Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Yet Another CEO for (Vice) President

In our last presidential election, Mitt Romney (and, before him, Herman Cain) made much of his background as a CEO and argued that it made him especially qualified to strengthen the economy. Given that our last CEO President was Herbert Hoover, it seemed a dubious assumption.  But no matter, I compared the most recent CEO Presidents and candidates I knew of and ranked them as follows:
Comparing CEO candidates for President, Mitt Romney is way out in front of the pack. Then again, I would put the disastrous Hoover second. Romney has better recession-fighting tools at hand than Hoover did and is less likely to be captive to dangerous conventional wisdom. . . . . Distantly trailing Romney and Hoover is Herman Cain who, although unqualified and prone to disastrous policies, is sane and appears to respect democratic norms. Distantly behind him is mad autocrat Perot. And bringing up the rear is Donald Trump, who we will all pretend is not there.
As for Trump, my assessment was:
To many of the Republican base, obnoxiousness is the most important quality in a leader. They equate obnoxiousness with firm and unyielding principle. So I guess is that if you regard obnoxiousness as the prime qualification in a leader, then Trump is perfect. Otherwise, I can't think of a single good thing to say about him.
Well now Trump has effectively locked up the Republican nomination, while Ted Cruz, the nearest he has to a credible challenger, has named Carly Fiorina as is running mate presumably either to balance the ticket or to counter Hillary Clinton by naming a woman.  I would consider the chances Cruz winning a brokered convention, going on the win the general election, and then being done in by one of his many enemies, leaving Fiorina as President to be essentially zero.  But maybe being runner-up for vice-presidency will make her a successful candidate in 2020.  So let me reevaluate CEO candidates, including Carly, in order of preference.

Mitt Romney.  Pride of place continues to go to Mitt Romney.  Romney is a decent fellow and would have been an okay President if only he hadn't belonged to a party that had lost its collective senses.

 Herbert Hoover.  Hoover's presidency was a disaster, but only because he was following an unquestioned conventional wisdom.  Hoover seemed to have it all -- extraordinary administrative competence, the moral authority of a great humanitarian, international respect, and such domestic admiration as to make him seem almost above partisan politics.  Under more normal circumstances, he would probably have been an excellent President.  It remains my firm and settled opinion that, although Hoover was bad, no one else in his place would have done any better; the that disaster the occurred was the only thing that made it possible to toss conventional wisdom aside and try something -- anything -- else.  

Carly Fiorina.  While Hoover was a successful businessman, Fiorina has mostly been a failure. While Hoover was universally admired and respected (at least until the stock market crashed), Fiorina has made herself a lot of enemies.  So I would prefer Herbert Hoover as President to Carly Fiorina. On the other hand, Fiorina appears to inhabit the same reality that I do.  She has run for office before. She has serious, considered positions on most major policy issues of the day.  She shows no signs of disrespecting (or simply not understanding) basic democratic norms.  In short, while I don't think she would make a good President, the prospect of a Carly Fiorina presidency does not induce any panic on my part, or even too much alarm.

Herman Cain.  Herman Cain was utterly and grossly unqualified to be President and did not understand many of the important issues facing the country.  On the other hand, he was a likeable guy and showed no signs of being either dictatorial or irrational.  Presumably he was sensible enough to listen to his advisers who did understand those issues and recognize the value of their knowledge. Unfortunately, those advisers would be Republicans. A Cain presidency would be alarming, but not quite in the panic mode.

Ross Perot and Donald Trump.  I was perhaps too flip in dismissing Donald Trump as even worse than Ross Perot.  On more sober consideration, it is a tough choice.  Both showed marked authoritarian tendencies and a complete failure to appreciate democratic norms, so consider it a wash in that department.  Perot was a serious candidate who knew and cared about national issues and had real policy positions and proposed real policies.  Trump is a bunch of hot air who not only doesn't know or care about national issues, he doesn't see any reason why he should know or care.  Perot was qualified to be President.  Trump manifestly is not.  And while Cain, though utterly unqualified, would most likely have listened to people who knew what they were talking about, Trump doesn't seem to see why knowing about the issues is important at all and sees his instincts as more important than knowing any actual facts.  The junior Bush had that trait, and it led to stupid, senseless war. Trump makes Bush seem downright wonkish by comparison.  So points to Perot on being qualified.

On the other hand, Trump is merely a buffoon. Perot showed signs of outright clinical paranoia.  Given the choice between a grossly unqualified narcissistic buffoon and a clinically insane President, I suppose even Donald Trump might seem like the lesser evil.  But then again, outright clinical insanity in a President would presumably be sufficient to trigger the Twenty-Fifth Amendment and have him declared incapable of carrying out his office and the Vice-President take his place.  Mere narcissistic buffoonery is not sufficient.

In short, the prospect of either Trump or Perot as President would make me panic.  Perot would be a more intense panic, but one with a reasonable prospect of remedy.  Trump would be somewhat less intense, but it would continue for four years.  Call it a tie.

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