Monday, August 13, 2012

Elsewhere: Senate, Ryan, More

Let's see...begin with a Salon column I had over the weekend about the effects of Republican primary challenges. I did sort of a follow-up at Greg's place today about tomorrow's Senate primaries.

And then, some Romney-Ryan. Also at Plum Line, I looked at the early polls, which didn't exactly support the idea that Ryan is a brilliant pick...although all that really matters, I should point out, is if he turns out to be a disaster.

Over at PP, I added to a point I made over the weekend about the lack of foreign policy and national security experience in the GOP ticket. It really is extraordinary, isn't it? Generally, I think people underappreciate how little experience in government Romney has, but the foreign policy part of it is pretty extreme. I think the last ticket with as little experience in those areas was probably Wilson/Marshall in 1912, although a case can be made for Dewey/Warrren in 1948. Unless I'm missing something; I pretty much just supplemented what I knew about everyone with a very quick search...I'm pretty confident, thought, that Carter/Mondale had a bit more than Romney/Ryan.

I have no idea about the 19th century tickets, but basically I'm not sure how you get less foreign policy and national security experience than Romney/Ryan.


  1. But, see, experience *does not matter* for republican candidates. They know that the US needs (a) to be tough on Iran and (b) unconditionally support Israel and (c)...well, whatever. What else do you need?

  2. Is this reflective of a trend in the Republican party in general?

  3. doc, you have a good point there. However, you have already seen how some GOP candidates for high office have failed miserably because they lack key experience. Meg Whitman in California, for instance, had substantial cred when it came to business and "getting shit done," but when it came to actual governance, we voters in Cali opted for a much older, much wiser, much more experienced person to govern the state. I can't say he's done all that much so far, except act like a bit of a curmudgeon. But hey, at least he's grounded in reality. I shudder to think of what Meg would have done. Likewise, Romney's complete lack of credibility in foreign policy might not matter right now, but once he steps in, his lack of vision in that area makes him a blank slate for all his advisors. Obama wasn't all that experienced either, but as a sitting US Senator for two years, he had way more than Mitt does.

    1. I'd say more, not way more (and four years in the Senate, unless you're just saying two before he started running for president, which is fair).

      I do think lack of experience was a risk with Obama; it's more of a risk with Romney. On the plus side, neither of them gives the impression of being as indifferent as GWB did.

  4. >I have no idea about the 19th century tickets

    Though I haven't looked at tickets, I've noticed that 19th-c. presidents, especially the early ones, tended to have resumes that make almost any modern candidate look absurdly underqualified. Here are several examples (courtesy of Wikipedia):

    Jefferson: delegate to Continental Congress, Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to France, Sec. of State, Vice President
    Monroe: Senator, Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to France, Ambassador to United Kingdom, Sec. of State, Sec. of War
    John Q. Adams: Senator, Ambassador to Netherlands, Ambassador to Russia, Ambassador to United Kingdom, Sec. of State
    Van Buren: Senator, Attorney General of NY, Governor of NY, Sec. of State, Ambassador to Great Britain, Vice President
    W.H. Harrison: Congressman, Senator, Governor of Indiana Territory, Governor of District of Louisiana, Ambassador to Colombia

    The only recent president whose resume looks anything like this is Bush Sr. Nowadays, you're basically considered qualified as long as you've served either in the Senate or a governorship--that's it. And the two seem to be mutually exclusive for the most part. (The last president with both Congressional and gubernatorial experience was Rutherford B. Hayes.) Foreign policy experience usually means little more than military service, and even then it's not necessary, as seen in the last three presidents. We're a world apart from the early presidents, who typically would have legislative and executive experience and an important foreign policy role in a previous administration, usually Sec. of State and/or foreign ambassador. Even the inexperienced Lincoln (whose resume looked eerily similar to Obama's) had served in a militia during the Black Hawk War.

    If a war breaks out with Iran before Election Day, the Romney/Ryan ticket's complete absence of any foreign-policy credentials may start to get a lot of unwanted attention. Frankly, I suspect that's part of the reason Israel has avoided it so far.

    1. McKinley also had both congressional and gubernatorial experience.

  5. "Foreign policy experience" is hugely overrated anyway. Dick Cheney probably ranks at the top of national candidates with "foreign policy experience." Look where that got us. Barrack Obama didn't have much "foreign policy experience" but he was right on the Iraq War and many other issues and has been a fairly successful President at foreign policy. It's not what is on your resume that matters for foreign policy. It's your worldview and the policies you want to pursue that matter. We should talking about how absurd and extremist Romney's and Ryan's foreign policy platform is not how light their resumes are.

    1. I think the Bush/Cheney example is a good one for making the point that a VP with experience does not, in fact, substitute for a president having experience. I tried to say that in the PP piece; adding Ryan to Romney violates norms, but if there's a problem with lack of experience it's about Romney, not his VP.

  6. A couple of quick thoughts. No doubt Obama was relatively inexperienced, but he chose Biden who had delved deeply into foreign policy throughout his time in the Senate, and it was also Obama's foreign policy judgment - in denouncing the Iraq War while endorsing the pursuit of Bin Laden - that put him on the path to the presidency in the first place. If not for his foreign policy judgment, he wouldn't have come close to beating Clinton in the primaries.

    The second thing is that Obama has long been able to draw upon a bench of advisors who have strong foreign policy credentials. One problem Romney faces is that the Republican bench is so tainted by the Bush years.

    I think experience is less important than other qualities like judgment and temperment. But I think this underscores the problem with Romney, who as a CEO is used to deference and evidently has a quick and strong temper. And since the president typically has close to free rein in foreign affairs, as opposed to the bazillion veto points he has to overcome for domestic initiatives, this should play a much more important role in the campaign than it ever does.

  7. Isn't Romney a logical enough progression of the GOP's tendencies since Reagan? I'm genuinely not saying this to be a smart-ass. Reagan's persona, selective foreign-policy success, and subsequent canonization established a template that looking and acting the part of a foreign-policy president was more important than having credentials.

    In your PP post, Jonathan, you say "Reagan was a longtime anti-communist crusader" and leave it at that, but all that meant was he gave a bunch of hysterical speeches, which didn't go along with specific policy proposals or management authority over foreign-affairs matters. You emphasize how this was "symbolic," so I'm not disagreeing with you. But one could have supplemented your points with a mention of how culturally within the GOP-sphere the Reagan persona begat the GWBush decider-cowboy persona begat the GOP's relative comfort with Romney, who's main foreign policy credential is that people think he plausibly "looks the part" -- that is, he could be a character actor playing the part of a wartime president in a pre-2000s Hollywood movie (post-2000s, casting presidents has become more diverse and less WASPy-ish). The current situation -- inexperienced Romney receiving the nomination and feeling comfortable with Ryan -- is historically conditioned by the presidential templates GOP supporters have developed over the years.

    (My cultural argument here parallels discussions on this blog earlier in the year about how canonizations of certain GOP figures like Gingrich-c.1994 condition what sorts of tactics conservatives champion now, even if they weren't effective or determining back in the day.)

    1. I think those are good points.

      Reagan in 1980...yeah, he had "just" given a bunch of speeches, but he had shown real interest in foreign affairs, and a type of...I don't know that it's expertise, exactly, but it was the Reagan equivalent of expertise. Of course, in the context of the post it didn't matter, since GHWB had tons of experience.

      Of course, Reagan had military service, too. Of a kind.

      Plus he had experience having gone to VMI, served in the Navy (in a submarine, IIRC), captured an enemy ray gun when he was a T-man, and fought in several Indian wars.

    2. I think the word you're looking for is "engagement."

  8. You lefties have some short memories, or more likely most of you weren't alive in 1988. Dukakis was one of the most unqualified presidential candidates in US history, in both foreign affairs and domestic. Nominating that guy during the Cold War was one of the dumbest presidential picks in modern political history.

    Even Clinton wouldn't have been able to win in 1992 unless the Cold War had ended. If you notice, nearly 60% of the popular vote went for candidates who would be considered trustworthy on Cold War issues, for voters of that persuasion, vs the guy who allegedly "loathed the military".

    I think you're grabbing at straws here. Not that I think Romney is worth much, because he isn't, but this line of attack is equally worthless.


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