More and more, one hears the acknowledgement that Barack Obama was not prepared to be president. For a liberal, that is a way of avoiding discussion about his failures being due to his basic qualifications or his policies, but it is a large truth that deserves some examination. What is it that Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton learned as governors?
Let's look at a few dimensions of the chief executive position where some governor experience might have helped President Obama:
1. Hiring and firiing. A governor learns that she is dependent on staff. Obama was slow to fill his cabinet positions (with a Democratic House and Senate), and slower to discipline those who created public scandals - Fast and Furious, IRS, Benghazi, and the Obamacare rollout went unpunished; the Veterans Administration response was slow, but at least Shinseki resigned. Successful governors learn about competence, loyalty, and honest internal communications.
2. Dealing with the legislature. Reagan's relationship with Tip O'Neil is legendary. Obama rarely even talks with the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate. There are lessons in the many states where Republican governors enjoy Republican Assemblies and Senates, but the better lessons are learned where cooperation across the aisle is necessary. John Kasich of Ohio who passed legislation to restrict public employee unions, then had it overturned in a referendum, has learned and moved on and is cruising to reelection in November.
3. Balancing budgets. Although there is some creative accounting, states are required to balance their budgets. The federal government has a printing press. The public gets it. Advantage Republicans and Democrat governors who have learned how to deliver the bad news to disappointed constituencies.
4. Crisis management. Florida governors are required to prepare for and manage hurricanes. In Louisiana, Governor Blanco lost it during Katrina while Bobby Jindal gets high grades for his handling of the BP Gulf oil spill. Jay Nixon in Miissouri is losing it with his call for "vigorous prosecution" of the Ferguson police officer before any investigation. Jerry Brown faces his crisis swith the California drought. Some crises are opponent-manufactured for political gain - Chris Cristie's "Bridgegate" in New Jersey; Rick Perry's indictment for abuse of power in Texas. Lessons learned - the first round of information is usually wrong; the media will settle on a (generally liberal) story line and run with it; political opponents will magnify it; a persona of controlled calm is good.
The task of governing is important in itself, but the implications for the down ticket health of the party and for grooming presidential candidates are also great.
The Republican advantage in governorships is bigger than the 29 to 21 lead suggests. Of the large states, Republicans hold Texas (Perry), Florida (Scott), Pennsylvania (Corbett), Michigan (Snyder), and Ohio (Kasich), while the Democrats hold California (Brown), Illinois (Quinn), and New York (Cuomo), with only Cuomo seemingly a presidential candidate. (Democrats O'Mally in Maryland and Duval in Massachusetts may also be players.) Most of the swing Midwest states are Republican, including Walker in Wisconsin. Of the five women governors, four are Republicans (Brewer in Arizona; Martinez in New Mexico; Haley in South Carolina; Fallin in Oklahoma); of the five ethnic minority governors, four are Republicans (Haley and Martinez, plus Jindal in Louisiana; amd Sandoval in Nevada.) Some will undoubtedly lose reelection bids, but that is a large field to work with, and one that demonstrates true diversity within the Party.
This week's video is an introduction to Dr. Ben Carson for those who do not know him (talking about Ferguson, starting at minute 1:06).
bill bowen - 8/22/2014