David Broder: What Presidents Must Know

Posted by Kendall Harmon

But I have found myself thinking about something I was told many years ago by Bill Bradley, the former senator from New Jersey, before he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination against Al Gore in 2000. Bradley was explaining one day in his office why he had taken himself out of consideration as a running mate for Michael Dukakis in 1988. You shouldn't run for vice president, he said, unless you thought you were ready to be president, and he didn't consider himself ready.

Why not? He said he thought a president of the United States needed to know several other major countries "from the inside," not just at a briefing-book level but from firsthand observation, so you understand the pressures on their leaders when you sit down to negotiate with them. Bradley had begun such studies in the Soviet Union, Japan, Germany and Mexico, he said, but had more to do in all four places, and China beckoned.

Then, he said, a president should know the leadership elites in this country -- not just in politics but in business, the professions, academia, labor -- well enough that he would know where to go to staff his administration. And, he said, you needed to know the policy community well enough to be able to navigate for useful advice.

I thought then -- and I still believe -- that that was as insightful a description of the desirable background for a president as I had ever heard. Bradley turned out to have his shortcomings as a campaigner, but his prescription for a president still seems right.

When all the fun and games are finished, Americans will be choosing a president for a dangerous time in a world that has more shocks to administer. I hope that some of the folks in Iowa and New Hampshire are thinking about that.

Read the whole piece.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsUS Presidential Election 2008

Posted December 30, 2007 at 4:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Kendall Harmon wrote:

In the local paper here in Charleston, South Carolina, today, this column runs with the headline “Perilous times call for a tested President.”

December 30, 5:19 pm | [comment link]
2. Tom Roberts wrote:

The local ABQ paper ran something by EJ Dionne that said basically the same thing. I find it refreshing this election cycle that some of the MSM at least are trying to focus on big issues that virtually none of the candidates are addressing, or if they are, they are perenially bungling their lines (Huckabee’s line about how Pakistan ought to secure their eastern borders [which I’m sure the Indian government took about 30 minutes to parse for any anti Indian sentiments] is just one of many examples). The sad thing is that this seriousness came at the price of Bhutto’s death.

December 30, 5:33 pm | [comment link]
3. BCP28 wrote:

If this is your standard, then Bill Richardson or maybe Biden and McCain are your best choices.  I suppose Mrs. Clinton might also suffice.


December 30, 5:38 pm | [comment link]
4. Jim the Puritan wrote:

Then, he said, a president should know the leadership elites in this country—not just in politics but in business, the professions, academia, labor—well enough that he would know where to go to staff his administration.

This, in my opinion, is a major reason why this country is in such trouble.  It is run by small “elites” that relate to each other but are increasingly out of touch with reality.

December 30, 6:46 pm | [comment link]
5. Courageous Grace wrote:

I stand by my opinion (expressed somewhat jokingly to my mother earlier today) that we need a president who will kick butt and take names.  But that’s just me…lol

December 30, 9:33 pm | [comment link]
6. Philip Snyder wrote:

I think it was Jerry Pournelle, the science fiction author, who observed that the qualifications to get the job of President are not the same as the qualificaitons to do the job of President.  The same can be said of almost any elected office - including Bishop in TECUSA.

Phil Snyder

December 30, 10:23 pm | [comment link]
7. Bob from Boone wrote:

Border’s argument is why I am supporting Richardson. He has more foreign policy experience than any other candidate, and it is a quality sorely needed in our next president.

December 31, 12:18 am | [comment link]
8. Barry wrote:

#7…how about Ron Paul?

December 31, 1:31 am | [comment link]
9. CharlesB wrote:

Seems like George Washington and Harry Truman did a pretty fair job, and neither one would be ideally qualified per the criteria mentioned above.  I think the most important trait, exhibited by both Washington and Truman, both who served in very difficult times, is a strong and character guided by right principles and moral integrity.  These traits point to McCain, Huckabee or Romney.  IMHO, Obama or Clinton would be the opposite extreme.

December 31, 8:06 am | [comment link]
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