Thursday, September 4, 2008

Can't we have a Governor-Senator?

Yes, I know that this blog has gone in a political bent as of late. Heck, even two of my Empoprises blogs have gone on a political bent (see my Mike Wooten post at Empoprise-IE, or my P Diddy "black people in Alaska" post at Empoprise-MU).

But don't worry; within a couple of weeks my blogs will be dominated by Oracle OpenWorld, so I'll presumably shut up on politics.


But I do want to dive into something that I briefly mentioned as a comment in Zee's FriendFeed thread about a small-town mayor:

Since 1933, all but 3 presidents have been ex governors or senators; the exceptions are Bush 41 and Ford (both ex House) and Eisenhower.

This has certainly been the case in modern times. When the US looks for a leader, they sometimes decide that the national breadth of experience of a senator is what is needed, and they sometimes decided that we need the executive experience of a state governor.

Let's look at the Presidents of the 1970s as examples. Nixon, who was not only an ex-Senator but also an ex-Congressman and ex-Vice President, was elected into office because of his extensive national experience on both domestic and foreign issues. Ford, one of the exceptions to my governor/senator rule, was an unelected President who still brought extensive national experience as Minority Leader of the House (and, briefly, as Vice President). Carter was a pendulum swing, who proposed that the perceived excesses of what he called the "Nixon-Ford Administration" could be solved by an outsider with executive experience (remember his department consolidation that he touted as one of his achievements in Georgia?).

And that's another thing about the governor-senator debate: in most cases, the governors have been perceived as outsiders, and the senators have been perceived as insiders. There have been exceptions: Senator Truman, Senator Obama, and (to a lesser extent) Senator McCain have an outsider attitude, and Governor Bush was certainly helped by some insider family connections.

So who is better, a governor or a senator? It probably depends upon your candidate. For the 2008 election, the Democrats are staunchly arguing that senatorial experience is more important, while the Republicans are staunchly arguing that...senatorial experience is more important. If Clinton had beaten Obama, she would have argued that...senatorial experience is more important. As I remarked several months ago, Bush 43 was destined to be succeeded by an ex-Senator as President...unless he died or was impeached before his term ended.

This morning on KFI, Bill Handel was having none of the "senatorial experience" argument, stating that of the four presidential/vice presidential candidates of the two major parties, only one of them had any elected executive experience. Taking a cue from Rudy Giuliani, Handel noted that Obama and Biden - and McCain - hadn't run anything.

So the solution is obvious - for the best mix of national and executive experience, elect someone who has served as both senator AND governor. Someone who has had executive authority over multiple government departments, but who knows what the capital of (Eurasian) Georgia is.

Well, I'm kind of hazy about our 18th and 19th century presidents, but we certainly haven't had any such ex-governor/ex-senator President since 1929, ir not before. The one presidential candidate who comes to mind who had such experience is California's Pete Wilson, but he was never a leading Presidential candidate.

One reason that we haven't had such a candidate is because is usually takes some time to build up power in the Senate, and there aren't many Pete Wilsons who are willing to give up a career as a senator to start all over again as a state governor.

So, unless Hillary Clinton has a hankering to live in Albany, we'll continue to choose between governors and senators to lead our country in the future. Or perhaps we'll choose the occasional military man (Eisenhower), man of the House (Ford), or jack-of-all-trades (Bush 41).

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