Friday, October 27, 2006

Barack Obama as President? 

At this point in the political cycle, it seems to me premature to start talking about presidential ambitions in 2008 in connection with anyone who isn't an obvious candidate based on history.

Barack Obama has indicated he has an interest in running for President. I ask, what are his qualifications? He's a first-term Senator. He's obviously very bright and appears to be politically savvy, but he doesn't have much of a track record.

On a related note, I have a strong bias against any presidential candidate who is a Senator, unless he or she has successful experience as a chief executive of a large and complex organization. By "large and complex organization" I mean something like a medium to large state (Vermont and North Dakota won't do) or a large city (New York, Chicago, Los Angles, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, to name a few), a large bureaucracy (e.g., the Defense Department, State Department, Justice Department) or a large business (like GE, GM, Intel, Microsoft, Dow Chemical or Exxon Mobil). I harbor this bias because I think it's essential that a President have experienced the pressure and the frustrations that someone who occupies a "buck stops here" kind of job must confront every day, and demonstrated that he or she is capable of making the hard judgements on when to stand tough and when to compromise, and who to hire and when to ask someone you like to resign, and be right more often than not.

My bias against Senators stems from the fact that no Senator has individual responsibility for any policy. A Senator is one of 100, or to narrow it down, one of his or her party's caucus (which would be one of about 40 to about 60, based on recent history). Moreover, Senators don't have to make snap decisions. The Senate is, after all, The World's Greatest Deliberative Body--as such, it is all about compromise. Any president who takes office with a track record of compromising is going to get rolled, and for me, that automatically disqualifies a Senator without material and successful executive experience from getting my vote for President.

Back to Barack. According to Wikipedia, Mr. Obama has never held any kind of executive position, large or small. He's been a legislator for his entire political career and before that a lawyer (another deal-making profession). In my mind, this does not qualify him for the presidency. To be fair, I don't think John McCain or Hillary Rodham Clinton are qualified either, based on the criteria discussed in this post.

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