Mike Kueber's Blog

August 10, 2012

A gold-plated presidential resume

Filed under: Issues,Military,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:46 pm
Tags: , ,

Historically, the most important item on a presidential resume was military service.  Playing on this erstwhile requirement, there is a photo collage circulating the conservative internet showing portraits of the post-WWII presidents in uniform.  The uniforms are all military uniforms except for the last two Democratic presidents.  Former president Clinton is shown in his high-school band uniform, and President Obama is shown in some African/Muslim looking garb. 

Other than the obvious ridicule of the recent crop of Democratic presidents, a point to be taken from the collage is that for forty years every American president had served in WWII.  (A similar phenomena occurred following the Civil War.)  Sadly, when Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush in 1992, there was only minimal regret at seeing the Greatest Generation sent to the bench, to be replaced by a succession of politicians who didn’t feel an obligation to perform military service.

In recent years, the conservatives have also talked a lot about the need for citizen politicians.  According to their way of thinking, Washington, D.C. is dysfunctional because too many politicians put their highest priority on keeping their jobs instead of doing the right thing.  The perfect example of this dysfunction is the budget deficit, which is allowed to persist because Democrats can keep their jobs by deficit spending and Republicans can keep their jobs by deficit-creating tax cuts.  What a Faustian bargain by both parties!

Like many conservatives, I am attracted to the citizen politician, a person who has a life and values developed in the real world instead of in the amoral, value-challenged political world.  That is one of the reasons that I support Mitt Romney.  But a few weeks ago, when I started evaluating Romney’s potential VP nominees, I was shocked to learn that all of them were career politicians.  That prompted me to wonder whether America has been run historically by citizen politicians, or is this a conservative urban legend. 

Fortunately, infoplease.com, careerbuilder.com, and heptune.com provide convenient, succinct information.  Unfortunately, classifying someone as a career politician is not black-and-white.  Many of our presidents, especially in the first half of our history, mixed a resume of military service and dabbling in the law while transitioning into full-time politics.  Thirty of our 43 presidents (I’m not counting McKinley twice) served in the military (including 24 in wars) and 22 were lawyers. 

Based on my somewhat subjective classification of career politicians (no significant other career), we have had a plethora of them ever since the turn of the 20th century – Obama, Clinton, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Truman, Franklin Roosevelt, and Theodore Roosevelt,   

Interestingly, Mitt Romney wants to be elected primarily on his business credentials.  Yet, according to heptune.com, America has had only four businessmen-cum-presidents – Truman, Carter, Bush -41, and Bush-43.  Prior to WWII, businessman does not appear to be something good for a presidential resume.













November 23, 2010

College politicians and Kay Bailey Hutchison

During my congressional race earlier this year, Will Hurd and I interviewed with the Editorial Board of the San Antonio Express-News for their endorsement.  At the end of an extensive interview, the Board asked Hurd if he had anything negative to say about my ability to be an effective congressman, and Hurd declined.  Then they asked me the same question, and I accepted. 

I suggested to the Board that student politicians like Will Hurd, who had been a student-body president at Texas A&M, should have a life outside of elective politics before entering the political arena.  By starting a career and family prior to elective politics, a prospective candidate will have a better understanding of the challenges faced by everyday Americans.  More importantly, the time away from elective politics will enable the prospective candidate to develop core values instead of learning to think in terms of what is politically correct. 

Earlier this week, while doing some research on Kay Bailey Hutchison, I stumbled across an interview she did for HarperCollins, and I was surprised to see she shared my sentiments almost exactly:

  • Q: What is your best advice to young women starting in politics?
    A: Don’t go into politics too early. Obtain real world experience in a profession or business. You will be more effective, have better goals, and know what your core principles are when you have been in the work place for 10 years or longer.

In the case of Kay Bailey, that advice clearly falls under the category of “do as I say, not as I do.”

November 22, 2010

Kay Bailey Hutchison – a prevaricating, country-club Republican

An article in the Texas Tribune today asked, “What will Kay Bailey Hutchison do next?”   

http://www.texastribune.org/texas-representatives-in-congress/us-congress/what-will-kay-bailey-hutchison-do-next/.  To borrow a line from Don Imus, I suggest that she get off the stage. 

I have written previously about my opposition to country-club Republicans leading the party.  See my post on Joe Straus – the post-partisan, patrician Speaker.   https://mkueber001.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/joe-straus-the-post-partisan-patrician-speaker/.  But there is something that I like even less, and that is career politicians who profess not to be.  Kay Bailey is guilty on both counts.

Country-club Republican


There can be no question that Kay Bailey is a country-club Republican.  She attended UT as a cheerleader and sorority girl, married a medical student, and earned a law degree.  Instead of practicing law, Kay Bailey became a TV reporter in Houston, divorced her husband, and was elected to the Texas House of Representatives.  There she met Ray Hutchison, a Republican bigwig in the legislature who was a partner at the Vinson & Elkins law firm and a candidate for governor of Texas.  After Ray’s failed run for governor (against Bill Clements) and her failed attempt to move up to Congress, Kay Bailey took a patronage job in Washington (vice-chair of National Transportation Safety Board) before returning to Texas to become General Counsel of a private bank that subsequently failed.  Kay Bailey’s Nixonian political comeback started in 1990, when she was elected to an obscure state-wide position – state treasurer – and then to U.S. Senator in a 1993 special election against an incredibly weak field.  This brings us to my second pet peeve.

Lying career politicians     

When Kay Bailey ran in the 1993 special election to replace Senator Lloyd Bentsen, she promised to serve no more than two full terms.  At the time, term limits were the craze and ultimately became a provision in the Republican’s Contract with America in 1994, so it’s fair to say that this pledge helped her in defeating the appointed Democratic Senator Bob Krueger, who refused to take the pledge. 

But when 2006 arrives, after Kay Bailey has served two full terms, she decided to renege on her pledge.  She argued that, since the term-limit provision in the Contract with America was one of the few provisions that did not become law, she would not leave the Senate because doing so would unilaterally hurt Texas at the expense of other states in the seniority-driven institution.  Didn’t she realize that when she made her pledge?  Isn’t that true of every term-limit pledge?  It’s so easy to make promises that you don’t have to pay until much later.  And it’s so easy to renege on promises that you made many years earlier. 

What will Kay Bailey Hutchison do next?

As the article in the Texas Tribune makes clear, the only thing we know for sure is that we can’t rely on what Kay Bailey says.  In mid-2009, as she started planning her campaign to defeat Governor Rick Perry, she promised to resign to campaign full-time.  Then in November of 2009, she declared:

  • “Let me also be crystal clear about one thing: I will be resigning this Senate seat.  For all of the good Republicans out there who plan on running for my seat next year, make no mistake. This is going to happen. It just isn’t going to happen until after health care reform and cap and trade are finished. And that will be after the primary.”

Finally, after getting trounced by Perry in the March 3 primary, she reneged again, saying that Obama’s agenda was “taking away the essence of America,” and that the “stakes in the Capitol have never been higher.”  Who is she kidding? 

I don’t think there is any question that Kay Bailey’s time has passed.  She could have gracefully exited the stage with her run for governor, albeit with already diminished integrity, but now she is left the same fate that befell ND Senator Byron Dorgan earlier this year.  He read the polls that revealed he was suddenly out of favor, and instead of being kicked out of office, he declined to seek re-election.  I expect Kay Bailey will decide to spend more time with her family (which includes two small children).