The three-part evolution of our thinking on the latest political buzz:
Oprah Winfrey for president?!
Give us a break! What could possibly qualify her for the job? She’s a talk show host, not a politician, and certainly not experienced with the array of weighty policies a president confronts.
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Many Democrats latched on to the idea of a 2020 Winfrey candidacy after her impassioned speech at the Golden Globes on Sunday night. She talked about her humble upbringing, applauded the women who have shown courage through the #metoo movement and urged “hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights.”
OK, it was a strong, if brief, speech. But leader of the free world? Oprah?
Is this what America has come to? Celebrity is more important than competence or policy acumen in choosing our leaders? We let celebrity, er, trump competence just 14 months ago and look what that’s done for us. Surely we have learned our lesson and recognize that we need someone experienced in public affairs, with bona fide policy chops, to lead America, not just a TV personality.
Of course, we do understand the attraction. After all: She might just be able to win. At a minimum, she would be a formidable candidate in both the primary and the general election. And if your dominant concern is making sure Donald Trump does not win a second term, you have to approach 2020 primarily with electoral strategy, not governing, in mind.
Winfrey is popular. She’s empathetic. She’s rich. She’s unbeatable in front of a camera. She’s effective one-on-one, in small groups and – as we saw in 2008 with Barack Obama – in front of stadium crowds.
And Trump showed that voters are tired of traditional candidates. They love celebrity.
Besides, who’s out there that Democrats can really get excited about and, more importantly, be confident will take down Trump? Not Bernie Sanders. Not Joe Biden. Right now, Winfrey would seem to be as strong as any of them for pure electability over Trump, and that’s all that matters for many folks.
Still, once elected, could she be an effective president? We guess it’s possible. In the movie “Back to the Future,” Doc quizzes Marty to see if he’s really from 1985. “Tell me, future boy, who’s president of the United States in 1985?” “Ronald Reagan!” “Ronald Reagan, the actor?! Ha! Then who’s vice president, Jerry Lewis?”
So yeah, come to think of it, even many traditional presidential candidates are not presidential timber because of their deep individual mastery of complex policy issues. No, it’s their judgment and their character. It’s their ability to recognize what they don’t know, and to surround themselves with smart people with a variety of expertise.
Does Winfrey have that level of character and judgment? Is her business savvy as real as advertised? And where does she even stand on health care and foreign policy, immigration and taxes?
If she went through the rigors of a presidential campaign, we’d find out.