Tuesday, August 03, 2010

What I want in a political leader

I want a leader who will be honest with the public about the tough situation we're in and the possible solutions. I want someone who won't try to sell that we can have everything we want with no pain. And when there are tough choices to be made, I want someone who can make those tough choices and then get them through a legislature while letting the public know that the sacrifices will be shared as well as the benefits. That is one reason why people who are coming out of legislatures usually don't have the appeal for me that someone coming from an executive job would. Most in Congress seem to be looking for some way to vote for something before they vote against it or to pass their little pet bill without a wider look at the ramifications for the entire economy and polity of that bill.

The Republicans have a deep bench of attractive governors out there who may be attractive presidential candidates, maybe not for 2012, but for 2016. Rich Lowry writes about two of the most attractive governors, Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Chris Christie of New Jersey. His metaphor for the type of leader he wants are that they need to be "adults."
If you could boil down the public's lament with Washington, it might be: "What happened to the adults?"

Not the adults of the Clark Clifford variety, the Washington fixtures who alternate between serving administrations and commenting on them sagely for PBS. But political leaders who make tough choices, take on problems directly and combine principle with pragmatism in a manner consistent with true statesmanship.

President Obama promised to be this kind of leader. He has instead proved -- with a few exceptions -- to be the servant of a limited political faction. He has exacerbated the nation's fiscal crisis without dealing effectively with its economic crisis, while piling on far-reaching legislation of dubious merit. His supporters still lament that Washington is "broken."

The sweep of Obama's ambition has necessarily forced congressional Republicans into a perpetual posture of "no," but they are reluctant to outline their own agenda of "yes." Out in the country, a populist movement of great moment and promise wants to pull the country back to its constitutional moorings. Its favored candidates, though, are often shaky vessels, the likes of Rand Paul in Kentucky and Sharron Angle in Nevada, who are always one gaffe away from self-immolation.
Both Daniels and Christie are demonstrating that it is possible to make tough choices to balance their state budgets. Since Christie has only been in office for six months, Daniels has the advantage in demonstrating that his common-sense conservative governing works.
When it comes to demeanor, Mitch Daniels is to Chris Christie what Miss Indiana is to Snooki. In his quieter way, and in less dire circumstances, the tightfisted two-term governor has slimmed down and improved his state's public sector. He inherited a $200 million deficit in 2004, which he turned into a $1.3 billion surplus just in time to ride out the recession. He's reformed government services and rallied his administration around one simple, common-sense goal: "We will do everything we can to raise the net disposable income of individual Hoosiers."

Both Christie and Daniels are happy (or, in the case of the latter, pleasant) warriors. They both are distinctive politicians, not what a political consultant would cook up in his laboratory. (Christie has too much girth and Daniels too little hair.) They both feel the weight of responsibility as the chief executives of their states in a way that hyperbolic congressmen and commentators don't. They prove that Republicans can govern, that budgets can be tamed, and that politics can work, so long as serious men and women put their shoulders to the wheel.

In short, they are adults. Their like can't gain control of Washington soon enough.
Ditto, ditto. These are both guys I could go to the mattresses for. They also have provided a model for other governors to follow. While other states can look to California, Michigan, or New York as models of what not to do. Now there are other models of what works. In our laboratories of democracy, governors like Daniels and Christie are proving that they are master scientists.