Blogs > HNN > Obama Fever: Once More

Oct 24, 2006 5:58 pm

Obama Fever: Once More

I have been surprised by the number of people who think Obama should run despite his inexperience.

I conclude that the Obama boomlet tells us more about us as a nation than it does about him as a candidate.

We are desperate for somebody in whom to believe.

We have been here before.

In 1976 Americans were depressed by Watergate and Vietnam and desperate for fresh leadership. Answering their call was Jimmy Carter, another bright and articulate candidate from the hinterlands with little experience.

I ask you. Do you still feel good about voting for Jimmy Carter as president?

(I should hasten to add that I'd vote for him for ex-president in a jiffy. He's been one of the best ex-presidents we've had.)

Obama might make a better president than Carter did. But before I buy the car he's selling I'd like to take it out for a spin first.

Over at the interesting and stimulating blog, Progressive Historians, I have been taken to task by Nonpartisan for ridiculously implying that the bosses of old may have made sounder choices in the selection of presidents than The People do today.

Well, then the fight is on.

Say what you will about the bosses they only considered pols for the highest office who had experience. (Yes, yes, I know what you may be inclined to say: The experience consisted of taking bribes, paying off the special interests, etc. etc.) Look through the list of American presicdents selected by bosses and you'll see they almost all seemed"presidential," meaning they had experience in handling high stress positions in important organizations IN ADDITION TO OTHER IMPORTANT VIRTUES.

I have said before and I will say again that the bosses at least did not base their selections on the color of the hair of the candidates (though always on the color of their skin) or on their ability to tell a joke with the timing of a Johnny Carson.

I don't want the bosses back. Good riddance, we've done with boss politics. (Sort of. The new bosses are the rich guys who can bankroll campaigns in the primaries and the media anchors who decide which candidates are worth covering and which aren't.) But the bosses took the selection of presidents seriously. (Ok, ok, not with Harding's selection but he's the worst of the worst presidents.) I am nostalgic for the kind of seriousness with which they approached presidential politics. People today generally do not take politics seriously enough to inform themselves about the candidates' real strengths and weaknesses. Instead they go with their gut. Their gut reaction is shaped by 30 second commercials that are shallow and misleading.

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HNN - 10/28/2006

Thanks. This was very helpful.

HNN - 10/26/2006


What is wrong with the system can't be fixed by expediency. Obama, even if he turned out to be a great president, isn't the cure for a failed system.

I am trying to draw attention to a systemic failure.

Oscar Chamberlain - 10/26/2006

If a "shallow" selection process may produce presidents as good as those coming out of one with "serious critera," then what is the problem?

Look, Obama's lack of experience is a concern, and there have been times that I've wanted to go back and suck in the air of that smoke filled-room as opposed to the vapid air of what passes for public campaigning today. However, the record of the past does not offer clear confirmation that this would actually improve things. Instead it shows that one set of problems would be exchanged for another set that is arguably as bad.

James B Franks - 10/26/2006

Take a look at this article which goes over some of the legislation he has been working on.

HNN - 10/25/2006

Add in the media and I agree.

HNN - 10/25/2006

Hi Oscar,

I'm not arguing that insider-choices worked better. I am arguing that the bosses made their decisions on the basis of serious criteria in contrast to our shallow selection process which places a premium on looks, speech, and personality.

John Richard Clark - 10/25/2006

PACs and special-interest groups are the political bosses of the 21st century.

Oscar Chamberlain - 10/24/2006


I'm not sure that much can be said for the boss-picked presidents between Hayes and Teddy Roosevelt. The nation then might have been better off with someone popular coming from outside the machine. {For that matter, who is outside? Was Bryan in 1896 an insider or an outsider.)

This is a long-winded way of asking you to elaborate on your assertion that insider-choice worked better.