Democrats Always Looking Over Their Partner’s Shoulder

Matthey Yglesias laments the absence of a second Al Gore candidacy (“The Case for Gore,”, 14 December 2007):

Gore hits the sweet spot of experience and vision in a way that nobody else can. What’s more, a person who’s in a position to be a viable presidential candidate and who believes the things Gore says he believes almost has a duty to run, a duty that I’m sad he hasn’t seen fit to take up.

In 2000 I think a lot of Democrats settled for Gore. He was, for me, the ideal candidate. A bland technocrat is exactly what I want in a president. A book that nags at me constantly is Mismanaging America: The Rise of the Anti-Analytic Presidency by Walter Williams. One blurb of the book reads,

An American president must be a master of two arts: politics and management. According to Willians, no president since Dwight Eisenhower has been a top manager.

I think this is pretty close. I’m not so pessimistic as Mr. Williams. I think there is a line of managerial presidents that includes Eisenhower, arguably Gerald Ford, and George Bush, Sr. A President Gore would have been a part of this lineage: technocratic, competent, hands on, detail oriented, dedicated to getting the small things right, steadfast to the facts of the matter, not necessarily good at the P.R. thing, eschewing the elaborate ideological pronouncement, ultimately a politician, but willing to alienate a key constituency when faced with a tough decision.

I tend to see George Bush, Sr. as a paragon here because he never made things politically difficult for Gorbachev when reveling in Cold War triumphalism might have been domestically expedient and because he went back on his “read my lips” promise when balancing the budget was at stake. In this regard I almost see his professed lack of the “vision thing” as charming; and ultimately all these things cost him the election. He did the right thing even when it conflicted with personal ambition.

For probably the last ten years now I have pretty much figured that my ideal president would expend a significant portion of their political capital on the bland and unrewarding task of rationalizing the budget. After Bill Clinton, I too am an Eisenhower Republican.

When Al Gore was denied the presidency by the Supreme Court in 2000, I think a lot of people imagined him coming back after a period to claim his rightful position, but history doesn’t always work out that way.