In a piece at The Boston Globe yesterday, former New Hampshire Senator John E. Sununu penned a rather rambling piece in which he equated the potential 2012 candidacies of Governor Palin and Donald Trump. Both, according to Sununu, are “captivated by the idea of being president”, whatever that means. Sununu then, incredibly, claims that Governor Palin (and Trump, of course) ”are exactly the type of political figure our country’s founders were worried about.” Sununu’s justification for this claptrap?
The framers were troubled — some might say preoccupied — with the potential dangers of ambition, factions, and concentrated power. They were concerned to a point about ideology, predominantly the question of how much power to vest within the newly constituted federal government in relation to that of the states.
While admittedly it’s not easy to decipher Sununu’s obtuse reasoning, it appears as though he’s suggesting that the founders were worried about leaders who possessed ambition and ideology. I guess, according to Sununu, the founders were opposed to America being led by ambitious leaders with, gasp, ideas. This sounds exceedingly silly, I know, but later in his piece Sununu confirms my interpretation:
With regard to holding office, few were as disdainful as Thomas Jefferson, who wrote to his adversary John Adams, “I have no ambition to govern men; it is a painful and thankless office.’’ To many, this reluctance made him even more desirable as a leader, and finds a faint echo today in the ambivalence of prospective candidates like Chris Christie, John Thune, and Mitch Daniels.
Got it. What America really needs in this era of fundamental transformation, fiscal meltdown, and a self-inflicted energy crisis is reluctant, non-ideological, and ambivalent leadership. Er…I can certainly understand why this guy was voted out after one-term in office. I digress. John Hayward, in an excellent piece at Human Events, takes Sununu to task for this bizarre theory of leadership:
Here’s the problem: no one will win a modern Presidential race unless they want the Oval Office like Gollum wants the One Ring. The 2012 race will be an incredible test of endurance and character. No matter how affable and inoffensive they might seem today, any candidate who runs against Barack Obama will be mercilessly savaged. The media will sit up nights preparing ambush interviews, and magnify the smallest gaffe into evidence of greed, stupidity, or psychosis. Every moment of the candidate’s history will be scrutinized, every element of their personal lives will be weaponized, and every member of their families will be a target.
In 2008, swarms of reporters went crawling through dumpsters in Alaska, while aliens who chose to make first contact by landing a saucer in Chicago would have found not a single reporter to cover the event. It’s going to be like that again in 2012, but even more so. The candidate will spend the first round of media appearances appealing a summary conviction of racism, hypocrisy, and slavish obedience to the Evil Rich.
No humble Cincinnatus is going to be able to weather that kind of storm, or generate the non-stop energy and flawless attention to detail required of today’s high-profile candidates. Even if public disgust with Obama is so powerful that a modest candidate could waltz into the Oval Office, they wouldn’t be able to fight the tough battles that lie ahead. The man or woman who answers America’s call in this desperate hour will be at war with the system itself. A terrible network of gears, covered with decades of rusted ideology, waits to devour them.
Turning up our noses at Republicans who display a hearty appetite for the White House grants a tremendous advantage to the Democrats, who can disguise the ambition of their candidates behind a veil of sanctimony. People like Barack Obama are never portrayed as being hungry for power. Instead, they care so damn much for “working Americans” and the downtrodden that their full-contact, no-holds-barred battle for power is transformed into a holy crusade. They enjoy a presumption of selfless nobility that will never be extended to any Republican… even one who shows up in Washington lugging a bag lunch and a dirty plow.
Read Hayward’s entire piece here. It’s excellent. A couple more points. First, I would note that there are no similarities between Donald Trump and Governor Palin that I can see, and Sununu’s attempt to equate the two is a transparent attempt to marginalize Governor Palin. Second, as noted above, Sununu claims the Founding Fathers would be worried about Governor Palin. This statement is particularly curious when you consider Governor Palin is the only potential candidate who consistently argues for a return to the constitutional principles espoused by the Founding Fathers. I wonder what Senator Sununu, or his father, believes the founders would think about a governor of a state, say Massachusetts, who mandates that residents of his state buy a health insurance policy. Would the founders be worried about that sort of candidate? Just asking.
(h/t Josh Painter)