what you want in a president is calm and capacity, energy and experience.
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is reminding millions that the first job of the next president will be to conduct the global war against Islamist radicalism, both Sunni and Shia variants. Each camp will be making their case on both the Democratic and Republican sides, but it is clear that being a United States senator has nothing to do with running anything except a staff and your mouth. Senator Obama has to be reeling as voters realize that impressing Oprah has very little to do with being Commander-in-Chief in wartime, and Governor Huckabee’s “aw shucks” shtick is suddenly and transparently exposed as inadequate to the task ahead.
A less obvious but no less real impact will be felt by Senators McCain and Thompson. The U.S. Senate gives its members a wholly undeserved sense of importance and privilege, and absolutely no experience in running a vast bureaucracy or an even more complicated world. Both men will also suffer from the fact that neither gives off the sense of the energy necessary to the eight years ahead. They are past the primes of their careers, lack executive experience, and an apparent capacity to reach far beyond their tight circle of advisors in search of the talent necessary to assist in the conduct of the war.
For Dems, Hillary’s eight years around the center of power –security clearance or not– are suddenly much more valuable than they were yesterday, as would be the presence of Bill.
For the GOP the two man race is back. Against the backdrop of assassination and tumult in a nuclear state, will voters really care that Rudy had the police driving his future wife around town or that Romney used a lawn company that hired illegal aliens? Both men have extraordinary capacity for absorbing information and making good decisions, seeking out talent, and running vast enterprizes while doing so with calm, good humor, and intensity.
“Energy in the executive” is what Hamilton counseled was necessary for the young Republic to survive. From Federalist #70:
Energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprizes and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy. Every man the least conversant in Roman history knows how often that republic was obliged to take refuge in the absolute power of a single man, under the formidable title of dictator, as well against the intrigues of ambitious individuals who aspired to the tyranny, and the seditions of whole classes of the community whose conduct threatened the existence of all government, as against the invasions of external enemies who menaced the conquest and destruction of Rome.
There can be no need, however, to multiply arguments or examples on this head. A feeble executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in practice, a bad government.