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Is A Good Candidate Always a Good President?
September 29, 2012 8:26 AM   Subscribe

What makes a candidate Presidential? A series of articles on what qualities make a good American President by Slate's John Dickerson
posted by Renoroc (30 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not so today. Mitt Romney has been running for president for six years. Barack Obama has arguably never stopped since he took the oath of office. Today campaigning isn’t an “interruption” but a permanent condition.

Well Willard's been at it longer than that, but what's the problem with that? I think it's actually been very instructive to have watched him test drive the Presidency for a few years from the harmless position of candidate.

We know that President Rommey would not have made temporary loans to GM.

We know that President Romney would bray fealty to the Israelis and holds racist views of Palestinians.

We've seen how a potential President Romney would represent the United States at the Olympics.

It has been helpful and useful to have seen this extended job interview. Is a good candidate a good President? Who knows? On the other hand, it seems certain that a bad candidate would make a bad President.
posted by three blind mice at 9:14 AM on September 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, as they say the best indicator of future performance is past performance. That's tricky for "most powerful (except very limited) person on the planet".

So either you should drop your term limits, or maybe your electoral college should be empowered to appoint (ex-)heads of foreign states? Gorbachev? Mandela? Lula da Silva? Tony Blair? Then again, Berlusconi?
posted by alasdair at 9:15 AM on September 29, 2012


I like this: "[S]uppose the current presidential campaign were an extended job interview, conducted by the American people. Candidates are so guarded, the hiring committee would have little to go on. He speaks a great deal but says so little. All I really know is that he loves this company and thinks its best days are ahead of it. He thinks the head office in D.C. is out of touch with customers. Great teeth."
posted by saturday_morning at 9:22 AM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think this is much more important than us peasants realise.
posted by Monkeymoo at 9:29 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The best people to be President aren't in the running, they would get rid of the corporate elite, and the bankers that pull their strings.

Of course, then they would repeat history and replace that kleptocracy with one of their own, in the manner of Andrew Jackson.
posted by MikeWarot at 9:49 AM on September 29, 2012


The cheap political critique of Mitt Romney is that he flip-flops. His opponents point this out as if that’s all you need to know to disqualify him. But malleability is a necessary quality in a president. (Constancy has a nice romantic ring to it, but does anyone want a leader who sets a course and then refuses to change it no matter what?)

At the very least this is disingenuous.

No one wants a president so set in their ways that they never change, regardless of circumstances that should dictate change. However, in Romney's case the only thing that's changed is that he's now running for President. That's not a sufficient reason to change your beliefs. Doing so only makes one question whether the man believes anything at all.

Romney isn't malleable. Romney's a liar who will say whatever he thinks the people want to hear. Those aren't the same thing.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:50 AM on September 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


Yes the reason Barack Obama is president today is because of his direct lineage from Edward I.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:50 AM on September 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


replace that kleptocracy with one of their own,

That's simple to solve. Find someone who has no friends and who wants to get rid of the viper's den of the banks and the corporate elite.

Because when THEY get in charge they have no friends to be part of a kleptocracy.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:13 AM on September 29, 2012


Somehow I think that, no matter who might run for President in the future -- a child of Indian Dalits, a Pacific Islander, a Roma, anyone -- there will always be a genealogist who pops up at this point in the news cycle to trace his or her descent from an eighteenth-century president, and/or British royalty.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:18 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Somehow I think that, no matter who might run for President in the future -- a child of Indian Dalits, a Pacific Islander, a Roma, anyone -- there will always be a genealogist who pops up at this point in the news cycle to trace his or her descent from an eighteenth-century president, and/or British royalty.

Hmmm maybe but most peoples' family trees descend into obscurity within a few generations... the following list speaks for itself, IMHO:

Gerald Ford - descendant of Edward I
Jimmy Carter - descendant of Edward II
Bill Clinton - descendant of Henry III, also every Scottish monarch, also Robert I of France.
George H.W. Bush, George W. - descendants of Edward I
Barack Obama - descendant of Edward I

One might be forgiven for suspecting that bloodlines play a part.....
posted by Monkeymoo at 10:30 AM on September 29, 2012


Hmmm maybe but most peoples' family trees descend into obscurity within a few generations... the following list speaks for itself, IMHO:

I'm quite clearly descended from peasants who then became the proletariat and so on, but there's a reasonable chance I'm descended from, say, Edward I, too, purely because I'm descended from people kicking around Britain at the right time and 800 years is a lot of generations.

The fact that many of the presidents are related to each other is much more relevant, I think. I'm pretty comfortable with the assumption I'm not Thomas Jefferson's second cousin X times removed. That Grant and Harrison were 19th cousins probably doesn't suggest much about the concentration of power, but third and fourth cousins does, I think.
posted by hoyland at 10:39 AM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Zingers. The answer is witty quips and zingers.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:47 AM on September 29, 2012


It's a conspiracy run by Martin Van Buren.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:11 AM on September 29, 2012


...there's a reasonable chance I'm descended from, say, Edward I, too...

Ha! I thought I could prove you wrong with mathematics, but I think the opposite may well have happened...

Edward I lived about 800 years ago, so if we take each generation to be 25 years, then he has had 32 generations of descendants since then.

If we assume that each of Edward's descendants had 2 children each (who then bred themselves), then the number of people related to Edward I must be 2 to the power of 32 (-1)

Which is 2147483648.. or just over 2 billion. I'll get my coat...
posted by Monkeymoo at 11:17 AM on September 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


For starters, if you're going to run for President, it would be a smart move to actually bring some fresh ideas to the table.

What new ideas does Mitt Romney have? All I've seen is more of the same - the same reality-challenged conservative economic policies that have failed America for 30 years, the same entrenched Bush-era political operatives who disdain the voters' intelligence, and the same neo-cons who would probably already have us involved in a couple new wars about a month after the inauguration if their guy got elected.

Hell, even Romney's campaign slogans aren't original - that "Obama Isn't Working" phrase that you always see behind the candidate was blatantly lifted from the UK Conservatives' campaign against Labour in 1979. Romney's team just took "Labour isn't working" and plugged in Obama's name. I wonder how much the consultants got paid to do that?

And did the idiots who run Romney's campaign really think that nobody would notice?

In short, when you can't even create an original fucking campaign slogan, you're unlikely to have anything else different to offer.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 11:18 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having the character to not order civilians to be murdered. An interest in making sure that torturers are held accountable for their crimes. A steadfast dedication to government openness, to stamping out corruption in its various poisonous forms. These should be mandatory. By that measure, I'm not sure what recent president or presidential candidate of either major party deserves a pass. Certainly neither of the two men currently running.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:49 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why should Romney's people think that the US electorate would care if one of their slogans was similar to one used 33 years ago in another country? Also, is originality that important in a President? We aren't hiring an artist or inventor.
posted by Area Man at 11:59 AM on September 29, 2012


"Hmmm maybe but most peoples' family trees descend into obscurity within a few generations... the following list speaks for itself, IMHO:"

You know, Ford and Clinton weren't exactly children of privilege. Neither was Nixon. I mean, Ford's mother fled across state lines with him when he was 16 days old (in the dead of night, if I recall) to escape her abusive husband. (She married Gerry Ford Sr. when Ford-the-president was about 3, and they changed Ford's name to Ford Jr.) Clinton was raised some of the time by a single mother and some of the time with an abusive, alcoholic stepfather, from families of modest means in Arkansas. Nixon was quite poor in his youth and grew up in a Quaker family in California who separated themselves from mainstream society, not as a mainline WASP. Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, of all places, to a family who lived above their store and had to move frequently for economic reasons.

All the way back to the beginning of the Republic we can point out presidents who are children of privilege and the "American aristocracy" in its various incarnations (Van Buren, FDR, Bushes I and II, Kennedy, Taft) and presidents who hustled their butts off (Lincoln, Clinton, Reagan, Nixon). And, on top of that, I don't know that there's a whole lot of connection between whether a president came from privilege or not and how his policies treated "the common man."

I rather doubt "bloodlines" are in play except insofar as if you go back far enough, everybody's in line for somebody's throne.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:24 PM on September 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Okay, so the original Tory slogan was pretty diabolically clever (I say diabolical, because it was in service of an evil ideology). "labour isn't working" - the people who define themselves as workers aren't actually working. There's no similar evocative pun in the Romney slogan, except for a faint suggestion of a racist dogwhistle playing on the racist trope that black people are lazy.

It's reprehensible, stupid, and unoriginal, and I am ashamed to be sharing a country with people who think it makes for an appropriate slogan.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:48 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


New Obama slogan has long ties to Marxism, socialism
posted by de at 3:53 PM on September 29, 2012


Is a good candidate a good President? Who knows? On the other hand, it seems certain that a bad candidate would make a bad President.

By today's standards, a good candidate is often the one who obfuscates the truth the best, who can lie in the most clever way, who can deceive, who can raise the most money. By that rubric a really bad candidate (who will lose, and lose badly) is the one who is brutally honest, who embraces and values the truth, who tells you things you might not want to hear but need to hear, who actually conveys to you what he or she believes and how those beliefs will translate into policy initiatives. If a "bad" candidate like that could become President and retain those core traits, then they most certainly have the raw material to be a great President.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 4:55 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


New Obama slogan has long ties to Marxism, socialism

It's so funny seeing idiots who don't have the slightest inkling of comprehension of the history of the socialist movement go on about the implications of a word like "Forward." The politics both of the SPD and of the Yiddish Forverts in the USA are today indistinguishable from liberalism, and unconnected to Marxism except in the vaguest genealogical sense. Yet this claim has made the rounds anyway. Amazing.
posted by graymouser at 5:11 PM on September 29, 2012


It's so funny seeing idiots who don't have the slightest inkling of comprehension of the history of the socialist movement go on about the implications of a word like "Forward."

Well, they also think the party's called the SDP and that Trotsky was a member. (Trotsky definitely hung out with members of the SPD, but that's both obvious (OMG the socialists talked to each other) and pointless trivia. I'm pretty sure Trotsky's influence in the SPD is minimal.)

I think suggesting that the SPD has nothing but a vague genealogical connection to socialism isn't really accurate. For a start, there were enough people left wing enough recently to split to be the half of Die Linke that isn't ex-SED/PDS and I'm pretty sure they didn't all quit the SPD. God knows what the people at the Washington Times would think if they discovered Die Linke exists.
posted by hoyland at 8:11 PM on September 29, 2012


Speaking of bloodlines: With ‘Dreams From My Real Father,’ Have Obama Haters Hit Rock Bottom?
posted by homunculus at 12:23 AM on September 30, 2012


hoyland:

The reason I bring up socialist history is that pretty much one of the most basic things you can discuss is the split between revolutionary Marxists and reformist social-democrats happened in 1914, and the SPD sided with the German government over World War I and became a totally reformist party. They were a violently anti-revolutionary party in 1919 and one of the main parties throughout the Weimar Republic. They were repressed something awful under Hitler but after WWII explicitly cut any ties to revolutionary Marxism.

For actual revolutionary socialists and communists living today, "Forward" would actually be a dog-whistle for social democratic reformism and a call for an arrangement like, say, Sweden, where capitalism coexists with a vigorous welfare state, which they would not consider socialism. But in Obama's case I don't think it's even that serious.
posted by graymouser at 4:13 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmmm maybe but most peoples' family trees descend into obscurity within a few generations... the following list speaks for itself, IMHO:

Gerald Ford - descendant of Edward I
Jimmy Carter - descendant of Edward II
Bill Clinton - descendant of Henry III, also every Scottish monarch, also Robert I of France.
George H.W. Bush, George W. - descendants of Edward I
Barack Obama - descendant of Edward I

One might be forgiven for suspecting that bloodlines play a part.....


Me: Descendent of John of Gaunt (fully documented) on one side and Lady MacBeth on the other (documents burned in either the late 1930s or early 1940s by the German branch of the family because there's Jewish blood in there).

Royal blood is not uncommon - nor I suspect is the blood of any bloodline in a region that did not die out.
posted by Francis at 6:12 AM on September 30, 2012


For me, it's this guy.

Lots of intervening generations mean that ancestry is a funny thing. Consider: world population grows, and yet your ancestry grows exponentially the further back you go; meaning that you are related to a growing number of a shrinking populace.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:31 AM on September 30, 2012


People put a lot of time and energy into finding royal and noble anscestors. A friend who worked at the Newberry Library in Chicago told me that a book on American relatives of Princess Diana was the most popular volume in the geneology collection.

My older relatives have failed to find any such anscestry. Its peasants all the way down the line.
posted by Area Man at 8:07 AM on September 30, 2012


> For actual revolutionary socialists and communists living today, "Forward" would actually be a dog-whistle for social democratic reformism. [...] But in Obama's case I don't think it's even that serious.

No. It's more recent.
posted by de at 11:59 AM on September 30, 2012


It has been helpful and useful to have seen this extended job interview. Is a good candidate a good President? Who knows? On the other hand, it seems certain that a bad candidate would make a bad President.

One thing that can be informative is seeing how the candidates respond to a crisis. When the economy crashed in 2008, John McCain lost his shit and suspended his campaign; Obama kept his cool. This time, Mitt Romney rushed to score political points without having all the facts while people were being attacked and killed at the embassy and consulate in Libya. We already had a president who rushed into deadly situations without the facts. No thanks, Mr. Romney.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:43 PM on September 30, 2012


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