Because the Presidency is Pretty Straightforward

In this frame grab from video, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio takes a sip of water during his Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo)
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I mentioned this McKay Coppins Buzzfeed piece in my previous post. But it’s worth revisiting, even as I add the caveat that no single reported piece can be treated as definitive. Having said that, it is hard to imagine anything beside child molester or pathological liar that could be a more devastating critique of a presidential contender, especially one that is widely held among those close to Marco Rubio.

The key line is: “Though generally seen as cool-headed and quick on his feet, Rubio is known to friends, allies, and advisers for a kind of incurable anxiousness — and an occasional propensity to panic in moments of crisis, both real and imagined.”

Now plenty of us get anxious. But there’s probably nothing you want less in a President than a propensity to panic in moments of crisis. It’s almost terrifying. Now I’m panicking.

I mean, a monster to staff? Not great. But that’s inside baseball for most voters and people tend to care about results.

Not serious about policy? Again, not great. But at least in political terms, it didn’t hurt George W. Bush. And a clear set of values and a willingness to evaluate questions in an empirical manner is probably more important than being a policy wonk. Presidents have plenty of advisors who can verse them on the pros and cons.

Even with honesty, it’s certainly bad if the President is a liar. But habitual liars tend not to get that far politically (yes, I’m serious about this) because they have a hard time building coalitions of stakeholders to advance politically. In the most cynical terms, successful politicians know what fibs they can get away with and which can be fatal.

For all that, not to put too fine a point on it but the presidency is a fairly unpredictable enterprise with a more or less nonstop stream of crises, some trivial, some potentially world shattering. Coolness under pressure and the ability to make decisions are the two critical attributes in any leader or executive and likely the two most important for a President. What’s the 3 AM red phone line call for Rubio? Even better is the reference to panicking over crises “both real and imagined.”

Again, not Obama.

The current Republican rap on Obama is basically that he doesn’t panic enough. Too cool and collected, when the world is burning around him. Whatever you make of that, Obama isn’t a panicker. No drama. Again, you cannot put that much stock in any single article. But the charge is about the most devastating one that can be leveled at a candidate for President. And recent debate evidence tends to confirm the diagnosis.

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