Who should be America’s next president? We have more than 530 official candidatesso far and there will be others before the campaign season gets into full swing.
Most of these hopefuls stand no chance of appearing on the ballots in all 50 states let alone being elected. After eliminating 500 wannabees that leaves us with a crowded field of relatively well-known names.
But how many of the candidates most-mentioned by the news media are actually qualified?
Up to the task
The presidency of the United States is one of the most challenging jobs in the world. Too many aspirants presume they have what it takes in terms of intelligence, skill, temperament, strength and wisdom to lead this republic. Frankly, their undeserved hubris in an insult to the greatness of our republic.
Recent occupants of the White House, likewise, often have failed the test of leadership. So why should we believe the current contenders are any better?
Demands of the job
The president presides over a cabinet of 22 agencies and individuals. The 15 principal departments are Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs and the Attorney General.
A successful president should be an effective administrator with adequate knowledge about each of these 15 departments. Administrative experience and departmental knowledge comes from experience leading either public or private sector enterprises, choosing the right people for departmental responsibilities and delegating authority to those appointees.
Without prior executive experience, the next president will have to learn on the job. America has too many pressing problems to be in the hands of a novice to domestic and international affairs. We have witnessed more than once the misfortunes of inadequate leadership in the Oval Office.
Grading the contestants
Who among the most prominent candidates has the requisite background to be president of the United States? Let’s look at the official Democratic hopefuls in alphabetical order.
New Jersey Senator Corey Booker was mayor of Newark for seven years and has been in the U.S. Senate for six. Does his limited time as mayor of an East Coast city persuade us that he’s prepared to move into the Oval Office? His strident performance during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh raises questions about his temperament. Compared with other candidates I’m skeptical of his qualifications.
The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, 36-year-old Pete Buttigieg has reached the minimum age of 35 to be American’s chief executive. And he is one of the few current candidates with military experience. That’s a plus. But has he reached a level of maturity, experience and wisdom in other areas to lead the greatest nation on earth? His youth concerns me.
If elected, Juan Castro would be America’s Latino president. He is a former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama as well as mayor of San Antonio, Texas for five years. His ethnicity is a potential attraction for Latino voters and his experience as a U.S. cabinet member is noteworthy. But he is relatively unknown among a crowded field of better-known contestants. We’ll see what mark he can make during the long campaign season.
John Delaney founded three companies before he was elected to the House of Representatives from Maryland. On paper his business acumen looks good. But members of the lower chamber of Congress have a poor history as presidential candidates. And Delaney has generated little excitement or media coverage since his announcement nearly 18 months ago. It’s difficult to see that changing anytime soon.
Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard has served in the military, on the Honolulu City Council and is former aide to Senator Daniel Akaka. She probably is campaigning either for a cabinet appointment or some other executive post with the next president. She herself has no realistic chance to prevail in the 2020 primaries.
Two-term New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is another candidate with limited experience. She has had a varied legal career but nothing in her background gives confidence that she can be an effective president. Furthermore, she has stumbled coming out of the starting blocks when asked to reconcile her past conservative views as a member of the House vs. her liberal stance in the Senate. Should we consider her change of mind as uncertainty or flexibility? It matters neither way. Barring some major surprise, she will not be the Democratic nominee.
California Senator Kamala Harris has generated the most excitement among progressive democrats and liberal news media. Her mixed Asian, black and Native American racial identity makes her an attractive candidate with potential broad ethnic and minority appeal. She was California Attorney General before her election to the U.S. Senate two years ago and drew national attention during the Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearings for Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. But will her charisma translate into effective presidential decisions and actions? Our most recent travels down that path were disappointing.
The Midwest has a candidate from Minnesota—a state with a rich history of fielding strong presidential contenders. Amy Klobuchar, in her third Senate term, is the latest politician from her state to make the run. But her administrative credentials do not appear strong. Despite her calm demeanor during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and her interesting presidential announcement outside during a cold, snowy day in the Twin Cities, the question is how can she emerge from the crowded field. Yes, she has grit. But is she presidential?
In 2016, Vermont’s Independent Senator Bernie Sanders challenged eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. His outspoken promotion of socialism attracted a large following of young Americans tired of the usual bromides of professional politicians. Can he perform the same magic in 2020? Probably not. The presidential arena is filled with younger progressives ready to snatch his socialist credentials and positions. At 77 Sanders is too old and his bid should be sidelined.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has been considered a serious presidential possibility for several years. A former Harvard University professor, she is considered a leading progressive voice in the Democratic Party. But she brings no apparent administrative experience to her campaign and her misstep claiming Native American heritage has dogged her campaign to date. Her response to questions about her ethnic background backfired and demonstrated her tendency to rise to the bait when confronted with the often personal attacks she will face during the campaign. We already have a president with such a weakness. Warren enjoys name recognition but is light on necessary credentials to lead America.
Among those who also considered potential candidates is Joe Biden. The onetime Delaware Senator has decades of congressional experience and served eight years as Barack Obama’s Vice President. His extensive knowledge of the inner workings in both Congress and the White House makes him far and away the most qualified of those prominently and frequently cited as potential candidates.
Although he has yet to declare his intentions, he has made no secret of his interest in the job. He would be a moderate voice among democrats. However, age and a Democratic shift toward progressive policies and presidential aspirants may eclipse any hopes that he will carry the party’s banner in 2020.
To date it’s disappointing to view the presidential contenders and see virtually no one with a strong executive background. No one with extensive military or diplomatic knowledge. Too few with proven legislative records of promoting bold and sometimes controversial yet necessary policy initiatives.
We are two years away from the start of the next presidential term. I hope someone emerges from either the Democrats or Republicans who can get America moving in the right direction again.
Someone who has run a private-sector enterprise successfully for a minimum of five years and served at least two-terms as a state governor with a proven record of accomplishment.
I’m still waiting.