The RPs Debate Presidential Leadership: Artur Davis Rebuts

Rebuttal #6: Artur Davis

[John Y.’s Provocation The RP’s Rebuttal #1; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #2; Rod Jetton’s Rebuttal #3; Krystal Ball’s Rebuttal #4; John Y.’s First Defense; Rod Jetton’s Response #1; Jeff Smith’s Rebuttal #5; John Y.’s Second Defense; Ron Granieri’s Response #1; John Y.’s Third Defense]

I’m a Johnny-come-lately to what sounds like an incredible conversation, so I will wade in very selectively, with these random observations:
  • I like Jeff’s observations if only because they are the best explanation for why a decidedly average looking guy like me didn’t go further! More seriously, I think we will forever remain on the lookout for an explanation of what makes winners in politics. If it were all looks and charm, Kennedy crushes Nixon, instead of beating him by a vote per precinct; I’ve seen the charming losers–I vividly recall from my candidate recruitment days at the DCCC, a Nebraska guy whose looks had female staffers rearranging their schedules to meet him; the voters were less enraptured than the staffers and the online world; he lost by about 20 points — and I’ve seen the winners whose charisma would’t carry them past the corner next to the punch bowl in most other settings.
  • My best guess is that for all our jaded reasons not to believe it, issues do matter, but sometimes only in the most reductionist sense–“does the guy or lady believe in people like me?”;”is this person going to deliver on the one or two things I really value?” I deliberately don’t use the word trust, by the way, because I think the trust quotient is so low in politics today that relying on it proves too little. I also don’t mean to endorse the very test I describe — part of leadership is sometimes deciding to deliver not on the one thing you care about, but the one thing that really will work better. Sometimes, “believing in people like me” means leading too narrowly, and shortchanging the broader good for one faction.
  • As for Romney, I’m disinclined to find much mystery here. He was a responsible enough governor who performed remarkably well, with remarkably little turbulence, in an environment hostile to his party; he has a tendency that must distress his staff to actually answer a question complete with nuance, at least sometimes; he is not notably angry — unless he is interrupted — and does not seem to rise in the morning fearful that Obama might blunder the world away before dark! He is cool in a hot political environment, so he does not inspire. All of the above explain why he is not moving mountains, but why he might be a decent enough president if he gets there.
  • As for Obama, no one has ever found a political climate more suited to his strengths, at least not since Carter, than Obama did in 08. And he gave us the promise of breaking a logjam on race, perhaps for good. If he has disappointed, its because governance is more than persuasion. Its also because 2009 and 2010 were devoted to remaking the country and not to fixing the economy — at least that’s how the 20% of his support base that has drifted away sees it. If the economy keeps moving, it will probably all come back to him. The whole thing is a cautionary note that so much of politics is not cosmic and not rooted in the power of individual brilliance. Maybe for us mortals, that’s a good thing.


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