The Three Necessary Ingredients to Getting Things Done as President

A good friend of mine just wrote me, mentioned that she was a Herman Cain supporter, and asked my opinion on the Republican presidential nomination race so far.  In short order, I made this little schema for picking a president.

People are rightly obsessed with finding a presidential candidate who can “get things done” in Washington.  I know I am.  I believe that the ability to get things done is more important than the positions one holds on policy issues or having amazing character.  If you can’t implement and make stuff happen, who cares if we agree?  So, instead of picking the best person or the one most right on the issues, we should pick the best player at the game called “politics.”

First, we need someone who knows the system in Washington.  This runs against the grain for many who want a Washington outsider, thinking that outsiders are not “corrupted” by DC cooties.  In truth, you want someone who knows the system very well and can work the system very well.    Part of why Obama struggled as much as he did the first term, and perhaps why Clinton might have done better, is because Obama was not an experienced Washington insider, wasn’t really all that experienced at national politics generally, and had never been an executive (having executive experience, like that of a governor, helps too, though it is best combined with DC background).  So, I would rank Republican presidential candidates as follows with 10 being the best:

Newt Gingrich, 9, vast DC experience, former speaker of the House, has been around forever, he knows government and can work the system.

Jon Huntsman, 8, has no DC experience as a politican, but he has plenty of DC experience as a civil servant, a former governor, and seemed to be a successful one.

Mitt Romney, 7, no DC experience, but he was a governor, and is generally government savvy (I think).

Rick Perry, 6, governor, does not seem savvy like Romney.

Michelle Bachman, 3, has DC experience, but only in the House and no executive experience.

Hermain Cain, 1 or 2, no political experience.  It doesn’t matter if you agree with his 999 plan, or really anything he says.  He would likely be unable to implement it.

Secondly, most people long for their President to be a “real” guy and not some sleazy politician.  But the fact of the matter is that only sleaziness, or what some might call sleaziness, gets things done in politics.  We need a presidential candidate who is politician enough to not alienate themselves from their constituents and to hold different groups together.  This means, quite simply, being good at being a politician, at keeping a majority of people mostly happy with you.  This is why Herman Cain would be an awful president (I think), just like Michelle Bachman, or Rick Perry would be.  They say too many dumb things, which will erode public support (and in all three of their cases already has).  This would be a big blow to them especially, because if you are not good at working the system in Washington, you can make up for it by maintaining popularity.  But these politicans are not politician enough to maintain this sort of support over the long term.  Being a politican is hard, maintaining popular support is harder still, and that is why support has been swinging so wildly from Bachman to Perry to Cain and now to Gingrich.  Of course, I say dumb things all the time, as we all do, and we can give people the benefit of the doubt, but even a fervent Herman Cain supporter who loves how “real” he is has to admit that it is unlikely that he can remain self-controlled, prudent, on-message, a clever communicator, committed and also non-committal enough…politician enough to maintain popular support.  So, here is a cursory ranking based on political skills:

Mitt Romney, 9, super disciplined, has hardly had much of a gaffe, stays on message; he’s a smart robot, has experience being a politician.

Jon Huntsman, 7, has experience being a politician, and in fact just as much as Romney, though not as a frontrunner presidential contender for two election cycles, so he is still a little bit of an unknown.

Gingrich, 6, political experience but is also a gaffe machine.

Rick Perry, 5.

Michelle Bachman and Herman Cain, 2 or 3, woefully undisciplined.  Could unlikely maintain support over the long haul.

Third, successful presidents cannot be beholden to uncompromising constituents.  This means that the more idealogical your base, the less likely you are to be able to get things done.  That is simplistic, of course, but holds true generally.  In order to get things done, the President, like any politician, has to be positioned in such a way that he can compromise with his opposition, and even his own party, without fear of  losing his own supporters.  In a republic, leaders cannot get anything done unless they can compromise with others.  So the following ranking is merely based on how moderate the candidate’s base is likely to be:

Jon Huntsman, 9; he would be a 10, but he has been having to pretend to be more conservative than he really is to have even a smidgen of a chance in New Hampshire.

Mitt Romney, 7; I’m not sure where to put him really.  I can’t really predict how conservative he would be in the White House.

Newt Gingrich, 6.

Rick Perry, 5.

Herman Cain, 4.

Michelle Bachman, 3.

Once you have established who would be most unable to get things done, then you can cross them off your list (Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Michelle Bachman are likely gone).  As for me, if I do not dismiss those individuals most unlikely to get things done, then I would have to seriously reflect on whether or not I care about my issues in the first place.  Too often, people are narcissistic and vote for the person most like them instead of the person most able to do good.  So, in order to be moral, let’s lose the likely losers.

I would probably then look at the top three, assuming they are all roughly comparable, which in this case they are (Huntsman, Romney, and possibly Newt, though he might have too much baggage), and pick the one who best represents your values, opinions, etc.

So who do I like these days?  My opinion has stayed the same.  If I was a Republican, which I am somedays but usually not, I would be a Jon Huntsman fan.

About Jer Clifton

Look up, friend. The world is too beautiful for my eyes alone. View all posts by Jer Clifton

6 responses to “The Three Necessary Ingredients to Getting Things Done as President

  • Anonymous

    Alan and I have both enjoyed reading this organized, objective analysis of the Republican candidates, Jeremy. Over the past several years, we have (sadly) watched an increase in an extreme polarization of political thought which has resulted in name-calling, glittering generalities, and propaganda. In a presidential election, none of this is helpful in attempting to separate the wheat from the chaff. Your fresh approach, your analysis of the system, then applying it to each candidate, is a welcome addition to the political conversation. Might we suggest that your logical and balanced presentation is worthy of a wider reading base than those who visit your blog? You might consider mailing it to editors of major national newspapers such as the New York Times. Or perhaps you already have. Keep thinking, writing and sharing!

  • Larry L. Clifton

    Thanksgiving Holiday cheer and food for thought….Herman Cain, Paul, Bachmann, Gingrich and FairTax Johnson would bring personal freedom and economic success to our nation. We must steel ourselves for this ideological battle. We must unite. This can be our time.
    The time of the ‘club member invertebrate’ (‘CMI’) pretty-boy party favorites is going out the window. The time of those same ‘players’ being able to ‘buy’ lifetime political careers is also on the way out. The time of the ‘good ole boy’ incumbent power moguls who think ‘we’ work for ‘them’ is OVER and that is way overdue. We have all seen, clearly, and more than ever, that the media are Left-leaning and/or Right-leaning. AND all their claims of un-biased, fair, balanced and un-spun input, throughput and output is, in fact, totally the OPPOSITE of those claims. It appears that they, like the Left/Right party power brokers, would love to be King-makers.
    Well… ‘We the People’ are, apparently, rocking their world in a very unsettling and unpredictable fashion. What a crying shame.
    We aren’t following their ‘prompter spewed’ instructions. Woops. We’re not believing their uninspiring messages or messengers. Bummer.
    That is where Cain, Paul, Bachmann, Gingrich and Johnson are coming into play. Surprise! Surprise! They are gaining steady and exponential political ‘traction’. All the concerted efforts to ‘dismiss and minimize’, these inspiring, honest, and steadfast patriots by the ‘CMIs’ and ‘media mouthpiece king-makers’ isn’t slowing down their growing popularity or inspiring messages. The obvious efforts to cast dispersions on them, consider them only ‘entertainment’ and relegate them to a ‘lower tier candidate status’ are FAILING! As it should be.
    ‘We the People’ are learning that we don’t have to SETTLE for their ‘CMI’ bs…or the Perry and Romney Show they love so. Just say thanks but no thanks. Their failures and the ‘failures’ of the old political system surround us all. The ‘CMIs’ from BOTH parties have ‘served’ us right into the poorhouse. 60+ years of very poor leadership and Congressional job performance have gotten us here. Banner headlines say it’s “Worst economy since the Great Depression”. Did we do that? Who did that? They did it. No THEY did it. The old ‘flim-flam’ blame game…smoke and mirror? Great job! Civic ‘performance art, at its best! But wait…………We’re broke. Also? Really?….. Say it ain’t so.
    The ‘CMIs’ from BOTH parties have proven over and over and over again that they are not up to the task of running our nation responsibly. Poor decisions and inept leadership has left us all with 15+ trillion in debt. AND there’s no sign of sanity, from those same delusional ‘CMIs’, in sight. They think it’s cool to raise the debt ceiling again and again and again. After all…it will keep their beloved ‘system’ up running. THEN try to scare us with spooky ‘OR ELSE’ if we don’t scenarios…seasoned with all manner of ‘divide and conquer’ schemes..…pure genius. Leadership at its best. Realize and understand…that IS their very best. We are witness to it. That’s all they’ve got. Look around. It’s global too. Very ‘tenuous’ and dangerous for all.
    No wonder we’re in this mess…… Those who do pray… should best get to it…We need all the ‘divine’ help we can get. Yesterday.
    I guess what I’m saying here is we don’t have to fall for the same old same old. We must bring in/demand REAL leadership… ‘new blood’ and FORCE common sense and responsibility on the ‘CMIs’. Our voice must be united and very clear. Our message must be unequivocal.
    I’m have a sense of ‘certainty’…about Herman Cain. He is ‘my choice’… warts and all. I do have a bone to pick with him about 999/FairTax. I, WAY, prefer the FairTax. It, alone and for sure, cuts to the chase..gets rid of IRS for good. Perfect….Again, ‘my’ choice.
    I still truly believe Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Gary Johnson are just the people we need for the job of running this Republic. Any and all would be a God-send for our great nation. We need these fine men and women to stick together and BE the winning ‘team’. As a team they will be an unstoppable force for FREEDOM. Whoever is at the top of the list will need the others to fill important roles and cabinet positions so the positive changes, we need so bad, can be enacted. Times a wastin’!
    Personal freedoms and an economic BOOM are needed now. These men and women (and the 999/FairTax) can help us, help them, make it happen. We must be prepared to take advantage of this time…this opportunity. Onward and upward America!
    I think I pretty well covered it. Jmho LOL
    Cain is right about the sense of humor thing too. I concur.
    Peace to all

  • Larry L. Clifton

    We should all, and I mean every single fiscal conservative in America, thank Mr. Herman Cain for getting ‘real’ tax reform ‘front and center’ in this election cycle. If we are to deliver ourselves from the horrible and completely unfair IRS tax system we all endure…we MUST elect Herman Cain. As POTUS and with the full support of patriots across this nation…we can finally FREE ourselves from this very ‘political’ stranglehold. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity. Cain’s 999 followed by the FairTax can and will save our Republic. We must not let the media ‘lap dogs’ or the party mogul/king-makers distract us from this ‘most important’ mission. BOTH parties old guard leaders love the old tax system. They have, after all, been the ones who have massaged and finessed that system into the unfair abomination it has become. Should we trust THEM to ‘wink wink’ fix it? Please. They don’t have it in their ‘tax tax spend spend and spend some more DNA. The proof is all around us. Worst economy since the Great Depression and 15 Trillion in debt. Great job…NOT.
    Herman Cain is the man to make the bold common sense changes We the People need. Cain/Gingrich and a cabinet full of patriots…ala Ron Paul, Michelle Bachmann etc can get the job done. jmho.
    RINOs need not apply.

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