Thursday, October 17, 2019

This Week in Impeachment: Trump Torches His Inside Reputation

The pioneering political scientist Richard Neustadt is best remembered for his insight that the unilateral powers of the presidency are much more limited than the expectations hung on the office by the American public and the ambitions of the people who occupy it, requiring presidents to engage in productive collaboration with other political elites—members of Congress and the bureaucracy, interest groups, foreign leaders, even the president's own direct subordinates—in order to achieve success. Neustadt believed that the maintenance of a positive personal reputation was necessary to convince these other actors to cooperate with the president; the power of the presidency, he argued, was largely "the power to persuade."

The developments of the past week have confirmed that Donald Trump is the ultimate anti-Neustadtian president. Trump's personal reputation among other elites, both at home and abroad, has always been low, but it took an even bigger dive this week when the ongoing Ukraine affair—already the focus of an impeachment inquiry in the House—was compounded by an abrupt policy change in Syria touched off by Trump's approval of an incursion by Turkey in a Sunday phone call with the Turkish president. Trump's withdrawal of American military defense from the Kurdish population in northern Syria received bipartisan disapproval in Congress and strong criticism across the ideological spectrum of foreign policy experts.

Several journalists have pointed out that it seems risky for Trump to alienate his fellow Republicans in the midst of an impeachment push, since (assuming that the House impeaches him) he'll depend on their votes in the Senate to avoid removal from office. That's true, but the Syria situation is unlikely to directly affect how Republican senators respond to an impeachment vote that may be months in the future.

The bigger danger for Trump is that impeachment, like any political process, will play out in a larger environment where his interests will be advanced or damaged by the choices made by other elites. At various points along the way, certain potential witnesses will be weighing whether to comply with congressional subpoenas, and whether to share or omit pertinent information. Accomplished attorneys will be weighing whether to accept offers to take Trump's case. High-ranking judges will be weighing whether to give deference to legal arguments made by White House representatives. Partisan officials will be weighing how passionately they should attack or defend the president. Political candidates will be weighing whether to run in the 2020 election. Journalists and other opinion leaders will be weighing whether to publicly endorse impeachment or removal from office.

All of these choices will be influenced to some degree by high-status decision-makers' evaluation of the president's personal attributes and behavior. And yet Trump's comportment has become even more idiosyncratic over the past week. Rather than reassuring attentive observers, he seems only to be unsettling them.

Trump habitually struggles to read people. Perhaps this difficulty reflects an adult lifetime during which his interactions with other human beings have been structured by corporate hierarchy and pop-culture celebrity, and during which he has taken in most of his information about the world around him via the distorted lens of television. Perhaps it's more foundational, more characterological in its source. Regardless, it sets him apart in the realm of politics, where most successful practitioners are experts at human relations and accustomed to grasping the perspectives and incentives of others.

Uniquely in American history, Trump was able to harness national fame to move directly from private life into the presidency without working his way up via an elective or military career where success tends to be dependent upon making a good personal impression on knowledgeable peers and superiors. But he has been repeatedly unable to recognize past mistakes in this area, as in many others, and thus to avoid repeating them. If anything, the push toward impeachment has provoked a perceptible deterioriation in judgment.

Jonathan Bernstein points out one dramatic example from this week's events: Trump not only sent Turkish president Erdogan a blustery letter on the Syrian issue, but also believed that releasing it publicly would bolster his standing in the eyes of other political leaders. Yesterday's meeting with congressional leaders at the White House was similarly disastrous; at least one Republican participant agreed with Democratic descriptions of a Trump "meltdown" that unnerved assembled officials in both parties. And what other than an unusual lack of emotional intelligence can explain his attempts to engineer a surprise reconciliation between the grieving parents of a British accident victim and the American diplomat's wife whose vehicle fatally struck him, as a live made-for-TV stunt with the White House as a backdrop for assembled cameras?

A central operating assumption of the Trump White House is that the Washington community is dominated by sworn enemies worthy only of being ignored or sneered at. And, indeed, it's only fair to acknowledge that Trump managed to achieve the presidency without the support or respect of many of its denizens. But failing, or not even trying, to build a positive reputation among influential insiders has costs and risks of its own. Just like anyone else, elites occasionally do have their uses.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

October Democratic Debate Recap: What Purpose Do Debates Serve?

Tuesday night's Democratic debate fell into a familiar pattern: a discussion of the relative merits of single-payer health care vs. a public option early in the evening, a few awkward exchanges thereafter but no single revealing moment, and a silly closing question that inadvertently revealed the extent to which television anchors tend to regard their viewers as simple-minded and allergic to substance. Anyone who hasn't already been paying attention to the race could glean some information from the dynamics on display: Warren and Sanders are running as transformational idealists; Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar are running as art-of-the-possible realists; and Harris, Booker, and Castro are trying to split the difference. Warren was the target of criticism from multiple rivals (though, interestingly, not from Sanders), reflecting her status as a candidate on the rise in the polls.

But most of the audience tuning in for a three-hour debate held more than three months before the start of the primary season presumably knew most of this information already, or would have gathered it soon enough from other sources. Despite all the hype that debates receive—and despite the power that the qualification rules now hold over candidate behavior, especially fundraising strategies—the value that they actually add to the nomination process remains very difficult to determine. (I suspect that their net effect in general is somewhat negative, increasing the chance that the election is affected by non-substantive "zingers" and "blunders" while attracting an excessively large field of also-ran candidates seeking national publicity.)

Maybe the solution is to have fewer debates. But, at the minimum, expectations for their newsworthiness should be lowered to an appropriate level—especially in this election. With so many candidates in the race, it is hard for any single contender to receive enough camera time to make a strong impression or create a dramatic moment. And a multi-candidate election also scrambles the strategic picture considerably: attack one opponent, and another rival might wind up benefiting more than you do.

After every debate, complaints pile up at the feet of the moderators or the sponsoring media outlet: it was boring, the questions were bad, important topics were ignored, this or that candidate got too much or too little attention. Some of these points are always valid. But when debate after debate fails to enlighten, perhaps the flaw is in the institution itself, or in the anticipation that precedes it. Presidential candidates always differ in important ways that an informed electorate should consider before making its choices. But there's no reason to assume that debates, at least as they are currently organized, do much to educate voters about these differences.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

This Week in Impeachment: Trump Lets Democrats Off the Hook, Puts the Squeeze on GOP Instead

The impeachment of President Trump was already a likely event by the end of last week. It became even more likely this week.

Three sets of developments each acted to push the probability of impeachment higher over the past few days. First, the Trump White House made it clear that it was adopting a maximally combative approach, refusing cooperation with Congress and even imposing a last-minute veto on Tuesday's scheduled deposition of Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the EU who was directly involved in policy toward Ukraine. This response seemed certain to strike Democrats of all ideological persuasions as unacceptably dismissive of the constitutional legitimacy of congressional oversight.

Second, a series of news stories filling in additional details and opening up more angles on the Ukraine affair kept momentum alive and suggested that future investigations, whether by Congress or the media, would potentially uncover even more impeachment fodder over time. New facts are still emerging on a daily basis, and it seems likely that the true scope of the story is not yet understood.

Third, a series of public opinion surveys confirmed that most Americans support the impeachment inquiry—and a Fox News poll released on Wednesday even found a slim majority already favoring Trump's removal from office. A Washington community that is ordinarily fond of cautioning Democrats that they are risking "overreach" by engaging in any politically assertive behavior temporarily ceased its usual litany of warnings, as the previously sizable bloc of citizens in the "dislike Trump but oppose impeachment" camp turned out to be easily convinced to jump aboard once Democratic leaders made the case for it.

Some pundits have interpreted the White House's flouting of Congress, including the sudden yanking of Sondland's congressional appearance on Tuesday, as the strategic playing of a weak hand. Why else would the president take steps that virtually ensure his impeachment, if not to desperately head off testimony and other evidence that would be at least equally damaging?

But it's likely that the stonewalling, at least in this case, was driven by presidential psychology more than any kind of justifiable calculation. Sondlund doesn't really fit the profile of a devastating witness against Trump—whom he continues to serve as ambassador—and it would have been easy enough for him to alternate rhetorical defenses of the president with claims of ignorance or lapsed memory when it came to any inconvenient details. Blocking his deposition with blanket assertions of executive supremacy alienated Democrats while signaling "coverup in progress" to the media and other attentive political elites. Even congressional Republicans seemed to believe that Sondlund would be more likely to help than hurt the president's case, apparently convincing the White House by Thursday night to permit him to testify after all next week.

Trump's risk-taking approach is not limited to the procedural warfare that seems ultimately destined to provoke additional counts of impeachment against him. He also continues to insist that he has done "nothing wrong" and therefore deserves no criticism from any direction. This behavior, too, has the effect of boxing in other Republicans while taking pressure off the more cautious members of the Democratic opposition.

When White House scandals arise, fellow partisans often perceive the safest political ground for themselves to be a middle position between conviction and exoneration: the president did something he shouldn't have, but the offense isn't serious enough to justify removal from office. This was the approach many Democrats adopted when Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998. Though aspects of Clinton's behavior were indefensible, they argued, his transgressions did not meet the constitutional standard of high crimes and misdemeanors. Once Clinton (eventually) acknowledged the impropriety of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, expressing criticism of his actions did not require other Democrats to break with the White House's own party line.

Trump will have none of that. The events of the week signaled that no contrition will be expressed—not even a sentiment in the vein of "I'm sorry that foreign governments apparently misinterpreted my innocent remarks"—and no disloyalty will be tolerated. Blocking off this escape route puts congressional Republicans in an uncomfortable position. Any criticism of Trump from within the GOP, however gentle, will attract national media attention and potentially provoke a presidential counterattack on Twitter. But openly defending Trump's behavior has its own risks: according to this week's Fox News poll, 66 percent of Americans think that it was wrong for the president to ask foreign leaders to investigate his political rivals, and only 17 percent agree that Trump's comments on the call with Ukrainian president Zelensky were appropriate.

So far, a common Republican response to this dilemma is to publicly oppose impeachment as an unjustified partisan exercise led by Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff, but to also avoid directly answering the question of whether the president acted properly or whether soliciting foreign assistance in an electoral campaign (potentially a federal crime) is permissible behavior. This strategem may turn out to be a successful solution to Republicans' conundrum, but it carries an inevitable awkwardness that may not be sustainable as the story continues to progress over subsequent weeks and months.

Trump is wagering that he can hold Republicans in line by the mere threat of intra-partisan reprisal. He may well be right about this; if most Republicans aren't even willing to criticize Trump in public, they're certainly a long way from voting to impeach him or remove him from office. But for now, the president is likely to find fewer vocal defenders than he would have if he were willing to give an inch of ground by acknowledging the possibility that he might have made a mistake or two. So far, Trump's insistence that his communication with Ukraine was "perfect" has succeeded at creating more discomfort within the ranks of his own party than among his political opponents.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

This Week in Impeachment: Does Trump Need a Good Strategy?

Over the two weeks or so since the impeachment of Donald Trump became likely, a series of news articles has chronicled Trump's strategic and tactical response to his new predicament. Anyone wondering whether Trump would adopt Bill Clinton's playbook from 1998—acknowledge impeachment as little as possible in public; portray yourself as more concerned with Americans' policy priorities than your own personal conflicts; build an adept political "war room" in the White House to respond to news developments and distribute talking points to partisan allies—has by now received an answer. As David Frum of The Atlantic observed earlier this week, Trump has taken the opposite approach from Clinton in many respects: he talks about impeachment obsessively, he shows no contrition for any aspect of the case, and he invests little in trying to persuade anyone who isn't already a Trump supporter that his impeachment is unwarranted.

It was clear enough even before these recent developments that Trump is much more a creature of emotion than a political calculator in the Clinton mold. The inadvisable admissions and uncontrolled outbursts of the past few days are hardly out of line with past behavior, though their growing intensity suggests that the prospect of impeachment is placing a decided strain on the presidential temperament. Put simply, this doesn't have the feel of a master strategy being coolly moved into place.

But does it really matter?

Clinton's response made sense because congressional Democrats' willingness to stand by him was dependent, as he perceived it, on the belief that they would not pay an electoral price for doing so. It was critically important, from this point of view, for Clinton to remain popular with swing voters and for other Democrats to hold their own in trial heat polls against Republican opponents; if the public turned against Clinton, so would key members of his own party, thus jeopardizing his presidency. The impeachment strategy, then, was merely a specific application of the Clinton-era Democrats' broader political approach: make tactical concessions here and there in order to gain and hold the political middle ground against the Republican opposition.

Trump is not only a very different kind of politician than Clinton, but he also leads a very different kind of party. Many congressional Republicans worry more—for good reason—about internal primary challenges from the right than Democrats do about a backlash on the left, which keeps them publicly loyal to a president who remains very popular among the Republican grassroots. Trump's belief that general elections are won more by keeping the party base stoked and mobilized than by reassuring swing voters of his moderation and pragmatism is shared widely among Republican politicians and activists. Trump can also rely on the conservative media infrastructure to supply a stream of arguments in his defense for other Republicans to echo, making the creation of a central command post staffed by political communication and research professionals a less necessary step for him than it was for Clinton.

So even if Frum is right that Clinton and Trump have chosen diametrically opposed counterimpeachment strategies, it's very possible that they will both wind up facing the same outcome: a more-or-less party-line vote to impeach in the House of Representatives, followed by a more-or-less party-line vote to acquit in the Senate. It's fair to wonder whether Trump would actually benefit after all from following his predecessor's more deliberate approach. Perhaps the answer is no. But there are a few reasons why a better strategy might actually help Trump:

1. It might exacerbate Democratic divisions. One key difference between 1998 and 2019 is that Clinton's impeachment was driven by a committed Republican congressional leadership (especially then-majority whip Tom DeLay), while Nancy Pelosi and other top House Democratic officials have been visibly unenthusiastic about impeaching Trump due to the perceived risk that it poses to the party's most electorally vulnerable members. A savvier White House would be in position to exploit this internal tension by turning down the rhetorical heat and allowing moderate Democrats to have second thoughts, but instead it is providing more impeachment fodder seemingly every time that the president speaks in public. Trump is already acting as if his impeachment is inevitable, thereby making it—at the least—more probable.

2. Even a few Republican defections matter. The strength of partisan ties and the power of the conservative media guarantee that most Republicans will stick with their president, thereby ensuring that he will continue in office unless the Ukraine scandal metastasizes dramatically from its current state. But if a handful of congressional Republicans break with Trump, it bolsters the legitimacy of the impeachment effort and undercuts the counterargument that the whole thing is a Democratic power grab. Even if the public doesn't notice too much or remember too long, attentive elites are much more likely to treat the Ukraine scandal as a serious violation if there is an element of bipartisanship to the impeachment proceedings.

Some Republican allies will be content to defend Trump regardless of circumstance, but others will be worried about getting caught out on a limb that gets sawed off when the president's story changes or new facts surface that disprove previous claims. The release of the "smoking gun tape" sealed Richard Nixon's fate in 1974 in part because Republicans in Congress discovered that Nixon had been lying not just to the press but to them, and allowing them to repeat those lies to their constituents. Several key Republicans have already grown very quiet rather than commit themselves to any particular position or version of events, and there doesn't seem to be much about the president's handling of the crisis that is privately reassuring to members of Congress.

3. Trump still has another election to win. Clinton, of course, was in the midst of his second term in 1998, but Trump is facing an election next year burdened by a subpar approval rating and a highly energized opposition party. Even if the current crisis doesn't further damage his popularity, it still makes it harder for him to win over a few skeptical voters and thus strengthen his position prior to the 2020 race. Impeachment may not itself have major electoral ramifications, but it could still exact an opportunity cost on a presidency that could really use a few quiet months. Clinton believed that getting drawn into daily rhetorical combat would erode his ability to claim the high ground. But Trump is a fighter by nature, and can't resist the partisan fray regardless of the political benefits that might come from adopting the veneer of statesmanship.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Impeachment Is Important—But Don't Expect It to Matter Much in 2020

Once Democratic control of the House of Representatives made the impeachment of Donald Trump hypothetically possible, discussion of the topic has been accompanied by a widespread assumption (held inside as well as outside the party) that pursuing impeachment is a high-risk political strategy with a very good chance of seriously backfiring regardless of its substantive justification. This conventional wisdom reflects the Washington community's collective memory of the events of 1998, which goes something like this: zealous Republicans insisted on impeaching Bill Clinton despite strong opposition from American voters, who exacted their revenge by raining electoral blows upon the GOP in the congressional midterms as Clinton snickered with delight.

But that's not really what happened. It's true that impeachment was unpopular, but the actual results of the 1998 election were hardly calamitous for Republicans. The party suffered a very minor loss of 5 seats in the House, while there was no net partisan change in the Senate. Republicans held a majority in both congressional chambers prior to the election, and they retained this majority afterwards with little change in their margin of control. The 1998 midterms were the epitome of a status quo election, with no measurable wind or wave in either direction.

There are two main reasons why the Clinton impeachment is misleadingly remembered as such a disaster for the Republican Party. The first is that most journalists and commentators assumed that Republicans would reap major political benefits from the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal from the moment it first emerged in January 1998. Even when polls began to roll in showing that most Americans weren't outraged by the revelations—and certainly didn't believe they warranted removal from office—pundits repeatedly waved them off, insisting that the electorate would be properly scandalized once it learned more of the facts. For example, Sam Donaldson of ABC News was predicting as late as mid-October that the public was about to turn against Clinton for good, forcing his resignation from the presidency.

The written report of special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, engineered by congressional Republicans to be released to the public in the midst of the campaign season in mid-September, contained a number of salacious details that consumed the news media for weeks. When combined with the "iron law" that the president's party "always" loses House seats in the midterm election (which had held true for every midterm since 1938 at that point), this well-timed additional exposé was supposedly poised to hand the GOP a major political advantage. So while the election itself hardly produced a Democratic landslide, the outcome was interpreted against a backdrop of contrary expectations as a decisive victory for Clinton at the expense of his partisan opponents.

The second reason why the Clinton impeachment went down in history as a political fiasco is the messy leadership succession that occurred after the election. House Speaker Newt Gingrich was immediately forced out by his own party, though the disappointing election returns represented the final blow to an already weakened Gingrich (who had faced an internal Republican coup attempt the year before) rather than the central factor precipitating his exit from the speakership. It was easy enough for media reports to frame Gingrich's downfall as representing Clinton's ultimate triumph over an arch-nemesis, but the abrupt withdrawal of the next prospective speaker, Bob Livingston, from consideration for the job several weeks later—Livingston had carried on an extramarital affair, which became disqualifying under the circumstances on grounds of perceived partisan hypocrisy—merely cemented perceptions that the whole production had turned into an utter wipeout for Republicans even before the Senate trial of Clinton ended in an anti-climactic acquittal early the following year.

But there is no clear evidence that Republican candidates as a group performed any worse, either in 1998 or thereafter, than they would have absent the impeachment push. Clinton was an unusually popular president due primarily to an unusually robust national economy, and many of the most promising congressional seat targets for the GOP had already been picked off in the 1994 or 1996 elections. Congressional elections expert Gary Jacobson of UC San Diego concluded at the time that "the results of the 1998 elections are in no way extraordinary. . . . [they] are about what we would expect if no one had ever heard of Monica Lewinsky."

If Clinton's impeachment didn't really matter much in the 1998 elections (Washington lore aside), there's little reason to believe that a potential impeachment of Donald Trump will be decisive in 2020. Trump is much less popular than Clinton was; public attitudes have become more consistently partisan and less malleable over the 21 succeeding years; fewer members of Congress are cross-pressured by representing a constituency that normally leans toward the opposite party; and even an impeachment process that stretches on for a few months will conclude well before next November. The currently developing scandal is important for a number of reasons, but it's very possible that its influence on future elections never extends beyond potentially pushing this or that odd congressional seat in one partisan direction or the other.

An impeachment proceeding is such a momentous, historic event that it's only natural to expect it to have a transformative effect on the attitudes of the American public. This was certainly a common assumption in 1998—how can such a big political story not produce a correspondingly big electoral impact?—and some analysts continue even today to treat impeachment as a perilous political proposition for one side or the other. But the Trump presidency has already generated more than the usual number of big political stories, and the effects of all of them on mass opinion have been modest at best. Americans have already made up their minds about this president, and it will take a truly dramatic set of future developments for most of them to re-evaluate his performance in office. That doesn't mean this isn't an important story—it surely is, just as Clinton's impeachment was. But not everything that's important in politics leaves a major imprint on the voting returns.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Yes, Some Suburbs Are Turning Blue—But Others Have Stayed Quite Red: New Op-Ed in the New York Times

The results of the 2018 elections have repeatedly been interpreted as demonstrating a weakened Republican Party in suburban America, as Donald Trump's antics are supposedly driving exasperated suburbanites into the Democratic camp. In my latest op-ed piece for the New York Times, I explain that this story indeed holds true for the nation's largest metropolitan areas. In the remainder of suburban America, however, where the electorate is whiter and more socially conservative, the GOP remains electorally dominant in the Trump era. The research paper upon which the article is drawn, "The Suburbanization of the Democratic Party, 1992–2018," also served as the basis of a recent column by Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and is available here.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Democratic Debate Analysis: Who Has the Right to Question Biden's Competence?

It's likely that even those analysts who love to declare winners, losers, and game-changing moments (a practice largely eschewed here at Honest Graft) won't find all that much fodder in Thursday night's Democratic debate. The biggest pre-debate media hype focused on the opportunity for a dramatic personal showdown between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, who were appearing on the same debate stage for the first time this year. But no major conflict arose between the two, and for sound strategic reasons. Biden is still ahead in the race, while Warren seems to be steadily gaining support, and so neither candidate has much incentive to rock the boat—at least not right now. Aiming a sharp personal attack at the other might only backfire among the large share of Democratic voters who have positive views of both candidates.

Even those contenders who are far behind in the polls, and thus have more reason to adopt a risky, attention-grabbing debate style, mostly played nice—at least with each other. (Some mockery lobbed in Donald Trump's direction, especially by Kamala Harris, was seemingly designed not only to play to the crowd but also to potentially bait the president into responding on Twitter.) The biggest exception was Julián Castro, who directly challenged Biden on at least two occasions. Castro provoked the most comment during an exchange on the subject of health care, when he claimed that Biden had contradicted himself about an aspect of his reform proposal. "Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?" Castro asked Biden.

Anyone paying even modest attention to the news coverage of the 2020 Democratic nomination race is likely to have encountered the implication from multiple corners of the national press corps that the front-running former vice president is not operating at peak performance these days. Biden has long been treated by many reporters, fairly or not, as an undisciplined speaker with an unremarkable intellect, but something of a collective judgment has formed that even by his own standards he's lost a step or two, mentally speaking, as he approaches his late 70s. When combined with Biden's digital illiteracy and propensity to tell stories about the mostly-forgotten senators he served with 45 years ago, this has led to an unmistakable theme running through reporters' coverage of Biden that their subject is a man whose time has come and gone—a pattern that Biden's own orbit recently complained about to Ryan Lizza of Politico.

One might think that the potential competence of would-be presidents would be a critical topic for primary voters to consider—or, at the least, fair game to contest in a debate. But from the perspective of a rival candidate, it's a very tricky issue to raise. And Castro missed the mark: his accusations that Biden had misstated, or "forgotten," his own health care plan were simply not true.

Candidates who make false attacks on their opponents are being unfair and deserve criticism. But multiple media assessments faulted Castro not only for making a false attack—something that has been known to happen from time to time in debates—but also for engaging in underhanded if not offensive insinuations about Biden's cognitive acuity: a "low blow," "playing the age card." Yet later in the debate, Biden gave a somewhat meandering answer in response to a question about Afghanistan and made a non sequitur remark about "having the record player on at night" as (apparently) a suggested means for parents to improve the verbal skills of underprivileged children. Both of these comments provoked immediate media mockery in the familiar "Uncle Joe is losing it!" genre that has become a staple of campaign coverage this year.

One need not agree with Castro's specific line of attack—which was clearly erroneous on the facts—to wonder whether the national media are in danger of adopting a kind of double standard under which reporters and commentators can openly ridicule Biden's outdated references and freely speculate about potential senility while simultaneously pronouncing any political competitor who suggests the same to be guilty of ageism or other out-of-bounds transgressions. This is a complicated and delicate subject, and no clear rule book applies. But if journalists are as concerned about Biden's fitness to serve as they appear to be, they should allow the issue of competence to be openly litigated during the nomination campaign. It's an important attribute for a president to have, and voters should be allowed—and even encouraged—to take it very seriously.