TNR senior editor Michelle Cottle wonders, “What business do [Rudy] Giuliani and [Michael] Bloomberg have running for president?” In addition to finding the former “creepy” and the latter “uninspiring,” she thinks running the Big Apple just doesn’t cut it as preparation for the presidency.
In fact, Rudy’s fundamental New Yorkness seems to be his answer to pretty much everything. When asked at a recent candidate debate about the economic challenges facing the nation, he responded with some glib remark about how if he could tame New York’s budget troubles, he could handle Washington. Get it, everybody? “If I can make it there! I’ll make it anywhere!”
If anything, here disdain for Bloomberg is stronger. She describes him as a “megarich New York mayor with zero foreign policy credentials whose rich friends have somehow convinced him that his bland, middle-of-the-roadness and utter lack of political distinction qualify him to be leader of the free world.”
But president? Come on. Based on what? His national security vision? His deep understanding of the nation’s (rather than the five boroughs’) domestic problems? His stewardship of New York seems to have been fine (he’s certainly impressed The New York Times), but not exactly the stuff of which dynamic national campaigns are made. . . . New York may be the center of the universe. But, September 11 notwithstanding, it’s still several light years away from the heart of America.
While I agree that the leap from leader of a big city to Leader of the Free World is a long one, though, there really is no career path to the presidency that has proven better than others. The Vice Presidency, I suppose, gives the best insights into the demands of the job but plenty of former veeps have gone on to be mediocre presidents; the skill sets required to be effective in those jobs are different. Many great presidents have been former governors; so have many bad ones. Former generals have been a mixed bag. Certainly, the Congress has not proven particularly good preparation. Abraham Lincoln, universally considered one of the very best, had perhaps the thinnest resume: “captain in the Black Hawk War, spent eight years in the Illinois legislature, and rode the circuit of courts for many years.” Plus a failed Senate bid.
Granted, the modern presidency is more complicated than in Lincoln’s day. Still, the abilities to make decisions, communicate effectively in the medium of the day, and manage relations with Congress seem to be the key ingredients to success in the Oval Office. Running the largest, most diverse city in the country is as good a proving ground as any for honing and testing those skills.