Presidential Decision Making and Learning from the Past

One of the fascinating aspects of this presidential election is the decision making by both candidates and the comparisons these candidates are inviting to previous Presidents. John McCain says Teddy Roosevelt is his favorite president and I think Barrack Obama has a lot of admiration of John Kennedy. By selecting Sarah Pallin as his vice presidential choice, John McCain has paid a fascinating homage to Teddy Roosevelt. Many of the characteristics that made William McKinley select the unknown governor of New York as his running mate in the presidential race of 1900 are present in Sarah. Both Teddy and Sarah were governors for only two years and had gained some notoriety fighting the political machine when they were asked to join the presidential race. Both Teddy and Sarah share similar passions in life. They both love the outdoors, are avid hunters, have large families, and were under 45 years old when they were asked.

I am not sure whether John Kennedy is Barrack Obama’s favorite president but he probably has enjoyed the comparisons made by the press. John Kennedy remains a popular president. In looking at the McCain decision I cannot but look at the decision by Barrack Obama to not follow the lead set by John Kennedy. I think it is fair to say that John Kennedy despised Lyndon Johnson. John Kennedy was in a much more dire political situation and needed Lyndon Johnson to deliver the southern states if he was going to have a chance at wining the presidential race. John Kennedy made the tough decision and the rest is history.

John McCain’s presidential campaign was in a dire situation. It is fair to say that either of the Democratic candidates were expected to easily win the the Presidential election. From one perspective McCain was taking a huge risk by selecting Sarah Pallin as his running mate. This could be disastrous for the future of the Republican party. From another perspective he was taking the risk he needed to take if he wanted to be President. He was taking a risk John Kennedy would understand.

It is not hard to conclude that John McCain was both lucky and brilliant. It took a lot of guts to make that decision but he needed a little help from his friend, Barrack Obama.  Barrack had the tough decision of whether to ask Hillary Clinton to be his running mate.   He chose Joe Biden. It was a safe choice but not necessarily the choice we might expect from a candidate hungry to “do what it takes to win”. It was a choice that disappointed the Hillary supporters and created a huge opportunity for John McCain. This was the bit of luck John McCain needed and a choice that probably has John Kennedy rolling over in his grave.

Each of us is now confronted with the ultimate question about this presidential race. Does Barrack Obama have the courage to make the tough decisions?