Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ryan's decision not to run

A good post on Commentary/Contentions by Seth Mandel on Paul Ryan’s decision not to run for president.  http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/08/23/presidency-cult-christie-ryan/

I don’t know if I would describe it as quixotic as Mandel does, but I agree that Ryan or Christie running at this stage is to leave a job which they have just started.  There is also the question of foreign policy experience which gets short shrift in the campaign but tends to occupy most of the president’s term.  Moreover as Mandel points out, either of them running for president, even if they succeed, leaves a hole where now there is strength.  Provided Obama is defeated conservatism is better served if both Ryan and Christie stay put.

One should also point out that being really effective as governor or as leader of the House Budget Committee is only tangentially related to being a sound choice for president.  Alexander Hamilton was probably the greatest cabinet official this country has ever seen, and was indispensable to Washington, but I think it is fair to speculate that he would’ve made an awful president. 

It isn’t so much “the cult of the presidency” that is at fault here as the notion in all walks of life that if you are really good at something you should be promoted to a higher position (indeed the idea of ‘higher positions’ in a lot of cases is suspect).  Experience should teach us to distrust this practice.  In the businesses I’ve worked for it hasn’t been the CEOs and other executives that have impressed with their intelligence but the stars working at the middle level.  Valuable skills at one level—intelligence, creativity-- become less useful at another level.  At a distance, Ryan strikes me, at least right now, as having more of the qualities of a standout middle executive than a president.

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