This presidential primary process has been astonishing in its lack of connection to reality. Donald Trump promises to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, build a “huge” wall on the border, and make Mexico pay for it. Democrat Bernie Sanders wants to transform America into European-style socialism.
That they are the leading candidates makes one wonder if America has lost its collective mind.
The distrust and disgust with government that so many Americans feel is real and well-founded. Congressional dysfunction; declining middle-class financial security; an unconstrained federal debt threatening future generations; upheaval in the Middle East; and geopolitical threats from China and Russia are legitimate concerns to today’s voters.
But in searching for solutions, we need to catch our breath, then remember how our government works. Most importantly, we are not electing a dictator. Outlandish statements of what the candidates would accomplish if elected are unachievable because they ignore two realities – Congress and the judiciary.
A Republican House limits a Democratic president. A Senate Democratic filibuster constrains a Republican president. And no matter who replaces Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, the courts are a constraint on both the president and Congress.
SO INSTEAD OF yearning for a dictator to solve our problems, nominate someone who can work within the system our Founding Fathers gave us. The checks and balances in the Constitution were designed for moderation in our government, not for authoritarian dictate. Successful presidents are those with programs they can convince both Congress to support and the judiciary not to overturn.
Fortunately, two Republican candidates meet that standard through their experience, performance, and temperament – John Kasich and Jeb Bush. The others do not.
Marco Rubio is likeable, young and very inexperienced. In the South Carolina presidential debate, when asked how he had been tested in a crisis, he cited his vote against President Obama’s plan to attack Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. Voting “yea” or “nay” is not leading in a crisis. With inexperience similar to Obama’s one incomplete Senate term, how can Rubio be the Republican’s best candidate?
TED CRUZ IS A disagreeable and self-serving politician. He encouraged the Republican House to shut down the government in 2013, goading them into a legislative suicide mission with no chance of success. Although the shutdown damaged the Republican Party, Cruz was indifferent because the debacle increased his own political visibility. Not only does he have Obama’s and Rubio’s lack of experience, but he is almost universally disliked by his Republican Senate colleagues. He would have great difficulty advancing his agenda in congress.
Donald Trump is anti-Hispanic, anti-Muslim and anti-women, and a narcissistic bully. But he is most frightening for his temperament. During the South Carolina presidential debate, he was petulant and arrogant, and when challenged by Bush, he became flustered, interrupted constantly, criticized the audience and just plain lost it. The icy Hillary Clinton would play him like a fiddle.
AS COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, Trump would be a disaster. Having always been the boss, he has been insulated from criticism, and we’re discovering he can’t handle it. He does not have the thick skin or steady hand required for a president who has control of the nuclear button. Trump is truly dangerous.
Bush has a solid conservative record. He enjoyed great success as a two-term Florida governor, and his positions on education and immigration make him a stronger candidate against the Democratic contender. He is a likeable proven leader, low-key and steady. He is from a state that Republicans must win; he would be an excellent nominee.
Kasich has the strongest resume of any Republican candidate. He was the youngest person ever elected to the Ohio state legislature; served 18 years in the House in Washington; and had two highly successful terms as governor of Ohio. In the House he served on the Armed Services and Budget Committees, and as Budget Committee chairman initiated major welfare reform. He was the chief architect of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 that resulted in three years of budget surpluses.
KASICH IS ONE of the most productive legislators in recent memory. And as Ohio’s governor, he took the state from fiscal deficit to surplus. He is uplifting, inspirational and no-nonsense. No candidate is better prepared to reduce the federal deficit and lead the country. He also is from a state Republicans must carry. He can win the general election.
When times are bad, America needs proven leaders, not an unpredictable loudmouth or inexperienced legislators.
(The writer is a retired U.S. Navy officer. He lives and writes in Savannah. His e-mail address is EdConant420@gmail.com.)