Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Would you want to do this?"

[Posted by reader_iam]

Sometimes, there is no deeper reason as to why a talented politician would walk away from a chance to run for Leader Of The Free World than the idea that maybe the job ain't all it's cracked up to be, given the sacrifices and tradeoffs.

Excerpts from an article by Ryan Lizza, writing in The New Republic (sorry, the complete piece is behind the subscription firewall, but it's worth reading the way it starts):
But, no matter how well things seemed to be going for Warner, privately he was filled with self-doubt. He had built a machine that was hurling him forward toward a presidential race that he actually didn't want to enter.
Up in the air flying home [in August] from his successful but draining trip to New Hampshire, Warner turned around in his seat to chat with me. It was his daughter's birthday, and, instead of being with her, he had been buying garlic bread at a farmer's market in Keene and answering hostile questions from TV reporters about why he refused to denounce the Nevada caucuses as "reprehensible." Even worse, he was now trapped on a seven-seater airplane with a reporter who had been shadowing him for an exhausting 48 hours. I pressed him on whether he was really going to run. His response shocked me at the time. He bent in close, looked me in the eye and asked, "Would you want to do this?"

In the end, as Lizza suggests, it appears to have come down to this: Warner "craved a normal life more than he craved being president." And perhaps it was also due to this factor:
Another staffer offered the more interesting theory that part of Warner's decision may have been about whether he actually wants to be president at this moment. "Who really wants this job?" the adviser asked. "Do you want to be the one to extricate America out of Iraq, decide whether to strike Iran? It's big-boy time. I believe Mark Warner is up to it, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was one of the ingredients in the soup. This isn't going to be fun." Warner once hinted at this same idea in an interview. We were talking about his foreign policy experience, and I noted that, compared with some other Democrats in the field, he wasn't really that inexperienced. He said that wasn't the important question. "If you do this," he told me, "having the notion that you might be able to do it better than Person X doesn't get you through the night. You've gotta feel it in your own gut."

There was a lot of speculation when Warner pulled out--was there some sort of skeleton in his closet? Something about him or his family that he didn't want anyone to know?

But the explanation seems far more pedestrian, more self-aware, even more fundamentally human than that, somehow: No fire in the belly.

All the experience, or talent, or money, or whatever, can make up for a lack of that, especially in presidential politics, where--while it's not a sufficient condition for success, it is surely a necessary one.

Question: For those who supported Warner, does this make you feel better or worse about his withdrawal?