Category Archives: 2020 Presidential

Look — there’s Alfred E. Neuman at the Russell House!

Russell House magazine rack

Yeah, I know this doesn’t prove anything.

It’s just that, after all that stuff about how younger people can’t be expected to know who Alfred E. Neuman was, I thought I’d take note of this.Alfred E

I was doing my afternoon walk across the virtually deserted USC campus today, and cut through the Barnes & Noble (and no, I still can’t get over the fact that the Russell House bookstore is now a Barnes & Noble) in the Russell House because I like to get that short blast of air conditioning (and also because I love me some Barnes & Noble).

And as I passed by the magazine rack, there he was. Almost as big as life as the Swimsuit Issue. (Or Swimsuit Issues, plural. When did there start to be more than one of them?)

Does this mean kids automatically know who Alfred E. is? No. But at least it means the kids who pass through here have had the opportunity.

The weird thing about this to me is that magazine racks still exist. Who reads magazines? I know people still read comic books, and their big brothers graphic novels, but that’s kind of a cult commodity. Like vinyl records among some serious audiophiles.closer

They just seem like such big, slick, absurdly-expensive-to-produce dinosaurs.

What’s in a magazine that I can’t get in an even more attractive and interactive format, and more immediately, on my iPad? I don’t read the paper versions of newspapers, and I’m a lifelong newspaperman. Magazines just lie there and don’t do anything. You can’t even click on links. So why would I read a magazine?

Why would anyone?

 

OK, I have now heard the word ‘progressive’ used too many times. You can stop saying it now. Please…

argument

For many years, the word was “conservative.” It was said so often — generally by a politician seeking to ingratiate himself with people who don’t think much about words but for some reason love clinging to that one — that it was like fingernails on a blackboard for me.

It still is. It’s still hugely popular here in S.C., waved as a proud banner by people who have no business associating with the word — people who identify with Donald Trump or the Tea Party or the Freedom Caucus or some other phenomenon that bears no relationship to the sobriety of actual conservatism.

It gets used as a password. It is brandished to say, “I am an acceptable person, like you.” It performs a function like that of the word “Christian” in the early 19th century — referring not to a set of religious beliefs, but to a state of being a normal, acceptable person of reasonable breeding and education, someone who knows the ropes of life in Western civilization. Patrick O’Brian used it to mild comic effect in his Aubrey/Maturin novels. The sailors in that world would lament the fact that the perpetual landlubber Stephen Maturin never could learn to board a ship “like a Christian,” which was to say, like a normal person of basic good sense. He was always contriving to fall into the water instead.

Anyway, “conservative” gets used kind of like that, only it’s more obnoxious.

I’ve tried dealing with it with humor, but sometimes it’s just not funny. Sometimes it’s downright nasty, used to try to separate the world into people who are acceptable and those who are not. In any case, it continues to occupy a lofty position on my list of peeves.

And now, another word is laboring mightily to catch up to it: “progressive.”

Again, it’s a slippery word. It’s meant many things, sometimes apparently contradictory things. It’s been attached to muckraking authors in the early 1900s, and Teddy Roosevelt. I also associate it with a sort of early- to mid-20th century form of pro-business boosterism, connecting capitalism with human “progress.” Then, 30 years or so ago (did it predate Reagan, or follow him?), it became something liberals called themselves because the rise of “conservative” came with a denigration of the otherwise innocent word “liberal.”

At that point, it seemed to be trying to suggest a particularly mild, moderate, nonthreatening form of liberalism, as in, “Don’t be scared! We’re not liberals; we’re just progressive!”

Now, it’s gone in another direction. Now, it’s used to refer to people for whom liberalism — certainly the beleaguered postwar liberal consensus — is not enough. It attaches to socialists, and socialist wannabes. It suggests a fierce, uncompromising leftward march. (And ominously, it suggests the element in the Democratic Party that seems determined to blow the nation’s chance of turning Donald Trump out of office in 2020.)

And it’s reached its saturation point with me.

This happened suddenly, while I was listening to a podcast while on a walk yesterday.

I was listening to an episode of “The Argument,” the NYT podcast featuring opinion writers David Leonhardt, Ross Douthat and Michelle Goldberg. It was one that I’d missed a couple of weeks ago, featuring an extensive conversation with Pete Buttigieg.Buttigieg

I recommend you go listen to it. I learned some things about Buttigieg and formed a fuller opinion of him. In short, here’s what I’ve decided thus far: I like the guy, but when he talks specifics about policy, I disagree with him on one thing after another. (Which is bad from his point of view, since he likes to project himself as a substance-over-style guy.) And not just the wacky stuff, like expanding the Supreme Court, or (the horror!) the size of the U.S. House of Representatives. (Did I hear that last one right? I’m finding proposals to do that on Google, but not associated with Mayor Pete…)

Also — and I’d heard this before about him — while he talks a good game on getting past the Culture War, time and again it sounds like he believes the way to end the conflict is for everyone to accept that his side has won the arguments. He does this on a number of issues, but one that sticks in my mind is his bland assertion that the nation, and even folks in Alabama, are closer to his doctrinaire pro-choice position on abortion than they are to the recent anti-abortion measure passed there.

That one sticks in my mind because just that morning before hearing this, I had conincidentally read something by one of the hosts of The Argument, David Leonhardt. It was about the fact that polls show we are as divided as ever on abortion, that “Public opinion isn’t where either side wants it to be.” Look at the numbers. Clearly, no one — neither Buttigieg nor someone with a diametrically opposed position on the issue — should be congratulating himself or herself on having won that national argument.

But let’s get back to my point. Time and again, whenever the mayor wanted to speak of ideas or proposals or attitudes or people that were agreeable to him, he used that word: “progressive.” It seemed to sum up rightness and goodness for him, very neatly.

And at some point — I don’t know know exactly how many times he’d said it when this happened — I reached my saturation point. I’d heard the word too many times.

So, everyone do me a favor: If you want to propose an idea, argue the idea on its merits. Tell me why it’s a good idea. Telling me it’s “progressive” or “conservative” gets you nowhere with me, and in fact will dig you down into a hole you’ll have to work to climb out of.

Words should encourage people to think. But these two are used too often now as a substitute for thought, as a signal to members of a tribe that they shouldn’t bother straining their brains, because this idea has the official seal of approval.

I just thought I’d let y’all know where I am on this now…

How many of these candidates do you recognize?

candidates

The above image was included in an email I received today, showing most (but not quite all) of the Democrats running for president.

I gave myself a test: How many could I name, without thinking about it, just from these mug shots?

I didn’t do too great. I got 12, I think. I might even be wrong on one or two. Of course, I’m at a disadvantage because I follow the campaign through the written word, and to a lesser extent by radio and podcasts. So I’ve read or heard a good deal about people I’ve seldom if ever seen pictured.

At the same time, if I don’t recognize you, you might have a bit of an uphill climb.

Here are the ones I could name, with question marks next to ones I wasn’t 100 percent sure of:

  1. Bernie Sanders (or maybe Larry David; it’s hard to tell)
  2. Kamala Harris
  3. Elizabeth Warren
  4. Cory Booker
  5. Amy Klobuchar?
  6. Kirsten Gillibrand
  7. Beto O’Rourke
  8. Tulsi Gabbard?
  9. Seth Moulton
  10. Pete Buttigieg
  11. Andrew Yang?
  12. Joe Biden

On Gary Cooper, Tony Soprano and Alfred E. Neuman

The other day I wrote something for a client that said in part, “Think Gary Cooper: Be the strong, silent type – but polite.”

Never mind what it was about, except that it was in the context of an analogy about making movies. So it made sense.

But then one of my colleagues asked whether young people would know who Gary Cooper was, and what he was known for. So I polled a millennial or two with disappointing results. At one point, I tried explaining his character in “High Noon,” and my respondent said, “Sounds kind of like my grandpa.”

Exactly. So we just cut out the reference. It was impossible to insert a later pop culture figure, because it wouldn’t mean the same thing. We don’t have “strong, silent types” any more; men are a bunch of whiny babies. Which is essentially what Tony Soprano was on about in the clip above: He was expressing his contempt for modern men like himself, whining to therapists — although you’ll notice the therapist is careful not to tell him that that’s what he’s doing, because she’s afraid of him. You can be a scary guy and still a whiny baby.

And now we’ve got the kid with the funny name dismissing the fact that Trump compared him to Alfred E. Neuman by saying, “I’ll be honest; I had to Google that… I guess it’s a generational thing. I didn’t get the reference….”Neuman

No, Pete. It’s not a “generational thing. ” It’s a basic American popular culture thing. Saying you didn’t know who that was doesn’t make you hipper than the old guy in the White House. It means maybe you missed something, something the average idiot knows, when you were learning how to speak Norwegian just so you could read a novel in the original language.

Knowing who the “What, me worry?” kid is is simply a matter of pop cultural literacy.

The Post reported on the exchange by saying Trump was “comparing him to a caricature created decades before Pete Buttigieg was even born.” Really? Well, where does that leave such characters as Huck Finn, or Romeo and Juliet, or Jay Gatsby?

OK, maybe that’s unfair; those being such major cultural touchstones. How about this: Buttigieg knowing who Alfred E. Neuman is would be… like me knowing who Will Rogers was. Or Al Jolson. Or George M. Cohan. They were all dead before I was born, but I’m familiar with the roles they played in the popular imagination. By contrast, I believe MAD is still being published, although admittedly I haven’t read one in decades.

In Buttigieg’s place, I would have said, “I’m shocked at the suggestion that Trump has actually read something, even  if it’s only MAD magazine…” That would have been more to the point.

These kids today and their temporal chauvinism…

Where have you gone, Gary Cooper? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you...

Where have you gone, Gary Cooper? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you…

David Brooks is exactly right today about Joe

his Joeness

In today’s column, David Brooks gets Joe Biden exactly right.

The headline is “Your Average American Joe.

The subhed is, “Biden is not an individualist.”

Absolutely. And amen to that.

An excerpt from the end:

… The character issue will play out in all sorts of subterranean and powerful ways this election. We have lost our love for ourselves as a people, a faith in our basic goodness, and this loss of faith has been a shock. A lot of voters want to raise their children in an atmosphere marked by decency and compassion, not narcissistic savagery. Values are central to this race.

Here is what is subtly different about Biden. He’s not an individualist. He is a member. He belongs to his family; his hometown, Scranton; his Democratic Party; his Senate; his nation, and is inexplicable without those roots. He used the word “we” 16 times in his short video announcing his candidacy.

Some candidates will run promising transformational change. Biden offers a restoration of the values that bind us as a collective.

Yes! I could have done without the word “collective;” as it brings to mind the AOCs and Bernies of the world, and that’s definitely not who Joe is. I’d have gone with “a community,” or “a people.”

But otherwise, very nicely done.

We communitarian types may not have a party, but we have a candidate…

I support every 2020 hopeful you can find in this photo

Obama_and_Biden_await_updates_on_bin_Laden

Yesterday, Bud said “This year there is an embarrassment of riches among the Dems,” just before listing 18 people running for president.

I’m glad he’s pumped about it, and that’s certainly a bunch of names, but the fact is that until Joe Biden entered his name today, there wasn’t anyone who was even close to being ready for the job.

There is no one else who has been anywhere near the presidency or who has held any kind of position that prepares one for the presidency the way 36 years in the U.S. Senate and eight years at the right hand of our nation’s last sane, decent president do.

When I got to thinking about how to graphically demonstrated that fact, I thought of this picture.

I’m not saying Joe Biden went out and got bin Laden personally. I’m not saying he’s doing anything special in that picture. I’m saying that he happens to be in the room because of who he is, because of what he’s done, because of his experience and personal leadership qualities. His life experiences brought him to that room at that moment.

And those experiences — combined with his basic human decency, which is a quality more needed at this moment than at any other in our history — make him qualified to be president of the United States.

He’s not qualified because he’s in the picture. He’s qualified because of who he had to be and what he had to do to get there.

And yeah, Hillary Clinton was qualified, too. She was a pretty good secretary of state — not to mention the eight years she spent at the center of presidential power before that.

But she was a terrible candidate, badly lacking in the ability to relate to voters.

I think Joe will be different in that regard, if he’s not brought down by a million cuts by all the Lilliputians out there.

He’s a natural campaigner. And a decent human being.

But most of all, he’s the only person who is even remotely qualified. And the best person to replace the least qualified, least decent president in our history, by far.

Aw, lay off the kid with the funny name, will ya?

The State decided to run an “opinion” page today, which served the purpose of bringing to my attention this Doyle McManus column that The Los Angeles Times ran a week ago. An excerpt:

Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., could turn out to be the biggest, boldest surprise of the 2020 presidential campaign. But he’d better come up with some policies first.

Buttigieg was virtually unknown outside his home state until two months ago, but he has surged into third place in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire

There’s only one element missing from Buttigieg’s potentially meteoric campaign: positions on major issues.

That’s not an accident. He says voters aren’t looking for policy papers. They care about values and character, and knowing that a candidate cares about their lives….

Aw, lay off the kid, why don’t you?

I hold no particularly brief for Buttigieg. I’ve heard him on the radio and have found him surprisingly impressive, and I’m not at all shocked that he has risen in the polls in spite of his absurd youth and lack of relevant experience.

These pins are being offered by Annie Fogarty, @FoGaGarty.

These pins are being offered by one Annie Fogarty, @FoGaGarty.

But y’all know my candidate is announcing tomorrow.

Still, I don’t like to see anyone taken to task for failing to make specific campaign promises.

As I’ve said many times before, I don’t want candidates making campaign promises, any more than they absolutely have to to get elected — and unfortunately they do have to, since most voters aren’t like me. (The Smith/Norrell campaign had some policy proposals out there before I joined. I did not push to elaborate upon them.) No one knows what kinds of situations a candidate might face in office if elected. I prefer that they keep their options open so they are free to choose the wisest course under those unpredictable circumstances.

My favorite example of why campaign promises are a terrible idea is “Read my lips: no new taxes.” Once in office, Bush found himself in a situation in which he found it advisable to compromise with Congress on a budget deal that in fact raised some existing taxes. That sank him politically. But acquiescing in a tax increase wasn’t his sin. His sin was in making the stupid promise to begin with.

So how do I choose a candidate? By the quality of his or her character, of course — at this moment in our history, considering what it in the White House, being a decent, honest human being is more important than ever.

Just as important is what we’ve seen that person do in the past, preferably in public service. It’s not just that such experience helps you know how to do the job. It’s that, if you have a significant record of such service, it means we the people have had the opportunity to observe how you have performed, and decide whether what we have seen inspires confidence that you will deal appropriately with future challenges in office, whatever they may be.

So to the extent Buttigieg has a problem in my book, it’s that lack of experience — in office, and in life. He’s an attractive candidate, but would be more so with more of a track record.

Just don’t get on his case for not laying out a bunch of specific policy proposals. To the extent that there’s a problem with him, that’s not it.

Dear Democrats: Stop talking about ways to rig the system; give me reasons to vote for you

stupid questions

Joe Biden has the right idea, staying out of it so far. At least he hasn’t had to answer the Stupid Question of the Day. Not that he doesn’t get answered questions, and not that they aren’t awkward. But at least he doesn’t yet have to pick a position on no-win litmus-test questions.

At least, he didn’t in this story.

I was thinking that when I saw the above array of candidates, and noticed that Joe wasn’t pictured, despite being, you know, the front-runner in the polls. And then I looked at what the story was about and realized he lucked out there. The headline and a link: Kill the electoral college? Stack the Supreme Court? Frustrated Democrats push ideas for rewiring U.S. politics.

I have one overall answer to the questions being posed by and to Democrats: Stop trying to change the rules. If you can’t come up with a candidate who can beat Trump — under the present rules — then maybe you deserve to lose. Or maybe the country is so far gone that it can’t be saved anyway.

But just to show I don’t dodge the tough (but stupid) questions, here are my answers:

  1. Do you support eliminating the electoral college in favor of the popular vote? No. But if you want to talk seriously about returning the college to the way Hamilton et al. envisioned it — you might get me on board.
  2. Should Democrats eliminate the Senate filibuster the next time they control of Congress? Eliminate it how? I need details. I think it’s ridiculous to have to get 60 votes to pass anything, but I’m sentimental enough about “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” to hesitate at eliminating a minority’s way of being heard.
  3. Would you support adding justices to ‘pack’ the Supreme Court? No. And please, whether you’re on the left or the right, stop maneuvering to impose your political will on a body that is supposed to be immune to such — that’s its role.
  4. Would you support term limits for Supreme Court justices? Absolutely not. The court must remain independent, and lifetime appointment is the best mechanism I can think of for protecting it from the predations of the political branches.
  5. Should citizens be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18? No. But if you’d like to make the age 28 — or maybe 38 — I might be tempted to make a deal with you.
  6. Should Election Day be a national holiday? I don’t care. Although it seems to me that federal workers get enough days off already. Populists will label me a blue meanie for this, but I’m not convinced that people who really want to vote can’t do so currently. Maybe you can present enough evidence to the contrary to change my mind.
  7. Should Washington, D.C., be granted statehood? No. Let me explain the concept behind the District of Columbia, as I understand it: The United States is a union of, you know, states. It’s a good idea for the capital of the country to be on neutral ground. That neutral ground is the District of Columbia. To have another state that consists entirely of the nation’s capital would be weird, and I suspect unwise, on a number of levels. It would be awkward. The other states would likely make fun of it.
  8. Should Puerto Rico be granted statehood? I’m ambivalent. Needs study.
  9. Should the voting age be lowered from 18 to 16? You’re joking, right? See my answer to No. 5. Seems to me the electorate hasn’t been exhibiting a great deal of maturity lately, and this would be the opposite of a good way to fix the problem.
  10. Should all formerly incarcerated people be granted the right to vote? Another one on which I need more info. Certainly in the abstract I agree with the idea that once someone has paid his debt to society, etc… And I’m certainly concerned about how black men, for instance, have historically been over-represented in our prisons. But I need to know more about which felons are currently denied a pathway to the franchise, and why. Maybe some of y’all can enlighten me. If it’s just a matter of certain people not wanting those people to vote (which would seem to be the reason why we’re hearing about this), then I’m with you on making the change.

OK, so not all the questions are stupid. But most of them are. And even the ones that aren’t stupid tend to play stupid in our politics today, with answers being based on the passions of one crowd or another and not on reason.

Perhaps unfairly, I’m lumping in these questions with questions like “Do you want to abolish ICE?,” which I got asked during the campaign even though it had NOTHING to do with being governor, and everything to do with trying to back a candidate into a corner.

Maybe it’s an unfair association. But then again, since that pretended to be about an actual issue, maybe these questions are worse.

Anyway, tell me what sort of president you would be. Talk to me about some real issue — health care, or the real biggie, international relations. Or cite what it is in your background that qualifies you and make me trust you. Don’t bore me with talk about re-rigging elections themselves to try to give this or that group a greater advantage. Just play the game straight, please…

Has South Carolina become for Dems what it was for GOP?

The main thing about the SC primary, of course, is that the right candidate runs and wins it. Hint, hint...

The main thing about the SC primary, of course, is that the right candidate runs and wins it. Hint, hint…

I mean in terms of the presidential primary process.

Starting in 1988, and ending in 2012, SC was in many ways the contest Republicans had to win. It was key to both of the Bushes especially. SC Republicans went around saying things like “We choose presidents,” yadda yadda. They did this because they picked mainstream, establishment candidates with appeal beyond the base, and our early primary helped tip the selection process in their favor.

Then, in 2012, it all fell apart with the rejection of Mitt Romney in favor of the fire-breathing Newt Gingrich. And we know what happened in 2016 — yeah, SC Repubs picked the eventual winner, but the whole national electorate had to go stark, raving mad in order for that to happen. At the time of the SC primary, it looked like Palmetto State Republicans were chasing off in another crazy direction alone, as with Gingrich. If decisions were still made in smoke-filled rooms by a party elite, SC would have lost its early primary by now. (In saner times, SC Republicans would have salvaged the hopes of the hapless Jeb! They had never let a Bush down before.)

Meanwhile, over the last few elections, this red state has gotten more important to Democrats. I was impressed by how many Dems we saw trooping though our editorial boardroom in 2003-4 (my own favorite being, famously or infamously, Joe Lieberman). And while he didn’t get the nomination, the execrable John Edwards’ win here helped get him the second spot on the ticket.

SC was very helpful in helping Barack Obama get the momentum he needed to pull ahead in 2008. The SC Democratic primary wasn’t really a contest in 2016, with Hillary Clinton winning hands-down as expected.

But this year, you’d think the Democratic nomination was going to be awarded right here, on the spot, next Feb. 29. They’ve been trooping through here in battalions, for months. (You’ve seen me complain about that distraction, and media fascination with 2020 over 2018, back during the campaign last fall.)

This is an interesting phenomenon. There have always been some aspects of the Democratic contest in this blood-red state that caused folks to pay attention nationally. That was largely because there are essentially no black voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, so Dems who won in those places would be told, “Let’s just wait and see how you do in South Carolina.”

But this thing we’re seeing now exceeds what we’ve seen in the past. With the huge field, and particularly with some of the chief contestants in it being African-American, we are looming large.

I’ve had a lot of occasions to note this; we all have. What kicked this off today was Vanity Fair’s “The Hive” making this observation about Bernie Sanders:

None of Sanders’s opponents are scared by those numbers, however. Because what Sanders was less good at in 2016 was spending his large pile of money to win votes. Particularly the crucial Democratic primary votes of women and African-Americans. Especially in the key state of South Carolina. And three years after being crushed by 47 points there by Hillary Clinton, with an even more challenging field of primary rivals shaping up, Sanders is showing little sign that he’s going to get it right this time around. True, in January he spoke in South Carolina on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Sanders has also taken every opportunityto blast President Donald Trump as a racist. Yet Sanders remains remarkably awkward on the subject…

The piece ends with a lengthy quote from our own Bakari Sellers.

I don’t know why that particularly grabbed me. Something about Vanity Fair of all entities calling poor li’l ol’ us “the key state.” Anyway, you’ll be reading plenty more like that.

This is deeply ironic, of course — a state that hasn’t been in play in the general election being so important to Democrats. But it’s increasingly a thing, and it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out going forward.

In short, will this story have a happy ending (with Joe Biden deciding to run, winning in SC, and going on to win the White House), or not? That’s my perspective, anyway… :)

The stream of Dems who came through our editorial board room in 2004 was impressive. Since that was pre-blog, this is the only photo I have from that time. It was shot by a Dean fan when my assistant Sandy Brown and I were escorting the governor from the building after meeting with him...

The stream of Dems who came through our editorial board room in 2004 was impressive. Since that was pre-blog, this is the only photo I have from that time. It was shot by a Dean fan when my assistant Sandy Brown and I were escorting the governor from the building after meeting with him…

 

How about a graphic on who’s NOT running?

IMG_0013

It might be simpler.

Anyway, I thought y’all might be interested in seeing the interactive graphic The New York Times has published showing the Democrats, or sort-of Democrats, who are definitely or maybe or possibly running for president next year.

(And no, the image above is not interactive. It’s just a screenshot from my iPad, although it links to the real one. The interactive one is here.)

Apparently, there’s a heap of hubris out there. All sorts of folks think they’re qualified to be POTUS, many of them on the thinnest possible grounds.

Personally, I’ve decided we need a good rule of thumb for winnowing the field, and I have gone ahead and come up with one, The country can thank me later. Here it is: No one younger than I am should be allowed to be president. Sure, that young fella Obama did pretty well, but we just can’t take chances with our country. Too much is at stake.

So, let’s see… the following youngsters are disqualified among those who are running or are likely: Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Delaney, Gabbard, Gillibrand, Harris, Klobuchar, Yang, Bullock, Landrieu, McAuliffe, Merkley, O’Rourke.

I’ll figure out how to disqualify Sanders and Warren later. Hey, I didn’t claim my system was perfect. It’s just a starting point. I’ll continue to work on it until achieves my desired purpose of eliminating everyone other than Joe Biden.

(And no, Trump’s being older than I am doesn’t qualify him, since mentally and emotionally he’s about 3 years old.)

Anyway, as Bryan likes to say, your mileage may vary. :)

IMG_0014

 

 

George Will harshes Beto’s buzz

The skateboarding man-child.

The skateboarding man-child.

One of the more interesting things about this moment in our history is watching conservative pundits writing about Democrats who — they hope — would have the potential to beat Trump in 2020.

I’m not saying it’s remarkable that they want Trump gone. Any “conservative” who knows what the word means — and too few of those who use it constantly do — would want him out of office yesterday.

I mean it’s interesting because they bring attention to substantive potential candidates who actually might have a chance of winning a general election. Which these days is something of a novelty. Most of the writing about 2020 thus far has been about this week’s shiny new toy, rather than people someone other than a Democrat might vote for.

George Will has devoted several columns lately to elevating the profiles of people who he believes have what it takes. My mentioning Will will cause Doug and bud to bristle — a lot of what I write about does that. But as guys who appreciate numbers and hard facts more than my intuitive leaps, they should pay attention to Will. He’s just as avid a student of electoral stats as he is of the ones that apply to baseball.

His latest effort praises Sen. Amy Klobuchar. He breaks it down without sentimentality or wishful thinking:

Klobuchar is from a state contiguous with Iowa, whose caucuses might, or might not, be as big a deal in 2020 as they have been since Jimmy Carter’s 1976 success in them propelled him toward the presidency. (Early voting for California’s March 3 primary, in which probably 11 percent of delegates to the Democratic National Convention will be allocated, begins the day of Iowa’s caucuses, so some candidates might slight Iowa to court California.) Minnesota also borders Wisconsin, one of the three Rust Belt states (the others are Michigan and Pennsylvania) that Donald Trump took but that had voted Democratic in at least six consecutive presidential elections. She is from the Midwest, where Democrats need help in Michigan (Trump carried it by just 0.3 percent of the vote), Iowa (Trump by nine percentage points) and Ohio (Trump by nine points).

Minnesota has voted Democratic in 11 consecutive presidential elections (since it spurned George McGovern, from neighboring South Dakotain 1972). It has more electoral votes (10) than such swing states as New Hampshire (four), Iowa (six), Nevada (six) and Colorado (nine). But Minnesota’s blueness has been fading: Barack Obama defeatedMitt Romney by eight percentage points in 2012, but four years later, Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by just 1.5 points….

He also notes that she won election last year to a third term by a 24-point margin.

Of course, you know me — I prefer the pithy statement that touches on an essential truth. So my favorite line in the column was this: “In the Almanac of American Politics’ most recent (2015) vote rankings, she was the 27th-most-liberal senator, liberal enough to soothe other liberals without annoying everyone else.” Quite.

But if Will is a guilty pleasure for you, as he is for me, you might like his lede on this one, in which he dismisses one of the Democrats’ shiny new toys on the way to speaking of the more substantial Sen. Klobuchar:

Surely the silliest aspirant for the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination is already known: “ Beto ,” a. k.a. Robert Francis, O’Rourke is a skateboarding man-child whose fascination with himself caused him to live-stream a recent dental appointment for — open wide, please — teeth cleaning. His journal about his post-election recuperation-through-road-trip-to-nowhere-in-particular is so without wit or interesting observations that it merits Truman Capote’s description of “On the Road” author Jack Kerouac’s work: That’s not writing, that’s typing.

When Democrats are done flirting with such insipidity, their wandering attentions can flit to a contrastingly serious candidacy…

Ow. That is way harsh. But it hits home.

Anyway, after this, you should check out the respect Will lavishes upon John Delaney, Sherrod BrownCheri Bustos (not as a presidential hopeful, but as an example of what Dems should emulate if they want to win in general), and finally… drum roll… Elizabeth Warren.

Of Warren, he says “Democrats have found their Thatcher — if they dare.” You don’t get higher praise than that, coming from a conservative.

He’s been on something of a pragmatic roll lately…

You want to be president? Send me your resume, and maybe I’ll get back to you…

We may joke around, but here's one guy I can take seriously. Have the others drop off their resumes...

We may joke around, but here’s one guy I can take seriously. Have the others drop off their resumes…

One of the most maddening parts of my job working for James Smith was the way the SC press went gaga over anything having to do with anyone who might be running for president in 2020.

It was one of several irrelevant things that they often preferred to write about instead of what they should have been writing about. Others included campaign finance, ad strategy, and occasionally really off-the-wall stuff like Brett Kavanaugh or abolishing ICE. What should they have been writing about? Things that would help voters decide whether James or Henry was better qualified to be governor. Period. If you’re not providing that service to the voters, then the First Amendment has no purpose. And there was far too little of it.

(Oh, and don’t go, “Aha! Now that you’re on the other side you see how awful the press is!” Wrong. This kind of stuff had been driving me nuts for at least 30 years. It’s one of the reasons I made the transition from news to editorial back in 1994 — looking for a situation in which I could do journalism that meant something. And my alienation from the way political news is done increased enormously after that transition. Reading the paper every day as an opinion writer was painful. I’d start reading a story wanting to know one thing that would help me — and the readers — decide what to think of that particular news development, and not only would the information be missing, but I’d see no evidence that it had even occurred to the writer to ask the question.)

But maybe I’d better get to the point.

As I said, reporters got really excited about people who were looking at a 2020 run (clicks, baby!). And they’d want to interview us about them, apparently presuming we were excited, too. What do you think of this national celeb who’s coming to help your campaign? Yeah, right. They were coming to help themselves. There was only one 2020 poss about whom we cared — Joe Biden. Joe is a mentor of James’, and we very much looked forward to his coming to help us with a fund-raiser. Which he did, on Oct. 13. It was a big day, a highlight of the campaign for us — not because he might run in 2020, but because he was Joe Biden, and we loved the guy. Having him in our corner said things about us that we actually wanted said.

I’m going to get to the point, I promise…

Here it is…

We live in a country, in a world, in which the about only qualification needed to be a candidate for president (and therefore for any other office), and to be taken seriously by an alarming number of people, is to be presumptuous enough to put yourself out there. Well, that, and the ability to get some people to pay attention to you when you do.

Whom does this describe? Lots of people. To mention a few — Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, and the granddaddy of them all, Donald Trump. I could mention other Republicans, but then I’d have to stop and think, and it’s the Democrats who are irritating me the most right now, on account of my recent campaign experience.

Oh, and yes, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Those two will really get a rise out of people, because they’ve been taken seriously by so many people for so long now that their candidacies seem inevitable. And I’ll grant you that Sanders has at least demonstrated one necessary capability, as counterintuitive as the fact is: the ability to get actual people to actually vote for him.

So what are my criteria for taking someone seriously for the nation’s highest office? There are a number of them. Some are intangible, like the ability to inspire or simply being a person well matched to the moment — and some of you will say some of the above fit one of those criteria. But particularly this far out, when we are first deciding whom we might take seriously, the number-one thing I’m looking at is résumé. (Sorry, Doug, but it’s one of those posts.)

What I mean by that is, when I read this person’s bio in Wikipedia or some other bland, relatively impartial source, does it say to me, “Obviously, the next step for this person is to run for POTUS?”

Joe Biden’s does, of course. Over on the GOP side, John Kasich’s looks pretty good, which is one reason why I voted for him in 2016 — if not exactly awesome. (The biggest weakness in Kasich’s bio is lack of experience in foreign policy, which of course is the most important part of a president’s job.”)

Of course, résumé isn’t everything, and it’s possible to have a thin one and still be a pretty good president — JFK and Barack Obama come to mind. But those were extraordinary individuals of great intellect and almost superhuman oratorical skill, and they both fit into the “being a person well matched to the moment” category I mentioned earlier.

And some people with good resumes are simply not politically viable. I’d put Lindsey Graham in that category. On paper, he looks good — legislator, congressman, senator, longtime leader on issues ranging from national security to judicial confirmation, now chairman of Senate Judiciary. But he’d never get elected, and not just because he’s gone off his trolley on Trump.

Once, you generally had to have a great resume to be considered at all. Look at Lyndon “Master of the Senate” Johnson, or Nixon, or George H. W. Bush. Even Reagan, whom I regarded as a lightweight at the time, had been governor of our largest state. Eisenhower, of course, had no electoral experience, but his diplomatic chops holding the Allies together in Europe were pretty awesome, and of course there was that saving-the-world-from-Hitler thing. (Harry Truman was of course an anomaly. His resume was so unimpressive that he shocked everyone with how good a job he did.)

That has changed because of all sorts of things — the decline of parties as entities that certified qualifications and suitability, the rise of uncurated media, celebrity junk culture, other things. Now, if you can generate some buzz on social media, at least some people will take you seriously as potential leader of the Free World. Even if you lack any qualification for the job — in fact, even if everything that is known about you loudly proclaims that almost anyone in the country would be better suited than you. Doubt me on that? Do I have to bring up Trump’s name again?

So anyway, forgive me if I fail to get excited when the next “2020 hopeful” comes to town. Just ask them to drop off their resumes while they’re here, and if those look good, I’ll get back to them and assess them for other qualifying factors.

Sure, dismiss me for being even more presumptuous than the wannabes themselves. But you know what? While it’s far from perfect, I guarantee you that would lead to a better field of candidates than the current non-process for identifying this week’s “it” candidate….

We love the guy, and were happy to be seen with him...

We love the guy, and were happy to be seen with him…