In his latest attack ad, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty slams Obama hard on what is now regarded as undebatable fact: the Obama presidency is a dismal failure. The reason, according to Pawlenty is “zero executive experience”. This has his been T-Paw’s primary line of attack against the current conservative front runner, Michele Bachmann. He hopes to bring attention to the consequences of electing an untested leader. It seems like a valid argument, but history is on Pawlenty’s side only where this president is concerned.
Is “executive experience” really the problem?
The “executive experience” tactic just might work, propelling the governor to second or third place in the Ames straw poll. The straw poll is a must-win for Pawlenty if he has any hopes of salvaging his campaign. Unfortunately, the argument about executive experience falls short. History has provided many presidents who lacked executive experience. Some succeeded because they were the man for the times — Abraham Lincoln, for example. Others succeeded because they had the political skills necessary to build coalitions to get things done. What successful presidents who lacked “executive experience” did have however was an innate ability to lead.
What is leadership?
One of the strange twists in the unfortunate decline of the American Presidency is that getting into the office has become so much of an ideological beauty contest that we risk a succession of Roman fiddlers for what remains of our history. Hillary Clinton in her primary campaign against Obama stressed her experience — eight years as First Lady and head of her husband’s secret health care nationalization committee. Other than a few years service in the Senate, Ms. Clinton really didn’t have much more experience (that the public was aware of) than her opponent. And yet, she might have been a much better president. Perhaps, Ms. Clinton would have even been a more effective president than her husband. If so, the reason is not “executive experience” — or even experience in general; it is leadership.
Leaders have many qualities, none of which are characteristic of the current occupant of the White House. Among them, the ability to grow into the job, surround one’s self with people who can provide wise counsel — but strong enough to stand up to those people when it’s necessary. Leaders need the ability to make hard decisions and stay with them even when they’re not politically popular. Most of all, leaders need to recognize the difference between ideology and ideology that fits the circumstances. Piling on four trillion more in debt for unnecessary programs and absurd “spending into prosperity” schemes is an example of Obama’s inability to focus his progressive ideology in a way that does good for the country.
The “real issue”?