President’s cabinet appointments. This draws them into considering what is required of people in those posts and weighing the wisdom of the President’s judgments.

The Senate also ratifies treaties, a responsibility that requires a detailed knowledge of matters like arms control and trade agreements. Thus, in 2008, Sen. John McCain who had been deeply involved in foreign policy oversight was fully prepared to assume the mantle of Commander-in-Chief.

One of a Senator’s most consequential decisions is whether to confirm a nominee to the Supreme Court. This calls a Senator to scrutinize a broad range of issues that fall within a President’s sphere of action. Thus, in this role, Senators must think of how they would behave in a Constitutional manner as President.

Because of their heightened responsibilities, Senators tend to be more judicious in their judgments and careful in their speech. Congressmen, by contrast, are more blustery, less researched, partly in their attempts to distinguish themselves from the pack (there are 435 seats in the House, but only 100 Senators), and partly to satisfy their narrow constituencies in their districts. Think Joe Wilson from South Carolina’s Second District shouting “You lie!” during President Obama’s health care speech to Congress in 2009.

Governors, for their part, have valuable executive experience. They have to balance a budget, as Indiana’s Mitch Daniels did and as John Kasich is struggling to do in Ohio. They have to negotiate with a possibly hostile legislature as Gov. Ronald Reagan did in California and Gov. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. They may have to face a disaster as Haley Barbour did after Hurricane Katrina and as Bobby Jindal did during the BP oil spill. And rhetorically, they have honed the skill of addressing not a narrow, Gerrymandered Congressional district but a broad populace of diverse passions and interests.

But Michele Bachmann sits in the House of Representatives. She was first elected to a House seat in 2006, and before that she was a Minnesota State Senator. Attempting this sort of premature leap—from the lower house to the White House—bespeaks an impatience that does not serve the country well in the highest office. But our current President’s success encourages unseasonable ambition.

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