The Democratic candidates for president have a "resume gap," warns David Broder in today's Washington Post. And up to a point - at least in the realm of manufacturing armchair historical perspective - there's some sense to be had. Senators have had difficulty reaching the Oval Office in recent elections, and it's easy to see why when one considers the case of John Kerry, whose lengthy voting record proved to be a fertile field in which to sow the flip-flop meme. But the difficult road from the Senate to the presidency is something many have noted. Broder, however, finds it "stunning to realize!" But the stunning reality is that the GOP contenders all have their own, extremely suspect, body of managerial work.
Broder believes that "The burden of proof of readiness to be president is heaviest on those who have never borne executive responsibility. And that is something voters will have to weigh, whichever of the Democrats is the nominee." But what about those who have borne "executive responsibility" poorly or irresponsibly? Won't the voters be weighing that as well? Let's examine the case of each of the sturdy Republican executives Broder touts for the top job.
Mike Huckabee: Broder notes that he was the Governor of Arkansas, where he exhibited a "decade of leadership." And yet, Huckabee's ideas remain resolutely outside the mainstream. He wants to amend the Constitution according to his interpretation of Christianity, and he's pimping a tax plan that necessitates that we all pretend a 30% tax increase is actually a 23% tax increase. Not being able to do grade school math: does that sound like serious managerial skill to you?
John McCain: Broder needs something - anything - to shoehorn McCain, who's also a Senator with a long and circuitous voting record, into this group, so he offers that McCain "commanded the largest squadron in the Navy air wing." You know what? Kudos to McCain. We'd bet that this fact fuels not a single voter's decision to pull the lever for the Arizona Senator.
Rudy Giuliani: He was the Mayor of New York City! And yet, were it not for the pure happenstance of his being in office on September 11, 2001, no sane political expert would consider him to be a serious contender for the White House. The entirety of his resume has been boiled into that one, single nugget, and I know of one group of firefighters who'd debate the merits of even that thin claim. At any rate, if we can judge his executive skill by the way he's run his campaign, you'd have to conclude that he'd run the country into a ditch. And this all comes before we even get to mobbed-up cronies, his embrace of empty sycophants (the celebrated "Yes, Rudy's"), and his tortured refusal to discuss his private-sector clientele.
Mitt Romney: Broder singles out Romney for the highest praise, saying that in Michigan, he proved he was a "tough-minded executive who could reform both laggard private businesses and swollen, ineffective government bureaucracies." If anything, Romney is the worst of the lot. Far from demonstrating himself to be a "tough-minded" anything, he went to Michigan and made a ton of crazy, pandering promises to down-and-out auto workers that he'll never be able to keep. But that's the way of Mitt: whatever you need him to promise right now is what he's promising. Face it: he's not Warren Buffet. He's Michael Scott. And if you want three words to describe Mitt Romney's America, here they are: Dunder Mifflin Infinity.
Chances are, voters will "weigh" these factors as well. But, consider the message that's being sent by Romney's newest catchphrase: "Washington is broken." More than anything else, this is a fact that no voter needs to reminded of, and are likely to give the greatest weight when they go to the polls in November. And how did Washington get broken? It broke at the hands of another empty suit, whose celebrated executive skill took him to the White House, where it availed him nary a whit. Weigh that, Mr. Broder.