Aw, lay off the kid with the funny name, will ya?

The State decided to run an “opinion” page today, which served the purpose of bringing to my attention this Doyle McManus column that The Los Angeles Times ran a week ago. An excerpt:

Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., could turn out to be the biggest, boldest surprise of the 2020 presidential campaign. But he’d better come up with some policies first.

Buttigieg was virtually unknown outside his home state until two months ago, but he has surged into third place in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire

There’s only one element missing from Buttigieg’s potentially meteoric campaign: positions on major issues.

That’s not an accident. He says voters aren’t looking for policy papers. They care about values and character, and knowing that a candidate cares about their lives….

Aw, lay off the kid, why don’t you?

I hold no particularly brief for Buttigieg. I’ve heard him on the radio and have found him surprisingly impressive, and I’m not at all shocked that he has risen in the polls in spite of his absurd youth and lack of relevant experience.

These pins are being offered by Annie Fogarty, @FoGaGarty.

These pins are being offered by one Annie Fogarty, @FoGaGarty.

But y’all know my candidate is announcing tomorrow.

Still, I don’t like to see anyone taken to task for failing to make specific campaign promises.

As I’ve said many times before, I don’t want candidates making campaign promises, any more than they absolutely have to to get elected — and unfortunately they do have to, since most voters aren’t like me. (The Smith/Norrell campaign had some policy proposals out there before I joined. I did not push to elaborate upon them.) No one knows what kinds of situations a candidate might face in office if elected. I prefer that they keep their options open so they are free to choose the wisest course under those unpredictable circumstances.

My favorite example of why campaign promises are a terrible idea is “Read my lips: no new taxes.” Once in office, Bush found himself in a situation in which he found it advisable to compromise with Congress on a budget deal that in fact raised some existing taxes. That sank him politically. But acquiescing in a tax increase wasn’t his sin. His sin was in making the stupid promise to begin with.

So how do I choose a candidate? By the quality of his or her character, of course — at this moment in our history, considering what it in the White House, being a decent, honest human being is more important than ever.

Just as important is what we’ve seen that person do in the past, preferably in public service. It’s not just that such experience helps you know how to do the job. It’s that, if you have a significant record of such service, it means we the people have had the opportunity to observe how you have performed, and decide whether what we have seen inspires confidence that you will deal appropriately with future challenges in office, whatever they may be.

So to the extent Buttigieg has a problem in my book, it’s that lack of experience — in office, and in life. He’s an attractive candidate, but would be more so with more of a track record.

Just don’t get on his case for not laying out a bunch of specific policy proposals. To the extent that there’s a problem with him, that’s not it.

48 thoughts on “Aw, lay off the kid with the funny name, will ya?

  1. bud

    Policy is important but Mayor Pete is getting more into that as time goes on. Nothing set in stone but for now he’s my first choice. This year there is an embarrassment of riches among the Dems. Here’s how I rank the contenders:

    1. Buttigieg
    2. Klobuchar
    3. Booker
    4. O’Rourke
    5. Castro
    6. Warren
    7. Harris
    8. Gillibrand
    9. Ryan
    10. Inslee
    12. Gabbard
    12. Hickenlooper
    13. Swalwell
    14. Messam
    15. Delaney
    16. Sanders
    17. Biden
    18. Moulton

      1. bud

        That was based on my first impression that he was a zealous military advocate which is anathema to my political philosophy. After reading a bit more about his views he really doesn’t seem all that much of a hawk. Plus he backs the Green New Deal. Perhaps in my next ranking he’ll move up a bit.

        As for Biden, it’s a collection of things with him but mostly his age and past health problems. I don’t dislike him but just prefer someone who better fits the 21st century issues we face.

  2. Bob Amundson

    I’ve followed “Mayor Pete” since I read he was using data to address the opioid crisis in South Bend. He attended South by Southwest in 2018 and engaged with a startup that is able to test the contents of different sewer flows for early warnings of opioid use. Using technology to drive data decision making in public policy development is the future of public administration. Smart infrastructure and the ideas of what to do next are part of the “Internet of Things” (IoT), technology that can be used to track or solve physical problems in new ways.

  3. Doug Ross

    The opposite approach has been taken by Elizabeth Warren – who hasn’t met a new government policy or tax and spend idea she doesn’t like. Everything starts with giving money away that is taken from the rich. It’s pure fantasy. You can’t give the money away until you pass those tax hikes — and that’s not happening in a Republican Senate in 2020. She’s for everything – eliminating college debt, green new deal, medicare for all, infrastructure, blah blah blah. It’s a wishlist that guarantees the typical Democrat voter something for nothing when she knows full well she has zero chance of implementing any of it. Look at how difficult it was for Obama to do ONE thing in eight years – Obamacare – and that turned out to be a pile of horse manure with a rocky start and a fizzle ending.

    If by some longshot she becomes the candidate, I will vote for Trump. I know what I’ve got with him — a loudmouth who thankfully hasn’t done anything to screw up the economy. Warren’s programs are dumb and unimplementable.. and even if they could be enacted, would have serious negative impact on the economy.

    Give me someone who understands that change will be difficult and incremental, not an ivory tower dreamer who thinks her morality is measured in how much of other people’s money she can spend.

    I did donate to Mayor Pete today – I want new voices in the race. I want people who are not already corrupted by years of political gamesmanship. I want someone with intelligence who isn’t just a speech maker.

    I break the candidates down like this:

    Would vote for:

    Gabbard (donated), Buttigieg (donated), Booker, Harris, Sanders (donated)

    Won’t Vote for:
    O’Rourke (flash in the pan)
    Biden (way too old, has no real proven ability to do anything but slap a back or kiss a neck, you’re getting nothing new with him)
    Yang (donated to him just for the fun he will bring to the debates, most of his ideas like UBI are dumb like Warren’s)

    Will vote for Trump instead :

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      At least you’re putting your money where your mouth is…

      I’m curious, though… why did you give to Sanders, for instance, and not to Booker or Harris?

      I ask in part because I’m a little surprised you like Sanders. Seems to me he’s an awful lot like Warren…

        1. Doug Ross

          I think Bernie would be more anti-war than Warren. Warren is all about taxes. Not sure I’ve seen her policies on our foreign involvement in endless wars. I think Bernie (and Gabbard) would propose shifting some defense money and fewer taxes. I’m all for that. I think Bernie is more engaged on Medicare for All – which I have decided is the best option. Anti-war and Medicate for All are #1, #2 priorities for me.

          Haven’t donated to Booker or Harris yet because I don’t know enough about their policies but they haven’t turned me off yet. Only one of them will come out of SC with any chance.

          Bernie is too old but brings something to the table besides being everyone’s favorite uncle like Joe Biden. I have no idea what Biden stands for. What’s going to be the core of his platform? “I was the VP for that cool guy you all liked”? he won’t touch the defense department or do anything bold.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      And on Joe, couldn’t you just say “too old” and not “WAY too old?”

      The guy’s not quite 11 years older than I am. So if he’s WAY too old…. well, the conclusion that leads to doesn’t bear thinking about…

    3. bud

      You can’t give the money away until you pass those tax hikes — and that’s not happening in a Republican Senate in 2020.

      Which is why it’s imperative to elect Democrats. 🙂

  4. Doug Ross

    Joe will be 78 in November of 2020. Let’s see him get out on the trail for the next six months. I’m guessing he will be very highly packaged for this campaign. Short bursts, big crowds, not a lot of day-to-day grinding. Sort of like Hillary was in 2016. The perception of campaigning via highly organized media events. Lots of one-on-one interviews on TV with the big names. Not as much direct voter contact like the younger candidates are doing. He’s spent a long time being coddled in the past ten years.

    1. bud

      Doug, you realize you just described Trump’s approach. I suspect Trump will be the most coddled candidate in American history. I predict he’ll skip the debates. I doubt he could possibly survive a similar showing to his horror performance in 2016. Won’t be another James Comey moment to bail him out at the last minute.

      1. Doug Ross

        He won in 2016 because he outworked Hillary. He traveled everywhere — especially to the places that mattered (and will matter) electorally.

        He will not skip the debates. He LOVES the limelight. He will love the opportunity to take on Bernie or Warren or Biden and get them to sink down to his level.

        If the economy is in the same state next year, he can stand there and say “Are you, Joe Biden, guaranteeing it will be better next year?”

  5. Doug Ross

    Here’s a simple question – If Joe Biden is the best choice for President of the United States, why wouldn’t his most recent boss, the man who likely knows him best from a political standpoint, the man who put a Medal of Freedom around his neck two years ago… why wouldn’t that guy, Barack Obama, endorse Joe Biden today without any hesitation?

    If the answer is “politics”, that says a lot about both Biden and Obama. Biden was a faithful sidekick to Obama for eight years. The proper token of appreciation is to endorse him, Unless, unless… you WEREN’T sure he was the best choice… or you didn’t want to lose any political capital if Joe blows his chance as the clear front runner.

    1. Doug Ross

      The best way for the Democratic Party to avoid a messy primary would be for Obama to endorse Biden. That would winnow the field down immediately to maybe five.

      1. Doug Ross

        Here’s “Joe’s Vision” from his website:

        A bunch of boilerplate text spit out by the Generic Democrat Candidate software. He does double down on Obamacare as if that is a viable solution. And, naturally, a shout out to the defense industry to “invest” in new weapons. Interesting that Joe won’t really be able to hammer Trump on skipping out on Vietnam when he did the same thing with deferments and asthma as a youth to keep him out.

        And since Joe’s age will be an issue, check out this discussion of his health records from TEN years ago when he was running for VP the first time. He should be required to provide a more recent assessment.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          By Generic Democrat Candidate I assume you mean Generic Democratic Candidate.

          And that’s exactly what is needed, instead of all these yahoos trying to change the Democratic Party into the Socialist Party.

          Get me a conventional, center-left Democrat and a conventional, center-right Republican and I’m happy either way. Whoever wins, the country is on an even keel.

          We used to have that kind of choice election after election, and didn’t realize how good we had it…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      OK, I should know this, but it’s something I haven’t thought a lot about in the past, therefor my mind has failed to record it.

      But it seems to me that it would sort of break with precedent for the former president to state a preference at the start of his party’s primary season.

      When’s the last time someone did that? I can’t remember.

      I wish he WOULD. Of course, I wish the parties would abandon primaries altogether and go back into the smoke-filled room and come out with qualified candidates. That would have prevented Trump JEB! would be president now.

      And Biden would have the nomination. His party, including its last president, would be lined up behind him…

  6. bud

    Biden just made it official. Not exactly sure why he’s polling so well right now. Biden has not done well in his previous POTUS campaigns and I suspect his past will catch up with him. I suspect many people are pining away for the good ole days of the Obama years. That’s understandable given the current state of affairs. The Fivethirtyeight guys give Biden a good shot at the nomination and he polls well against Trump. This will be fascinating to watch.

    1. Bart

      He is polling well because he is safe, well liked, not tainted by scandal even with the so-called inappropriate touching, loyal, and of all the candidates, he actually has experience at the highest executive level as a previous VPOTUS.

      Sometimes it is not the politics but the person and Biden has a familiarity about him none of the other candidates do. It may also speak to Democrats who have made the same mistake many Republicans have made, moving too far to the left or right. Maybe, just maybe this country is tired of the identity politics and would appreciate at least 4 years of relative peace. This is what I believe Biden brings to the race.

      1. Doug Ross

        Do we really think the Democratic Party is going to put up an old white man (the apparent cause of every issue in the country for the past decade?)

        He’s going to be chopped down piece by piece by each small faction of identity voters. Women, minorities, gays, etc. will all want their needs addressed and saying Joe Biden is the only person who can do that rejects their idea that they are equals.

        1. Bart

          What I am trying to convey is that I believe most voters who are not identity voters are tired of the far left vs. the far right and are willing to vote for someone who is closer to the middle than either of the other choices regardless of age and gender. Women, minorities, gays, etc. have commanded the attention of the media with their demands. Whether we agree with them or not, that is not the issue I see. I see the issue is that there are simply too many demands and they are creating a void with the majority of voters. Biden fills that void.

          1. bud

            Electability is VERY important to Democrats. If Biden does get the nomination he absolutely MUST pick a woman and better yet a woman of color. Best of all a gay woman of color.

            1. Doug Ross

              Nothing like pandering to demonstrate how little respect you have for the intelligence of the voters of your party.

            2. Doug Ross

              But if Biden was smart he would offer the VP slot to whichever of Harris or Booker agreed to drop out now. Allays the fears of Joe being too old, shores up his base with black voters. He could even suggest he would only serve one term to “put the country back on the right path”. That would reduce some of the old age concerns.

            3. Brad Warthen Post author

              Walk that by me again real slow, Bud.

              AFTER he gets the nomination and has to go out there and win over swing voters and never-Trump Republicans, why is it you think he needs a “gay woman of color?”

              I’m not following your math here…

  7. Bart

    Wait a minute! This is the latest from the Babylon Bee. Another candidate has announced and stands a good chance of winning.

    “Pinky, Brain Announce 2020 Run

    ACME LABS—Two genetically enhanced laboratory mice, Pinky and the Brain, announced Friday their 2020 presidential run.

    The mice have been engineered to think and speak, though the experimentation seems to have given at least one of the mice totalitarian tendencies.

    “Humanity, bow before your new master as we ascend into the glorious era of the rule of Brain!” Brain said in his announcement speech before pressing a button on a device that he reportedly designed to control the minds of anyone in the vicinity.

    “Narf!” said Pinky to applause from the masses.

    The two are running on the platform of “trying to take over the world.” While many have criticized this approach, others have praised Pinky and the Brain’s honesty, pointing out that “at least they’re being transparent about it,” unlike other candidates who pretend to be running for the good of the nation. Some have also suggested that Pinky and the Brain will likely adjust well to Washington, D.C., being vermin.

    According to analysts, their plot to win the White House is projected to nearly succeed and then fail at the last possible moment after one tiny but significant oversight.”

    Hey, why not? Everyone else is entering the Democrat race for POTUS.

  8. Bart

    Well Joe, quit before you get too far along in the race. The AOC contingent, Justice Democrats, has already come out against you. According to the JDs, you are no longer the center of the party and it is time to move on. You are just another OWM and a member of the establishment.

      1. Bart

        The problem is they won’t STFU because they believe they have a national mandate to change everything to fit their ideology. The problem is that on the 79 candidates they fielded, 27 were nominated and only 7 elected. All from safe Democrat districts. When they can win in several Republican districts, safe or not, then they can declare a winning strategy is taking shape. For now, they are loud and have the media’s attention, hanging onto every word they utter. Sooner or later, the strategy will bear fruit or backfire. I believe the latter will be the result.

        There are too many voters across the country who do not support their far left agenda.

        1. Bart

          I used the word “fit” instead of “suit”. The reason is that so far, their agenda seems to be to force everyone to “fit” or re-form their ideology to be in line with theirs instead of “suiting” which would entail a compromise. This is something they have not demonstrated a willingness to entertain.

  9. Karen Pearson

    I am most concerned that the moderate and progressive wings of the democratic party get to fighting each other, and thereby allow Trump to conquor. The moderates need to realize that much of the party has moved to the left, while the more progressive ones need to realize that they must slow down a little bit if they want to win (or don’t want 4 more years of Trump).

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      They just all need to get over themselves and their stupid ideologies, and band together to get this abomination out of the Oval Office. Nothing else matters but that…

      1. Doug Ross

        If the stock market is still high, Trump wins. It is the economy, stupid… Always will be. And it’s the electoral college, too. The path to victory is Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri. That’s it. If Trump wins four of those, he wins.

        1. Bob Amundson

          Always. Strong statement, but too cynical for me. I believe in this election character will TRUMP the economy. The polls sure look that way.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Thank you, James Carville.

          The current economy is a continuation of the conditions we had in 2016. Why didn’t the party in power win that one? Since, you know, the quality of candidates count for nothing and it’s all about the stupid economy…

        3. Barry

          Nah. I don’t see it that way either.

          The economy can be spun in a number of different ways by the right messenger.

      2. Bob Amundson

        I can’t agree more. BUT, ego. I admit mine is quite large, but not big enough to run for office. Besides, my wife warns me that running for anything would be grounds for divorce.

  10. Karen Pearson

    Most people do not connect the stock market with their personal lives. Oh, they panic when Wall St. crashes, but otherwise they don’t notice it. I suspect that for the great majority of voters their economic “indicators” are much more personal than Wall St.

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