We are about to pick someone to run the world’s largest economy, the most powerful military force and perhaps the most complex organizational entity on the planet. Is it just me or are the a lot of people putting more logic into picking their cell phone provider? Godfather’s Pizza didn’t just hire a CEO off of the street who seemed to be diligent, honest and had a love for pizza just because Herman Cain wanted the job. They chose someone who had been successful in turning around unsuccessful franchises which was the CHIEF GOAL of the company. I would bet a million dollars they didn’t remotely consider Wolfgang Puck because being a great pizza chef didn’t prove Puck could make a profit. Why aren’t we evaluating these candidates skill, experience or job competency instead of just their words, promises or policy positions?
I used to be in the commercial construction industry. As a Christian I was thrilled when a subcontractor shared my beliefs. I assumed that meant they were honest, thrifty and diligent. It only took two disasters until I learned that self-proclaimed Christians might indeed be headed to heaven, but there construction skills were from hell. Instead of “hoping” they would work out, I began calculating how long they had been in their current practice; I grilled them on similar problems they solved on previous jobs; and I analyzed their experience in jobs similar to one we were bidding. Actual past performance turned out to be a much better indicator of how they would perform rather than what they “said” or thought they could do. In fact, we would often take the HIGHEST bidder when a job was so important we had no room for error. In this election we can’t afford to “hope” a candidate can do the job of President.
“We the People” should be employing the vaunted private sector principles of hiring in choosing who we will select to head up the “CEO” of the USA. Our discussions have centered almost totally on POLICY when we have neglected whether they can engineer, sell and inspire the REST of the country to implement these conservative policies. I’d submit that the FUNCTION of President includes these abilities:
- How to oversee and optimize, large functioning organizations
- Hiring and managing other competent executives
- Crisis management
- Creating, inspiring and implement broad political visions
- How to get large government reform legislation passed
- Balancing a budget
- Overseeing and commanding military forces
- Creating and executing critical foreign policy
So how do the GOP candidates stack up? Shockingly different from the arguments we hearing about who to evaluate these candidates on their policy positions.
Hiring and managing other competent executives – The core of any investment management company like Bain Capital is hiring other executives since you never run these companies yourself. Romney would certainly be highest rated in this category, followed by Perry because of his long successful position as Governor. Not coincidently these are the two most professional campaigns that show competency, Virginia balloting not withstanding. Huntsman would get some credit as well as Gingrich managing Congressional Budget Office, etc., with a clear edge to the Governor. Santorum, Bachmann and Paul have no real experience in managing large entities of any kind.
Crisis management – None of the Governors had a crisis that they did not successfully withstand. (Crisis not being personal crisis, but leading an organization of people through one.) Perry has had multiple issues in Texas including the recent wildfires and drought, while Romney has walked through both gubernatorial and business crisis's. Gingrich faced a long continued crisis as a minority punching bag and vicious attacks during his Speakership, but suffers some for resigning rather than fighting and admitting it overcame him. Certainly an unstable home life contributed to it and the fact he survived so many prior to it puts him above Bachmann, Santorum and Paul. Frankly, the testimony of his spokesman who attests that Newt never lost faith and persevered in his campaign is notable, but we would be taking a rider on the “reformed” Newt to withstand the even greater pressures of President.
Creating, inspiring and implement broad political visions – Clearly the ranking of candidates on conservative policies is: Santorum, Bachmann, (tied) Gingrich and Perry; Romney, Huntsman and Paul. There IS quite a bit of difference however in conceiving of something like a “flat tax” or a specific foreign policy doctrine than knowing HOW to sell and execute it. Here RomneyCare, Newt’s Contract With America, and Huntsman’s flat tax give them a canyon sized difference between the first and second tier in implementing the vision regardless of it’s conservative pedigree. Since I’ve moved back to Texas I’ve been asking for a single “big idea” Perry conceived and implemented and have yet to hear one. However, he might warrant a slight edge from the many smaller initiatives implemented over the past few years.
Large Government Reform – Clearly there is only one person who has actually shrunk government, and he did it enlisting buy-ins with with a Democrat President and congressional support. No one is a close second to Newt. Perry, Romney and Huntsman – for all of their crowing about job creation - ALL grew government and government programs. Paul and Santorum have long track records of voting for these reductions and even co-sponsoring bills, but it is quite another thing to mobilize a majority vote to implement it. Even Paul Ryan hasn’t done that. My heart aches for a Palin presidency in this regard as she reformed her own party while accomplishing amazing restructuring of government in her short time of Governor. Gingrich DID support the Medicare Senior Drug program (but not in office) and even then it was for the purpose of beginning “choice” in entitlements as a first step toward bigger reform. Even the liberals are worried about his statement that he was using it to rip it apart eventually.
Balancing a Budget – Again, at a Federal level, no one comes close to the former Speaker. Gingrich also was key in stopping HillaryCare despite not having direct executive responsibility. Huntsman did see through a state balanced budget amendment but also ran deficits when convenient and failed to get a corporate tax reduction through his own Congress. Perry didn’t have a choice (all Texas Governors since 1949 are required to balance the budget) but he did cut both general funds spending in 2004 and 2012 and “all funds” spending in the 2012 budget. However, when taking into account that $8 Billion of Medicare costs are deferred, the truth is we don’t know if his “cut” record will hold. Perry was the worst of the Governors from 2001 to 2010, and is dead last in unfunded liabilities behind Romney and Huntsman. Romney did a better job leaving his state financially healthy although it didn’t include potential long term problems of RomneyCare and it was in a much healthier economy. In summary, after Gingrich the governors show some ability maintain balanced budgets, but neither Perry or Huntsman succeed in key conservative legislative initiatives. But regardless, it is still an executive accomplishment absent Santorum, Bachmann and Paul. Regardless of how you draft a bill, or cast a vote – ultimately “leading” includes getting enough people behind it to make it law as a chief educator and spokesman.
Overseeing and commanding military forces – As a border governor of a big state, clearly Perry has to be the head honcho followed by the other 2 governors. Does Perry’s personal military service help? Slightly, but flying a plane doesn’t equivocate to commanding an air force. All of the “legislative” candidates surely deal with military issues and policy with no clear military management experience. Gingrich has had a lifelong love affair with the military forming the Congressional Military Reform Caucus in 1981 as a Junior Congressman. One of his contemporaries in the 1980’s had this to say in a PBS interview about Newt’s military intangibles:
Weber: I think that the military analogies are pretty helpful in understanding Newt Gingrich. He wasn't a military person himself but he grew up in a military family. [He] studied a lot of military history and has studied the military both as a partial vocation and as a serious advocation. I don't know if he still does, but he always used to lecture at the War College. He thought of it as one of his most interesting volunteer assignments. He occasionally went on the maneuvers with the Navy to see what they're doing. Figuring out how that affects his thinking is important. And he certainly thinks of himself as a general. There's no question about that.
Knowledge is NOT experience although he certainly understands the culture of the military better than at least Huntsman, if not Romney.
Creating and executing critical foreign policy – Foreign policy is a mix of critical strategic thinking (Reagan and Soviet Union), diplomacy (Nixon and China), and an ability to evaluate danger correctly (Clinton and North Korea as a BAD example). Perry has had extensive experience with Mexico as a border governor but really doesn’t get to choose policy outside of a Federal context. Huntsman speaks Chinese and worked for Obama as Ambassador to China although he seems almost too familiar to take hard lines against them. I doubt anyone would argue Gingrich is superior in a breadth of foreign policy knowledge directly followed by Santorum; and Romney has a lot of international business experience. If Bolton works for any of these people (Gingrich already announcing he would ask him to be Secretary of State), we then would need to make a determination of who could best listen, ask the right questions and develop an overriding symbiotic policy to make final decisions. One thing for sure is that Ron Paul’s naivety in admitting he would let Iran have a nuclear weapon disqualifies him from being Commander in Chief on this single issue alone. Nothing else mattes if radical Islamists who openly declare war against America get nuclear.
COMPARISONS TO NBA COACHING SUCCESS
As all 25 readers of my blog know, I’m a big Chicago Bulls fan. Phil Jackson was our equivalent of Ronald Reagan achieving 6 NBA Titles with Michael Jordan. Doug Collins had the same team prior and couldn’t get it done. The journey of the Chicago Bulls coaching hires is instructive – so non-NBA fans hang with me here.
After the Phil Jackson/Michael Jordan era, a somewhat successful college coach with no college titles and NO NBA experience (Tim Floyd) was hired and was a disaster with a 49-190 record. NOTE: No success in winning titles at any stage of COACHING. Assistant coach Bill Cartwright was eventually promoted because it was assumed as pretty successful NBA player he could be a good coach. Wrong. He went 51-100. Another former player (Scott Skiles) was eventually hired who seemed to be more of a leader and had SOME success as the first time head coach of the Phoenix Suns. (He had a winning record, and they at least made it into the playoffs two of his three years. He almost made it to a .500 record ending up 165-172 with the Bulls before being fired.
Bear with me now. Then came the infamous Vinny Del Negro who had never coached a day in his life. A former (mediocre) player in the NBA, he had been a General Manager for the Phoenix Suns and was widely known to have the right view of what made teams successful. Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf was convinced and no one was really shocked three years later when he was fired with an 82-82 record. He had the future MVP in Derek Rose and still got knocked out two years in a row in the first round of the playoffs. NOTE: KNOWING what “system” to play and hiring other coaches, did not translate into BEING a great coach.
Finally, the Bulls decided to pick a coach who didn’t just have head knowledge, but actual NBA championship head coaching experience. He never had HEAD coaching experience, but it was widely acknowledged he heavily contributed to the team championships as a defense and assistant coach. Here is a taste of former Boston Celtic Defensive Coordinator Tom Thibodeau who became the Bulls head coach last year:
As a defensive coach, he helped the Houston Rockets rank among the Top 5 in the league in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense from 2004 to 2007, and has helped his team finish in the league's Top 10 in team defense 15 times. He coached in 87playoff games and was part of the 1999 NBA Finals as an assistant coach with the New York Knicks prior to joining the Celtics, with whom he won the 2008 NBA Championship.
In his first year, “Thibs” coached the Bulls to win the most games of any team in the NBA (62-20), only to loose to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference final improving from first round exits and a 41-41 record each of the previous years.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH PICKING A PREZ?
We’ve had former Presidents with executive experience who were terrible (Carter, GA Gov.) and only one non-executive with some economic success in JFK. What we do know is that having NO executive track record is a complete crap shoot compared to a some prediction of future behavior. Not only did Barack Obama have no executive experience, we aren’t even quite sure what he did in college. Crap shoot. Even more we know if they pushed for immigration weakness in their past experience (as George Bush did), they carried the same policy to their Federal gig.
NO ONE KNOWS how world problems and even God’s grace will suddenly make an underdog into a super-hero. We are ONLY speculating on PREVIOUS OBJECTIVE TRACK RECORDS. But.
If the main goals for the United States are to A) Turn around the economy, B) Balance the Budget, and C) Reform entitlements, then based on PREVIOUS success we would rank our candidates as:
First 4 Years Likely
Huge immediate wins on 999-like plan, BBA, ObamaCare repeal and initial steps of entitlement reform with some Democrat support trying to regain trust of Americans after Obama ruin of their party. Looses PR battle in media loosing House control in 2016.
Huge immediate wins on his 20/20 plan, BBA/OCare repeal, but failure to get beyond the “first round” of REAL reform just like Texas. (Does a man who didn’t want to run until his wife told him to really have a deep desire to turn back the tide?)
Makes most ObamaCare repeals, reduces taxes and signs a weakened Balanced Budget Amendment. Momentum stops when he won’t take hard line on entitlement reform splitting GOP loyalties.
Repeals ObamaCare, tries to implement fair tax and shocked when he can’t convince rest of nation of his plan. One term president with no ability to inspire change.
Gets ObamaCare repealed, and tax cuts (playoff wins) and best foreign policy president since Reagan. However, attempts to shove through Gay Marriage and abortion legislation before entitlement and BBA reform and is unable to use charisma, leadership skill to rebound by educating mainstream America.
Same as above but worse. Solid proposals but constant verbal gaffes distracts initiative as non-stop MSM attacks and perceived inability to lead fail to build on election momentum.
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Likely to be impeached by his own party.
This is only speculation here hypothetically based on what the candidates accomplished as leaders and executives in the past.
I pray I’m way too pessimistic on them all.