Tuesday, November 8, 2016

In WOTR on the next VP

The awesome War on the Rocks recently ran my analysis of the likely national security roles of the next vice president. In the process, I summarize my dissertation and include some nice juicy quotes from my interviews. Here's the first part, but read the whole thing here!

VICE PRESIDENTS AND FOREIGN POLICY: 

A FORWARD-LOOKING REVIEW OF THE RECORD



 
OCTOBER 31, 2016
Despite the vice presidency’s status as “the most insignificant office” for most of American history, since the late 1970s, vice presidents have emerged as important and unique advisors and surrogates to the president — particularly on national security affairs. Besides the president, only the vice president and the White House chief of staff can bring politics and national security together, as Clinton administration national security advisor Tony Lake explained to me.
In his classic essay, “Two-Level Games,” Robert Putnam illustrates how politics and national security interact. According to Putnam, when leaders engage in international negotiations, they are playing on two boards simultaneously. On one board, the leader is playing with domestic constituencies, while on the other the players are the other countries, each of whom has their own domestic board to play. A good move on one board may be disastrous on the other board. Putnam writes, “The political complexities for the players in this two-level game are staggering.”
Vice presidents can be uniquely helpful in these two-level games. As Stephen Hadley, George W. Bush’s second national security advisor, explained to me in an interview:
VPs have run for office; they are political animals. The President hears from policy people and political people and has to make decisions to balance both. The one person who has the combination of policy experience and political experience is the vice president.
Over the past four decades, vice presidents have played increasingly critical roles helping presidents understand the other players and execute moves in the two-level game.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Mike Pence & the Cheney Model

Trump running-mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, stated that his model for the vice presidency is the Cheney model. There are many possible ways to interpret this statement.

The initial take is that it is ham-handed, since there are not tons of Cheney fans around (although the Cheney haters weren't going to be voting Trump anyway). But maybe, it is a secret message that really Pence would be running things.

That is also unlikely. Probably Pence is simply saying he would be an active and engaged vice president, like Cheney. Of course for a Vice President Pence to exercise any influence, Trump would have to listen to him. It is not clear if Trump listens to anyone.

For all of its political freight, the Cheney model is overstated. Cheney was a difference in degree not kind from his predecessor. He had a larger national security staff than Gore, but at the expense of his domestic policy and political staff. Cheney sat in on lots of meetings that VPs had not previously sat in on. But no specific case where he pushed a policy the president did not care for has emerged.

Perhaps that is the most significant point. Cheney did the president's bidding. He aired his thoughts, but there are innumerable instances of President Bush rejecting Cheney's preferred position.

Finally, Cheney was also, by all accounts, incredibly deferential to the president.

Decades earlier Cheney had been chief of staff to President Ford. In an odd way, Cheney was a sort of super-chief of staff to President Bush. Involved in everything, enforcing the president's will, sharing political and policy intelligence.

In that sense, because Trump will bring  a depth of inexperience unknown in the modern presidency, the Cheney model might be dead on for a VP Pence. He will need to get involved in everything, as the President will bobble the ball on issue after issue.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Robertson Davies... on Trump?

So I haven't written about Trump much. I swore off and am glad I did. It is bad for the soul. I am not exaggerating when I write that. When I turn to Robertson Davies (my favorite novelist!) it is for matters of the heart and the soul. He writes, as do most novelists I guess, about feeling. He does so unashamedly and unabashedly. You'll see what I mean.

So Trump is sounding off on foreign policy. There is really no point in discussing his comments. He promises to destroy ISIS with a secret plan. There are no secret plans. Destroying ISIS is a matter of resources and commitments. We could apply more resources, but the President has chosen not to. He has sound reasons for this although there are also arguments for applying greater resources. It is not an easy or obvious call. The American people are not screaming for a huge commitment of forces to the Middle East (been there, done that.) Destroying ISIS quickly would require aligning with various forces in the Middle East that um... do not have our best interests at heart. There is no secret plan. PERIOD!

It is pointless to mull Trump's policy pronouncements. Doing so elides the simple reality that, as Daniel Drezner so aptly puts it, "the Republican party willingly chose an ignorant bigot as its nominee."

Robertson Davies, as my regular readers (both of them - HI MOM, it's called a blog, not a computer circular...) surely
know, was a Canadian novelist and essayist. I have no idea if he knew of Trump. He died in 1995 and while alive was an inveterate newspaper reader, so perhaps he did. But he knew what Trump was about.

Davies was interested in money and the very wealthy. He did not hate them. He saw the ability to make money as a particular talent that did not necessarily imply the possession of other forms of intelligence. (His own father was born poor but became wealthy, possessing that talent.) Davies was interested in what people with great wealth did with it - he saw it as an expression of the soul.

Davies greatest work, The Deptford Trilogy, centered around the extraordinarily wealthy self-made Boy Staunton. Each book is the story of someone who's life was shaped by their contact with Staunton. I don't want to say too much. A fundamental theme of Davies is that each thing contains its opposite. Wealthy, worldly and handsome Staunton was at his core hollow and thus never fulfilled by his worldly success. This was his destruction.

 I am not the only one to have seen that - Garrison Keiller's brutal column says the same, imagining Trump's inner voice saying: when this is over, I will have nothing that I want.

Boy Staunton was prefigured by Rex Mottram, a wealthy, status-seeking Canadian, in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. Mottram's estranged wife describes him thus:
He wasn’t a complete human being at all. He was a tiny bit of one, unnaturally developed: something in a bottle, an organ kept alive in a laboratory. I thought he was a sort of primitive savage, but he was something absolutely modern and up-to-date that only this ghastly age could produce. A tiny bit of a man pretending he was whole.
(Here again, I am not original, the much wiser George Weigel notes that Trump is Mottram come to life.)

But here is something, creepier and darker perhaps. Trump was famously an acolyte of the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale. Davies reviewed Peale's classic, The Power of Positive Thinking and found it repulsive. He describes Peale as debauching the English language, but more than style Davies was horrified by Peale's message of prayer as a technique, an instrumental tool to worldly success.

Get God on your side and success is yours. God is not the rewarder of virtue, but the Genie in the Bottle, who comes when you utter the magic formula. We must deny this is religion in any high sense.
Perhaps we may deny that it is religion at all. Mystics have often warned against powers which may be set at work by means of prayer and which are not related to God, but rather to the Devil. To speak of the Devil in our time is to invite mockery; he is not in fashion. Therefore let us say that there are powers which may be called to one's aid which are not the powers of the highest good, and that these powers can be cajoled or bullied into giving us our own way. 
Those regular readers of mine know I've been thinking a bit about magic. While in Ireland I heard tell of St. Patrick's duel with a Dark Druid. I have had a great desire to understand these things in modern terms - make them greater by making them real. I could easily imagine Trump as a sort of Dark Druid, with his words summoning forces he does not fully understand, building an all-encompassing self concealing a tiny soul.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Campaign Pageantry: Offspring on the Campaign Trail

So I should be writing a serious analysis - particularly since we now have vice presidential candidates.

Putting aside my feelings about the candidates themselves, let me be completely and utterly bi-partisan here. I have no interest in what their children say. Unless the children have some significant achievement in their own right, there is little reason for them to be addressing the convention or the nation. It is however an interesting illustration of the concept of semi-institutionalization.

First - I do not mean to criticize Chelsea Clinton, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr. etc. I am sure they are all perfectly nice, charming people. But their primary qualification is their parentage. Most of their professional achievements involve having gone into their parents' business. Good work if you can get it. They are all young and may have substantial achievements ahead of them. Consider George W. and Jeb Bush - there is little doubt that they were helped immensely by have a president for a father (and a Senator for a grandfather by the way.) Nonetheless, THEY won big elections. That is an accomplishment of some note - no matter what kind of help you get.

Nonetheless, nominees keep trotting out their children to give humanizing testimonials. Pundits and partisans cite these articulate children as evidence that the candidate is a good parent and thus a good person and fit to be president.

I am deeply suspicious as to whether any of that is true. Giving a good speech is not magic, it is a skill that can be learned. That the children speak well of their parents is hardly remarkable. Would they really stand up before the world and say, "My father/mother is a crappy human being who never paid any attention to me! Do not vote for them!"

A Long Job Interview
The Presidential campaign is basically a very (very, very) long job interview. Most jobs are a combination of explicit and tacit skills (hard and soft skills if you prefer.) Explicit skills usually have credentials. A dentist for example has a degree and passes exams. In the case of tacit skills you hope that they are either intuitive (like getting along with people) or will be learned on-the-job.

When you are hiring someone you are naturally evaluating their skills, but you are also making sure they aren't crazy. I don't mean to mock mental illness here - that is a serious issue. But we all know people who just kind of radiate negative energy. If you bring such a person into your workplace you open the door to expanded gossip, backbiting and distraction.

That is why the last question of a job interview is always, "Is there anything you would like to tell us about yourself?"

It is one last check to see if there is anything fundamentally off about the person.

That is what the campaign trail is about - we are trying to figure out if there is something off about the person. That determination can be based on very superficial and subjective criteria. But we have to consider them. (Because sometimes a superficial oddity does indicate something deeper.)

So the candidates trot out their children, who dutifully tell cute stories indicating that the candidate is a regular person who does normal and very nice things - all in an effort to show us that they are ok and we won't regret seeing them on TV for the next four to eight years.

Semi-Institutionalization
A semi-institution is something that is not required but has become expected. The president does not have to meet the VP every week or give them an office in the West Wing. But it would look pretty bad if they did not provide these perqs.

Same now with speeches by the candidate's children. It is expected. It seems unlikely that people will vote for a president because their child gave a good speech. But, if a nominee's offspring did not give at least a competent speech - or gave no speech at all - we would wonder what was wrong. Were they a bad parent, had they messed up their child somehow? Maybe they shouldn't be president after all.

Nixon once said, "Your vice presidential pick can only hurt you." When you are president, that goes for a lot of things.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Veepstakes 2016 Part 3: Elizabeth Warren & the Insider Dilemma

Joe Biden, in his inimitable way, has thrown Sen. Elizabeth Warren's hat in the Veepstakes ring. Biden began by saying that if he'd been the nominee he would have picked her and urged Hillary to do so.

Would she have one in Hillaryland?
Let's leave aside the politics of choosing Warren. She either shores up Hillary's flank on the left or she pushes Hillary too far to the left to get votes from moderates who are offended by Trump. In having an historic two woman ticket, the campaign will really bring out the woman vote to counteract Trump's appeal to men or it will lead the campaign to be stereotyped by gender and turn off voters. I honestly have no idea how this will play out. I assume people who have actually run in and won elections have far, far better judgment about this kind of thing than I possibly can.

I'm interested in the VP as a governing partner and on this front Warren would be an interesting choice for either Clinton or Biden. The vice president's role is defined by the president's needs. The rise of vice presidential influence has accompanied an increased tendency to select outsider vice presidents with little Washington experience. Some of these outsiders have explicitly chosen a VP with experience they did not possess. Carter chose Mondale in part because he wanted someone familiar with Congress. Bush 43 chose Cheney in part for his national security experience. In other cases the VP's role develops
with the administration, as the VP fills deficits in the decision-making process. Reagan choose Bush because you have to have a vice president (it's in the Constitution.) But, in office, the Reagan White House had a chaotic national security process and at several points Vice President Bush filled the gap.

Overall, as experienced politicians, vice president possess a unique blend of policy and political experience that can be a unique source of counsel to the president.

The problem for a potential VP is that Biden and Clinton are insiders. Both were Senators who had an inside seat at the White House. You may not like where they are going, but you can be pretty certain they know how to drive the car. Or, building on my metaphor as the president as a realtor, you may not like the houses they are showing you but you can be confident that they know how to close the deal.

Under insider presidents, VPs do a lot of fundraising, campaigning, and funerals. The most recent insider president was Bush 41 and Quayle had limited scope for influence. (In foreign affairs, with a savvy advisor, he did take the initiative in US-Japan relations and in Latin America - primarily because Bush himself and Secretary of State James Baker weren't that interested.)

So VP Warren would not have much to add to the inner councils of a Clinton White House. Hillary knows what she wants to do and how to do it. If she seeks the unique blend of political and policy advice a VP can provide, she'd probably appeal to Bill Clinton first.

But Warren is a renowned expert on a particular very important issue - banking reform - and would be utterly credible and well-placed to oversee work in this realm. This could establish an interesting precedent for future insider candidates. Clinton or Biden wouldn't particularly need a senior advisor to help them work Washington, but a VP who could oversee a particularly critical policy area could be useful.

Flies in the Ointment
There are two problems with a Clinton-Warren ticket as governing partners. The first is that Warren has very strong feelings on her critical issues. What if Warren's reform efforts are beyond what Clinton believes are politically feasible. The ongoing challenge of giving the VP a major long-term policy portfolio is the danger that VP will have to be removed, which would be politically embarrassing. This is not simply a problem for Clinton-Warren but really for any administration.

The other problem is Warren's credentials. She is clearly smart and accomplished - that is not in question. However, she has only been in the Senate for four years (the same amount of time Barack Obama was a Senator before becoming President.) Is that sufficient experience? She has not worked on national security issues in the Senate. Clinton does not particularly need a VP with national security experience - she already has it. But for her VP pick to appear "presidential" there ought to be some on the running mate's resume.

Still, this is an interesting possibility. Generally the VP is a generalist, helping out the president wherever he (and probably soon she) can. But an insider president won't need as much help, so choosing a specialist could be an asset to an administration.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Veepstakes 2016 Part 2: Insiders, Outsiders, and Amateurs - A Metaphor

What do presidents really do? They are the chief executive, but they do not truly administer the federal government (no one can) although they can set priorities. They make big political decisions. This is not a pejorative - the root word of political is polis (city-states) - political means the affairs of the polis. They work with (wrestle) the other institutions of the government. And they communicate with the American people about what they are doing and reassure us in the face of adversity.

Let's think about it another way.

Imagine you live in NYC and want to move. NYC is an incredibly complicated place to acquire a home. Realtors have an interesting combination of tacit and explicit skills. There are specific legal and financial aspects of home-buying that a realtor must know. There are softer but still crucial skills like negotiating and the psychology of the buyers and sellers. Then there are the contacts, knowing the contractors who can actually get stuff done in a timely manner or the local officials. Then there is area knowledge about neighborhoods. Some of this will be facts and trends, but other aspects will based on feel. It is an odd combination of specific actions, hand-holding, and personal contacts. It is an interesting analogue to being a political leader.

Now, imagine that you are frustrated with NYC realtors and believe they are all in cahoots (one of my favorite words) and working for themselves playing some inside complicated baseball. So you bring a skilled realtor in from someplace else - an outsider. Or you get a smart friend to advise you - an amateur. You trust this friend's judgement, but they are not actually a realtor. These might be good decisions to make (they are similar to the decisions the American people have made in choosing their presidents for the past 40 years).

But, you would want your outsider/amateur realtor to work with an experienced New York realtor. They would still need access to reliable information about the law, the neighborhoods, and - perhaps most crucially - the contacts (the people who could help actually get stuff done). Your outsider/amatuer realtor is still in charge, they are making the decisions for you. But they will need help.

Time and again outsider presidents have found that - whatever their ambitions for "changing Washington" they need people who actually know something about the nuts and bolts of how Congress and the bureaucracy work to get things done. The vice president is one of those key people, along with the chief of staff. An important component of Reagan's early successes as president was having insider Jim Baker as chief of staff. His predecessor Carter initially did not want a chief of staff, but vice president Mondale often filled that gap helping to set priorities and manage relations with Congress. The Clinton White House floundered under the guidance of outsider chief of staff Mack McClarty (to the annoyance of insider VP Al Gore) and righted itself under insider Leon Panetta. The list goes on.

Some light food for thought. Back to punditry...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Veepstakes 2016 Part 1 (of many): Frameworks not Names

I know what everyone wants. They want me to say who Trump and Hillary will pick as their running mate. I don't know. I can make some educated guesses, but I'd much rather discuss the framework I use for making the guesses than pretend I have any insider knowledge. I don't. And the campaigns have not chosen to consult with me - although I am available. (CALL ME!)
What the president wants from his VP (I study the tiny bit in purple)

Matthew Dickinson, a political scientist and expert on the presidency, has a good discussion of why the VP pick matters - it is a lot like what I would have written, only better and faster.

Trump has said he wants someone who can be a governing partner, which is a pretty positive thing. I did my dissertation on the VP as a governing partner and think a lot about. But I have nagging doubts. The graphic from a presentation I gave summarizes the president's priorities. 


  1. The nominee wants to be elected/re-elected. EVERYTHING else is commentary.
  2. The nominee, knowing that the running mate will be around for the next four years would prefer someone who is loyal and will not make any problems. VPs can't be fired, so a VP who fails to heed the president's wishes can be a real embarrassment and general pain. We haven't really seen that recently, but go look up the Jackson-Calhoun struggles.
  3. Given these two items, it would be great if the VP could also be useful in office.
All of the presidential candidates will say they value their running mate's advice and will make them a partner in the government. But of course they are going to say that - do you think they'll say anything else? Would they actually say:
The Constitution makes me pick someone, so it might as well be this guy. He looks pretty good in a suit, and he'll have to wear one a lot for all the funerals and rubber chicken fundraisers he's gonna have to go to!

Of course not, but does that make the candidates' insistence that the VP is qualified and will be a partner, just lip-service? Of course not, it is good politics. The research on how much a VP candidate can help electorally is murky, but a lousy un-presidential pick will hurt - especially for someone like Trump who has so many negatives and questions attached. So there is every incentive to pick someone capable and experienced. Now the VP is going to be right down the hall and coming to a lot of meetings, so they probably will become something of a partner (although presidents can always cut people out - or just ignore them.)

I really can't judge how serious Trump is about a governing partner. In the same article he said he wanted a seasoned politician he also said, “I think I’ll be absolutely great on the military and military strategy.”

But let's not kid ourselves, he's proven he's smart at politics (or at least electioneering which is a part of politics) so if saying he'll pick a pro as his running mate is good politics for him - he'll do it. And if that person is a real pro - they'll make themselves useful in office.

So what does Trump need? Someone with a good sense of Capitol Hill and DC in general, and maybe also of how the bureaucracies work - and gravitas! Sweet, sweet gravitas...

Look over the list of GOP Senators who have been there a while, but aren't much over 70. Maybe if they are from a purple state that could help (Rob Portman or Mark Kirk!) If you can think of a Dick Cheney type - someone who has held a number of high-level jobs, elected and appointed, that would work. So there's your short-list.

Later, Hillary and what Trump actually needs of a VP in office. (Hillary needs nothing from a VP in office, she already has Bill.)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Veepstakes 2016 Episode 1: Why Carly?

It is really never too early in the presidential cycle to talk Veep. Hence I've been pushing my preferred GOP VP, Ohio Senator Rob Portman. In Hillaryland, what I've heard a Senator from VA fits the bill. There is much more to say, and Veep season has started in earnest, but I've been distracted by he who shall not be named. And now, Ted Cruz - who is obviously a huge fan of HBO's VEEP - has pre-empted my plans to write an article laying out the VP basics by choosing Carly Fiorina has his running mate.

Why Carly?
Because he wants to win the election, or rather, prevent Trump from getting the nomination outright, and position himself in a contested convention.

Look, love or hate Cruz, he's a really good politician and smart guy (Princeton & Harvard - as Texas Solicitor General he argued multiple cases before the Supreme Court.) He's won a big election (Senator from Texas) and has run a pretty credible presidential campaign. So in choosing Carly Fiorina as his running mate he's calculated the odds. I'm not inclined to second-guess him on the politics.

A few factors probably include that she's a woman and a good campaigner. She might send a signal to the "establishment" (if such a thing exists) that Cruz is a sober figure who can at least talk to the party moderates. Most importantly, she creates buzz when Cruz is in big trouble. Trump's sweep last night makes it increasingly likely that he'll get the nomination outright. Anointing her is the emergency parachute cord.

Will it work? Who knows, maybe? Probably not. Even if Cruz somehow derails the Trump train (and I for one sincerely want this), the political scientist in me doubts we can really prove there was a Fiorina effect.

Anyway, the last time a GOP presidential candidate selected a woman as his running mate, it did not go well (and this odd video harks back to that unfortunate decision.)



Fiorina as Governing Partner
I don't claim to be much of a pundit and there are plenty of people making a lot more money that analyze elections. I studied what VPs do in office. Here I don't see that Fiorina brings much to the table.

Fiorina was a CEO of a big company. Her record as CEO was, um, controversial. But let's grade on a curve here and say anyone who even gets that far is pretty smart and capable. (Debatable of course, but bear with me.) So she knows something. But I have become extremely skeptical of business talent correlating with political talent. They are fundamentally different capabilities. Businesspeople make money, in politics the outputs are more complicated and the constraints are more extensive. The record of businessperson politicians is not inspiring (Herbert Hoover, Andrew Johnson, Jimmy Carter). Harry Truman, on the other hand, was a failed businessman.

Cruz is not a vastly experienced politician. He has a little time in the Senate and he presumably knows something about the law. But a fundamental paradigm of my research is that outsider presidents who are not deeply familiar with how Washington works are well served in choosing an insider VP who can help them. Cruz is an outsider, he will need help working with Congress. understanding the federal bureaucracy, and communicating with the Washington press corp. Carly Fiorina has nothing in her background that suggests she has any particular assets in this arena.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Trump v Cruz: That Delegate Thing - Part 2

As I wrote in my previous post, a half-hearted non-endorsement of Cruz over Trump, process matters.

We are hearing a lot about the nominations process in both parties, as Sanders and Trump both complain about a process rigged against them by arcane rules (despite the fact that there is a good case the rules are actually helping them). To this complaint, as with so many, I want to scream: READ THE FEDERALIST PAPERS!

Look, remember this commercial for Nextel about how great things would be if firefighters ran things. Bunch of people with common sense would be able to work things out. It's a pretty image, but utterly, profoundly, false. In the commercial everyone agrees we need good roads and clean water. That's awesome. In the real world there are quite limited resources and competing priorities. So how should limited resources be distributed?

Vote on it?

It is never that simple. Can 51% vote to take stuff from 49% without recourse on every issue? And that's assuming an up or down vote. What if it is more general so that there are multiple options? Could the group with the most votes get power even if they were in a minority overall? What if in a multi-party free-for all 25% elected themselves as a dictatorship even though 75% agreed they hated this 25% but couldn't unite on anything else?

That's silly, it would be yes or no on a bill. Fine, but then who writes the bills and who sets the agenda?

Democracies have procedures, rules, about how business is conducted. They have to! That's what the Constitution does, it sets out the basic procedures and operations of the U.S. government. The founding fathers (does that always have to be capitalized?) knew history and that the democracies of antiquity destroyed themselves, collapsing into mob rule. In establishing a Republic they sought to give the people a voice, but not create a government that quickly responded to every popular whim. They created a vast mechanism that filters public sentiment, giving voice to a range of interests and constituencies. And yes, this can make our system ineffective, that is by design. They felt that a more effective government would be a more dangerous government.

The decision-making structures shape the process (focusing on this is known as institutionalism in poli-sci world). Poor structural design can really hurt decision-making (exhibit 1 - Israel - see here and here).

The point here isn't that the Democratic and Republican parties have just terrific decision-making structures. I'm kind of agnostic. Rather, understanding how to operate within these structures and maximize your effectiveness.

Sort of like in baseball. Getting lots of people on base is essential to winning - it is probably the single most important component to scoring runs. But you still have to drive those runs in. If you keep leaving men on base, you will lose.

Being President means dealing with institutions with arcane rules and decision-making procedures (Congress, the bureaucracy) so if you can't master this on the campaign trail - you probably shouldn't be president.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Cruz v Trump: For the love of process - Part 1

So at this point I am a RINO. I remain registered because I live in a deep blue state and believe firmly in the two party system. The occasional GOP governor (as we enjoy now) keeps the system honest. 

My preferred GOP candidate is Kasich. His experience is is much deeper than the other candidates (this was frankly true even when there was a much wider field of candidates.) He espouses conservative values without being dogmatic and offensive - although he is not conservative enough for many in the party. The essence of politics in a republic is compromise and taking the best deal you can get. Maximalist positions will marginalized you. The GOP seems to have forgotten this which takes them on a path to defeat. Kasich could also plausibly beat Hillary - it is difficult to imagine Trump or Cruz doing so (barring some sort of Hillary scandal meltdown - which given the Clintons is not impossible.) That being said, Kasich has been painfully awkward on the campaign trail and one can see why he is not generating much enthusiasm. (And yes, his recent missteps are making it worse and worse.)

So the likelihood gives us Cruz or Trump. A fine conundrum for the party of Lincoln in the world's greatest democracy. I despise Donald Trump - I've said it before many times, no need to go into it. Cruz is hardly a compelling alternative. He is not moderate and there is something fundamentally dislikable about him and his actions do little I've wondered about this interplay between surface appearance and people's hearts before. As for his actual positions... two words: gold standard.

Cruz is a smart guy, Princeton and Harvard. One expects politicians to say all kinds of BS. (They all promise that they will get better deals from other countries or make congress get things done. Most have some ludicrous stand on some policy issue or other. Fine, that's the business they've chosen.) But the gold standard is absolute lunacy. It would up-end the international financial system in all sorts of really bad, bad ways with no upside. If Cruz really believes it, then he's pretty nutty. If he doesn't and is just saying it because it makes some constituency happy, well - is that kind of worse?

But if it has to be Trump or Cruz, well, I guess Cruz.

A democratic republic relies on rules of the road. There are actions that players within our system do not take. Presidents always push for authority against Congress (and other institutions). But usually only so far. The epitome perhaps was President Andrew Jackson responding to a Supreme Court ruling by says, "John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it."

What happens in a president simply refuses to do what Congress or the Supreme Court orders. There is a lot of push and pull in this, but it is rare to blatantly disregard Constitutional authorities. Presidents that start doing this will provoke crises - that will not be fun.

My fear with Trump is that if frustrated with Congress, he will summon a mob. I don't think he can upend our system, but I don't want to watch this process. It will be ugly. Assuming Trump plays the game more carefully, what he is likely to do is make lots of noise about key issues.

Now this is part of politics. Voltaire wrote that medicine is the art of humoring the patient while nature takes its course. So is politics, that's fine. But Trump will inject more bad feeling and anger into our system.

Do I believe that Cruz is a secret insider who will turn establishment where Trump will not? Hardly, rather I think he will suck at trying to upend the system. His appeals for action will be less effective. 

But yes, he will probably show a greater tendency to play within the rules. We are less likely to have mobs formed or impeachment hearing. I think politics over the next decade is going to be plenty nasty without any of that - so I'd rather skip it.

Let me be clear - this is not a full-throated endorsement - or any kind of endorsement. I think I'd vote for Sanders before either of these guys. Seriously (even though I have huge problems with him as well.)

Update: Dana Milbank in The Washington Post makes the exact same argument I make - better of course - but still the same.


Friday, April 8, 2016

Heart Bern: Evaluating Sanders

Let me begin by saying how much I like Bernie Sanders. Having someone who looks and sounds like one of my cantankerous uncles going on about some idee fixe running credibly for president rather than making us nuts at the Seder table is pretty fun and cool.

However, I am not a socialist.

I also reject the apocalyptic arguments around Sanders. In a choice between Trump and Sanders I would choose Sanders without any second thoughts whatsoever. First, Sanders is a democratic socialist. He is working within the system to achieve his ends. In fact by some measures he has been pretty effective as a legislator. This is legitimate activity within our system. He is not talking about storming the barricades our seizing the means of production. He might turn the U.S. into something a bit more Scandinavian (Euro-style mixed economies aren't all they're cracked up to be, but they have their virtues). These are still societies with vibrant private sectors, it is something we could vote for. Also, it won't happen. Our system makes it very, very hard to move things much. This has benefits and costs, but in our system it is a feature not a bug. The founders had studied history and knew the ancient democracies and republics had destroyed themselves.

(I fear Trump might damage our democratic processes - not fatally, but it won't be much fun to watch.)

Finally, I understand and sympathize with the broader forces driving Sanders' candidacy. A lot of people have been really screwed economically. Most young people who graduated since the 2008 crash see few prospects for moving forward. Further, there has been a broad decline in wages for certain kinds of labor. I have been personally fortunate, but I sincerely want to see policies that help address some of these problems.

However, I am not a socialist.

What I mean is that I sympathize with Sanders' goals, but I fear his means will actually make things worse. 

Let's put aside that (based on his recent interview) Sanders himself might not have thought through his proposals. He was incredibly vague about his signature issue of breaking up the big banks, nor did he make a terribly clear case that breaking them up would actually help anything. I want to insure everyone is benefitting economically. I have no love the big banks, but if it isn't going to move the ball forward, don't waste energy on it.

Peace, Land, Tuition!
Let's take a major Sanders idea and break it down. He wants state universities to be free.

What is the purpose of this proposal? It seems to me that there are two. The first is provide a better educated population overall and the second would be to improve people's employment prospects by making college more accessible.

I don't think the first purpose is what we are really discussing. As a small c conservative, I am skeptical of the ability of education to magically make people wiser and smarter. College is simply not for everyone. Many people do not wish to go to college. In terms of receiving a broad liberal arts background and broadening their perspective on the world, I am not sure people clamber for this. If we want a better educated public, let's figure out how to make our high schools work better.

Caveat: I'm not saying we should keep anyone out of college, I am just skeptical if it actually achieves the kinds of positive social ends desired.

As far as I can tell, we are talking about college like a trade school, it helps employment prospects. The problem is that it is a hideously expensive trade school and, for the most part, it does not actually teach a trade. College is a signal to an employer that you have some basic aptitudes, rather than specific skills.

This lecture will be standing room only in Bernie's America
So if we want to improve people's employment prospects is sending more people to college the way to do it? Since it is a vague signal, rather than a hard credential, it may not be the right way. That is, there is an employment market for people with college degrees. If a lot more people have college degrees, does that magically mean that there are a lot more jobs for people with college degrees - or - will it lower the value of these degrees and make employers choosier. Will a Masters be the new Bachelors? In that case, you've started an education arms race that the well-to-do are destined to win.

But, my small c conservatism aside, I do want more people to go to college and I don't doubt that there are many people who would benefit from college who cannot hope to attend now. My fear is that Bernie's plan would not help them - it would hurt them.

If state colleges and universities are free they will receive a huge number of additional applications. They will have two choices about dealing with this - they can either raise their standards and pick and choose who they accept or they can accept a lot more people.

If they choose to do the former, it will be much harder to get in and this could benefit the well-to-do at the expense of the less fortunate. The very rich will remain rich and send their kids to whatever private colleges they wish. The well-to-do however, will have had their taxes raised substantially under Bernie. This will make private colleges harder for them to manage, so if a free state university is an option it will become extremely attractive. These are parents who can insure that their kids receive the violin lessons, tutoring, and private coaching needed to get into the now more competitive state schools. Again, you've created an educational arms race that the well to do will win.

Alternatively, if the state schools don't raise their standards and accept anyone that can afford it that raises different challenges. Student bodies would expand very quickly and school would struggle to manage them. Here the concern is broader. Right now the U.S. higher education system is the best in the world. It is a tremendous engine of growth and innovation. Further it is an export (when a kid from another country comes here to study, he is putting money into the U.S.) I would rather not take risks with something that is working pretty well. If we break it, it may not be easy to fix.

But I do want to make college more accessible. I'd rather see it means tested. For the well-to-do state colleges and universities are bargain. You can raise the prices some and it would still be a bargain, while using that to subsidize the less fortunate.

Further, I'd like to see more creative approaches taken to preparing the workforce such as more apprenticeships and trade schools that were far cheaper and provided a better return on the public's investment.

But Bernie, as compelling as he is, offers simples cures that may prove worse than the disease.

We have entered an age of magical realism politics - and it isn't just the GOP.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Trump Dump: Last Word, for a while

OK, I have to take a deep breath on this. Pretty much every time Trump opens his mouth I want to write a new article. But that just feeds the beast. Not that I have so many readers, but it isn't good for me. I recall Achilles words of regret in the Iliad (Fagles translation):

anger that drives the sanest man to flare in outrage 
bitter gall, sweeter than dripping streams of honey 
that swarms in people's chests and blinds like smoke

Trump has learned the key lesson of reality TV (which I admit I don't watch), make sure you have an asshole who stirs things up and everyone loves to hate. I'm thinking Puck from the Real World or Omarosa from his own show. Even those of us who can't stand him can't stop talking about him.

But what is there to say? Rebutting his ridiculous policy positions - Dan Drezner is already there and much, much better. Punditry, why bother? They are just talking about shadows on the walls of the cave. Jeremiads about how he represents the collapse of American civil society - I don't believe that is true, it is just more presentism.

But of course it is a presidential election cycle and he is running for president, I can't just ignore him. So, one post a month specifically about him here. Here, and on my other blogs, maybe he'll be mentioned, but it will be about something else. Of course if something HUUGE happens, I'll take it on.

Most of what I want to say about Trump has already been said, here. So this is really just a footnote on my initial take. So here is everything I want to say.

Trump vs Reagan
We had another celebrity turned politician reach the presidency - Ronald Reagan. He said plenty of strange stuff and offered simple solutions to complex problems in an era of frustration and ferment. Like Trump, no one could figure out how to debate Reagan and win - he was a consummate performer. But there are a lot of differences.

First, as a human being, Reagan was a self-made man. He was born with nothing, enjoyed success in the movies and then transformed himself - via his service as a union president and then corporate spokesman - into a politician. He served two terms as governor of California. Trump of course inherited his wealth, he clearly has some talent at self-promotion, although his record as a businessman is less than astoundingly stellar.

Reagan also put in the time to actually learn something about policy and had a pretty serious political gig before becoming president (governor of California.) He also developed a pretty good team. Trump insists he'll get great businessmen into his cabinet. We'll see. In terms of rhetoric, Reagan broke a lot of rules. But with care, he was not a bully, nor did he shout down his opponents.

Trump is maddening because this campaigning thing, which all the other candidates find a hard slog, he seems to do so easily. Everything he does just garners him more support. But, he doesn't have real policy chops - he's a false Reagan.

President Trump
We have to seriously consider that Trump could become president. I am intellectually sanguine about this prospect. Rule of law is firmly established in these United States. Congress has incredible abilities to bring the president to heel. For starters they can carefully choose who gets confirmed. They can defund agencies, and yes, they can impeach and remove the president.

Our government bureaucracies are sticklers about following the law. Remember the warrantless wiretapping brouhaha? When half of the Justice Department threatened to resign? We'll see a lot of that.

Voltaire quipped, "Medicine is the art of humoring the patient while nature takes its course."

A big part of politics is gestures that are palliatives to public concerns. Trump will be pretty good at these kinds of symbolic gestures. He'll get a little money out of Japan and Korea for our military spending - it won't be enough to make a difference to anything, but he'll showboat it like it is. That will work for a while. But eventually serious problems have to be addressed. You can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Disjunctive Presidency
I am a big fan of Skowronek's theory of presidential cycles. It seems pretty evident to me that the Republicans are due for a disjunctive presidency. These presidents preside over the collapse of a long-standing political order because the party's basic policy responses are not relevant to the problems faced by the public, but key party interests won't allow the party to change. The last two disjunctive presidencies were Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover (both of whom were successful businessmen and engineers.)

One thing about disjunctive presidencies is that the president calls for efficiency, promising to be more effective as president than predecessors. Could Trump's highlighting his deal-making capabilities fit into that paradigm. One usually thinks more Mitt Romney, but if the Trump fits.

Doubts
When Reagan ran I was a kid. I don't remember it that well, but growing up in a typical liberal Democratic house, I didn't think much of the guy. I've come to respect and recognize his virtues, which were substantial. Am I wrong in dismissing Trump? Instead of being a disjunctive president, could he be a president of reconstruction? I kind of doubt it. It is tough to miss that the GOP is headed for a fall. The crazy train primary campaign is exhibit one. Also their core constituency - old white guys - has real problems with lots of critical emerging constituencies (women, Latinos.)

Still, could I be wrong. Could the Donald be heralding something new? I think he is a glitch, he emerged through a combination of strong name recognition and party dysfunction. But what if he's a not a bug - but a feature and I am the one missing it?

Now I'm angry again!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Belated President's Day - Some Lists of Great and Not-so-Greats

The typical Presidential list is of the greatest presidents. That is always Lincoln, Washington, FDR and then whatever particular political hobby-horse the list-maker has. Jefferson, Jackson, TR, Wilson, and Reagan all make regular appearances.

More interesting is listing the worst presidents, although that too is rife with current political judgments. Half of America will say Obama while they other half will say W. Andrew Jackson, who was a giant mere decades ago is now reviled. Nixon was hated, well, for being Nixon. I find this hard because in my humble estimation, our presidents were decent and capable people who did the best they could given the options they had.

So here, instead, are some odd-ball lists.


Unconventional Presidential Rankings

Greatest One-Term Presidents
  1. James K. Polk
  2. George H. W. Bush

Note that both had their big achievements in foreign policy. Other one term presidents include Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, William Howard Taft, Franklin Pierce, Benjamin Harrison, John Adams and John Quincy Adam. Not an inspiring list.

Greatest presidents who took office on presidential death
  1. Teddy Roosevelt
  2. Harry Truman
  3. Chester Alan Arthur
  4. Lyndon Johnson

Teddy Roosevelt was, well, Teddy Roosevelt. Truman too had some pretty huge achievements, establishing the post-World War II architecture and the overseeing the Marshall Plan. Lyndon Johnson was the architect of the Great Society and a champion of civil rights.

Chester Alan Arthur is an interesting outlier - not normally on any presidential list except for great facial hair. He was considered a political hack. He had been appointed head of the NY Customs House (a really, really big deal because most federal government revenue was from taxes on imports and the biggest portion went through NY.) But he was appointed as part of the patronage system and then put on the ticket as VP as a sop to that political machine. (In fairness, he was actually a very capable administrator.) When President Garfield was assassinated, by a disappointed job-seeker, Garfield's political patrons looked forward to taking over the spoils system. But Arthur cut his ties with them and as president championed Civil Service reform. Arthur, surprisingly, turned out to be the president we needed, just when we needed him.


Presidential Achievements Outside the Presidency

Most significant accomplishments as military leader
  1. George Washington
  2. Ulysses S. Grant
  3. Dwight Eisenhower
  4. Andrew Jackson
  5. Zachary Taylor
  6. William Henry Harrison

The top three were all the leading generals in major wars, they are on the all-star list of generals in U.S. history and really world history. Washington gets the edge because , unlike Grant and Ike, he had the less economically capable army and managed to defeat a super-power. The bottom three were all good generals in their own right, but - as AJ Liebling said of Jack Dempsey, "He may have been a great champion, but he didn't have much to beat."


Greatest non-political achievements pre-presidency
  1. Herbert Hoover
  2. Thomas Jefferson
  3. Teddy Roosevelt
  4. Woodrow Wilson

All of these men were scholars of some renown and authored many books (note what I consider significant.) But, Herbert Hoover was also a very successful businessman. Probably the most successful businessman to be elected president - take that for what it's worth (personally, I think he had the misfortune to be president at the wrong time.)


Greatest public service achievements pre-presidency
  1. George Washington
  2. James Madison
  3. Martin Van Buren
  4. Herbert Hoover
  5. Thomas Jefferson
  6. Lyndon Johnson

George Washington did two enormous things in public life that had a profound impact on the United States of America before becoming president. First, he turned down kingship of the new United States and was a founder of the Order of Cincinnati and he chaired the Constitutional Convention. He was not the intellectual architect, but he had the political savvy and will to see the thing through. A huge achievement.

Madison was a key architect of the Constitution and co-authored the documents owner's manual (aka The Federalist Papers.) He was also Secretary of State. Martin Van Buren was a masterful politician and architect of the modern Democratic party. Hoover was nominated for the Nobel Prize for his efforts at famine relief for Europe after WWI. He was Secretary of Commerce and Under-Secretary of Everything Else under Harding and Coolidge where he had an enormous number of administrative achievements.

Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. LBJ was master of the Senate, but threw it away to be JFK's VP.


Greatest post-presidency
  1. William Howard Taft
  2. Thomas Jefferson
  3. Herbert Hoover
  4. Richard Nixon
  5. Jimmy Carter


Taft was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court - enough said. Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. Hoover reprised his role leading famine relief after WW2 and also chaired two commissions on re-organizing the government. 

Nixon had a huge achievement. He somehow crawled back from ignominy to become a respected figure - that's got to count for something. Carter, even though I dislike many of his undertakings, has had a vibrant post-presidency, trying to do good wherever he was able.


Analytics & Conclusion

This is utterly subjective, and with a bit more research I'd probably add a bunch more names to this list. But, let's do some very basic analytics.

Most appearances on any of these lists: 
  1. Herbert Hoover (3) & Thomas Jefferson (3) 
  2. Teddy Roosevelt (2) & Lyndon Johnson (2) & George Washington (2)
A few things leap out. First, Herbert Hoover was an enormously talented man who had the misfortune to go into politics. Being an executive and being a politician are very, very different offices. Although in fairness if Hoover had become president in 1920, he would have served a mild term or so, done some technocratic reforms and left the White House respected like Calvin Coolidge is now. Someone else would have presided over the great crash of 1929.

But the more presidential finding is George Washington. He has perhaps lost the battle against Lincoln for mantle of greatest president. Fair enough - Lincoln was a GREAT president. But, imagine if Washington had died suddenly before the first presidential election (people died all the time in those days.) He would still be remembered for his enormous military and political achievements - which were essential to the very establishment of the United States of America. He would not have been just rolled into Presidents Day Weekend - he might still have a day of his own. In that sense, like Hoover, was he a great, great man that was somehow diminished by the presidency?


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Presidents' Day Weekend Reading: A Veepcritique Top 10

Gentle reader. I've been slacking at posting here lately (although there is new stuff over at Terrorwonk). I promise to do some special stuff in the next day or so over this long weekend dedicated to honoring our nation's highest office.

But in the meantime, here are some of my old, best pieces about Presidents and Vice Presidents (because, when you are talking about the Vice President, you are really talking about the President.)



10. Forward I wrote for the only illustrated book of vice presidents with pictures of octopi on their heads - VEEPTOPUS!

9. The presidents and politicians in general we see are mere caricatures of real people who wrestle with the same things we all face. (Two for one!)

8. A little something about a lesser-known president, and his surprisingly influential vice president.

7. As VP George H.W. Bush ran a counter-terror task force for Reagan (bringing together two of my areas of interest - terrorism and VPs), here's a short academic paper on it.

6. Here's a strange little thing about how - in high school about three decades ago - I kind of predicted Palin.

5. No writing about the presidency would be complete without a dive into Nixonology.

4. Here's a bit about the old/new phenomenon of White House courtiers - no presidency would be complete without some.

3. Here, I take a look at a well-known tale about Cheney, and turn it upside down, showing him, not as an all powerful eminence gris, but rather as a dutiful servant of the president.

2. This is the single most read/linked to/cited thing I think I have ever written. It is a summary and review of Stephen Skowronek's Presidential Leadership in Political Time, which I think is a hell of a book, with a very compelling model of political cycles.

1. There is no post which better summarizes what I have really learned - in the heart, which can matter a lot more than the head, than this post about critical empathy. The post is about Jimmy Carter (who I remember as a feckless, hapless figure) but it is really about every president each of whom "only did the best he could. No man could do more."

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Presidential Efficacy & Foreign Policy: Not Really About Trump

Trump is the only candidate who is making a significant alternative foreign policy argument is Trump. It isn't an argument I agree with, but it is an argument. He insists he will be able to make better deals with the rest of the world than past presidents. He cities his business record as evidence. (This is questionable for many reasons.)

Overall the candidates agree that we need to defeat ISIS and just generally be stronger in the world. Sanders wants to do it with coalitions. Rubio, on the other side of the equation, talks about ground troops - although he actually has a more pragmatic understanding of foreign policy. But it is variations on a theme. The real outliers are probably Rand Paul (who's been demoted) and Lindsey Graham (who's dropped out).

There is also a sharp differences between the parties on immigration, but that - strictly speaking - is a domestic issue with big implications for other countries so I'll put it to the side.

The Art of the Dealmaker
Trump however is coming out against free trade. He insists that we are losing to the Chinese, the Mexicans, and the Japanese. Now yours truly believes in free trade. Big picture it helps everybody, but unfortunately capitalism involves a lot of creative destruction - which sounds good good in a lecture seminar, but in reality means lives being ruined. Most serious analyses find that changes in employment patterns are due to increased automation, not free trade. But trade has become a lightning rod for deep and legitimate grievances.

The United States has a long-standing commitment to free trade. Most countries have a Ministry of Commerce/Industry/Trade. We also have the United States Trade Representative devoted strictly to advancing free trade, while Commerce promotes U.S. products worldwide. Other nations find this confusing.

On the whole, free is good for the U.S. economy. By stimulating other nations economically it creates markets for more sophisticated goods of which the U.S. is a leading producer. If the U.S. imports sugar from Central America or textiles from Pakistan, U.S. farmers and textile manufacturers lose out, but those countries become wealthier and can buy smartphones, cars, software, and financial services. NAFTA was a component in the huge U.S. economic boom of the 1990s.

Trade also serves U.S security goals. The TPP, besides economic benefits, it strengthens security bonds and creates common communities of interest.

Long and short, as a  builder Trump wants to maximize his work at the expense of everyone else in NYC. But the President of the US is not a CEO, he's more akin to the mayor, maintaining the system of order. In the short run the US might win some, but fundamentally the US maintains a system of global order - protects and even creates global commons. If we initiate a grab for more we will also set in motion a global tragedy of the commons, to the detriment of all.

Tactics vs. Strategy
But this post isn't really about Trump. It is about presidential efficacy. All of the candidates insist that they will basically be better at being president than Obama is or Hillary will be. Hillary of course insists she has more experience than anyone and knows how to be president.

And let's be clear, every issue is a negotiation, a deal. When the US acts militarily, it affects other countries. When the US delivers aid, it affects other countries. Even if we do not discuss our actions with them, well that is a "negotiation" tactic.

We like the idea of the President going mano y mano with Putin or whoever at the negotiating table and "winning." So many candidates insist that they know how to do this kind of thing. That is certainly one part of the presidency. It is tough to know if someone will be good in this situation or not. My inclination is that anyone credibly running for president probably has what Schumpeter called "force of personality."

Besides that, just being president is a pretty significant power plus up! And of course a president has limited time and energy. They can get personally involved in an issue, but they will need to pick that issue carefully out of the literally hundreds that need to be addressed.

So consider Nixon, probably one of the least personally impressive presidents. He didn't like confrontation and was introverted. He found campaigning and gladhanding painful and was consistently awkward at it. Yet he was very effective. That doesn't mean I like his decisions, but rather that if he wanted to achieve a policy goal he was pretty good at getting it done.

Each deal, incredibly complicated in its own right, needs to be more broadly considered in two dimensions, time and space. How how will a deal we make with China today affect our relationship with China in two years or five years or twenty years. Because China will continue to be a factor. If we browbeat them into concessions now, will that hurt us farther down the line when we need something else from them. Also, whatever we do with China affects lots of other players. How will a particular agreement with China affect our relationship with Japan or India. Further, those relationships move in time as well. So how does negotiation today with China shape our relationship with Japan in five years? But wait, there's more because major international issues have a domestic component (Putnam's famous two-level game.) So every negotiation is a complex operation in its own right that also shapes and affects a huge range of other issues.

So which more valuable, a brilliant tactical negotiator or a brilliant strategist who chooses where and how to apply resources - including their own time and energy. Ideally you'd have both. Most people who reach the presidency are pretty capable. But strategy is another story. It would be nice to have a president who can win battles, but better one who can win the war - that is consider the panoply of U.S. interests and advance them broadly.

Estimating Presidential Efficacy
So how do we judge whether someone is up to high office. There is the resume/experience analysis. We can't know beforehand how capable someone will be. But, we can get at least a sense of their familiarity with the issues. Complex foreign policy issues have a pretty steep learning curve. Familiarity beforehand is an advantage.

On that one, Hillary wins hands-down (she of course has other negatives). 8 years as First Lady where she got a good look at what is involved with being president. Organizing ones time and staff are underestimated but significant challenges. She spend 8 years in the Senate and was well-regarded, then 4 years as Secretary of State. So she is familiar with the national security bureaucracy and the legislature and handled a variety of issues.

Kasich would probably be in second place. He spent 18 years in Congress, all of them on the Armed Services Committee. He was also governor of Ohio for 5 years. I happen to think gubernatorial experience is over-rated as preparation for the presidency, but I wouldn't argue it was irrelevant.

After that, probably Bernie Sanders, who has served on Capitol Hill for 15 years. Granted, he has shown little interest in foreign policy - but at least those issues crossed his desk. He is also familiar with the ways of congress.

After that it gets thin. Rubio and Cruz have first-term Senators with few accomplishments to their name (although there is some modest evidence that Rubio has at least thought seriously about foreign policy). Favorite son Martin O'Malley, Christie and Bush were/are governors - which represents significant political experience, but not real foreign policy experience.

Carson and Trump have no relevant experience with the nuts and bolts of foreign policy.

I'm ready to believe most of them are pretty capable negotiators. But have any of them shown a real capability to think strategically across the huge range of issues facing the United States in a world in flux? Can any of them "keep the whole equation in their heads?"