^ Lions of the senate ; the Presidency, not so much. At least not now.
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UPDATE : last night Senator Warren announced as follows : “I pledge to serve my full Senate term.” Her term ends in 2018. And so ends speculation about her plans to seek the Presidency. I applaud her decision.
Three letters appear in today’s Boston Globe, all of them telling those who would Pres-boom our state’s Senator Elizabeth Warren, to cool out. I agree with the letters and their reasons. as the letters point out : (1 ) Warren in 2016 will still be working her first term and ( 2 ) her uncompromising stance makes her a kind of reverse-coin Ted Cruz. Advocacy for advocacy’s sake becomes anti-advocacy; and in any case, while a Charles Sumner can advance a cause, the actual Charles Sumner would have made a horrible President.
This is not to say that I don’t applaud much of what Senator Warren advocates. I do applaud it. The financial regulation bill she has co-sponsored with John McCain is needed, and her call for he expansion of social security voices the needs and hopes of many, many Americans for whom Social Security is the difference between making it and not. Yet the progress that she calls for is going to be hard enough to enact into law, and as Ted Kennedy’s decades of work make clear, the Senate is the Forum in which to do it, and that only by long service. The Presidency is not the place to vanguard things.
That Warren is being touted for President seems a reaction, on the Left, to the radicalization on the right that has all but swallowed the GOP. As I wrote during the Mayor’s race, watching the Connolly versus Walsh battle come close to splitting the Massachusetts Democratic party, “you can’t radicalize an electorate in one direction only.” Radicalization on the Left is growing, fueled by an inflammatory Right. This we understand — and decry. It must stop short of engulfing the Presidency, the one office that all of us choose.
The greatest presidents are principled, dogged centrists : Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D Roosevelt, Harry Truman, George Washington, Ronald Reagan all held firm to their chosen course but refused to be hurried, bullied, or pushed over an edge. Confronters like Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson have done less well. Roosevelt and Wilson both achieved much, in a hurry, but they did not when or how to stop. Flame out was the result for Roosevelt, humiliation for Wilson. Jefferson’s terms, brilliantly begun, ended in disaster. Elizabeth warren is a confronter. (So is John McCain, but that’s another story.) There is a lot of Teddy in Warren — on much the same issues, too — and much Wilson. That alone should give us pause.
Frankly, I think we’ve had enough Senators in the Presidency for a while. The worst failing of President Obama, a Lincolnesque figure for sure, is his demonstrated inability to manage the Federal bureaucracy. We’ve seen it time and again, vividly in the stumbled roll-out of his signature legislation, the ACA. It is time to elect a Governor. Men and women who govern have to administer. it’s what a Governor is all about. those who succeed as a governor pass the first test — the most basic test — of a President. Managing the bureaucracy may not look sexy, sound dramatic, or feel like a crusade; but a President who cannot do it can’t succeed at much of the high drama and loud crusades that define the office for most voters.
The only reason that Obama’s failings as an administrator haven’t decimated the domestic agenda of his Presidency is that he knows his policy goals bottom to top, they’re modest enough, and he pursues them relentlessly, opposition be damned. He simply refuses to lose. That’s a good thing; but capable administration of his policy in action would be even better. Conversely, the numerous triumphs of Obama’s foreign policy, an arena in which administration defers to manoeuver and decision, Here, Obama has had no equal since Reagan ; no Democratic equal since Truman.
2016 should be a Governor’s time for another reason : the office is chosen by all the people of a state and, in the hands of the most responsible governors, unites people rather than divides them. Cases on point : Andrew Cuomo (NY), Jeb Bush (FL) , Chris Christie (NJ), and Martin O”Malley (MD). In this time of radicalization, that has cleaved the GOP, paralyzing it, even rendering it a danger to the nation, and that threatens now to set Democrats at each other’s throats, the last thing we need is an inflamer of passions, a Senator Microphone, an advocate in a hurry.
Of course even a great governor can’t be an effective president without a responsible political party to lead, or tame. Mitt Romney had administrative ability to spare; but the party he led in 2012 had rendered him unthinkable, to a majority, by its virulence and its contempt for all but the successful, viewpoints that he unfortunately seemed to share.
To sum up : 2016 should be a Governor’s time. Let’s elect Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush or Martin O’Malley — and leave Elizabeth Warren in the Senate, to advocate, advocate, advocate all she needs to, a Charles Sumner but no, NOT a president.
—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere