Thursday, January 17, 2008

Broder on Senators Obama, Clinton, and Edwards

In today's C-J, an op-ed from the Washington Post's David Broder on the "leadership deficit" of the three Democratic presidential contenders-- in particular, their lack of executive experience as governors. All three are Senators (why didn't I think of that?!)-- not the best stepping stone to the White House...

It was fascinating to watch the three top contenders for the Democratic nomination discuss their concept of the presidency during Tuesday night's MSNBC debate in Las Vegas. But it was also stunning to realize that the three current and former senators who have survived the shakeout process -- Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards -- have not a day of chief executive experience behind them.

By contrast, the Republican field is loaded with people who are accustomed to being in charge of large organizations. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee were governors of their home states of Massachusetts and Arkansas, Rudy Giuliani served as the mayor of New York City and John McCain, as he likes to remind audiences, commanded the largest squadron in the Navy air wing.

In the past, voters have preferred to entrust the White House to those with executive credentials. John Kennedy was the last sitting senator to be elevated into the presidency. Since then, the former governors of Georgia, California, Arkansas and Texas have dominated the list of successful candidates.

All of them stumbled during their tenures in the White House, and only Ronald Reagan left the presidency with his place in the history books seemingly securely enhanced. But the public remains convinced that the Oval Office is a place for executive talents -- which makes the current Democratic field something of an anomaly....

All of this places an unusually heavy burden on the three Senate Democrats to show they can do more than talk a good game of leadership -- and actually lead. What emerged in the discussion that Brian Williams and Tim Russert encouraged in Las Vegas were three very different concepts of presidential roles....

The discussion provided more clues to the differences among the three Democrats than voters had previously been given. In concept, Clinton's definition of the office is more complete than either of the others', probably reflecting her own close-up view of the presidency during the eight years she lived in the White House.

But the very failings she and Obama acknowledged earlier in the debate, when apologizing for the words and actions of their supporters that had inflamed racial tensions in the campaign, showed the difference between discussing leadership and practicing it.

The burden of proof of readiness to be president is heaviest on those who have never borne executive responsibility. And that is something voters will have to weigh, whichever of the Democrats is the nominee.


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