From my experience, I know about how challenging an issue like this pandemic can be. Issuing Executive Orders based on the best science available, while knowing your economy and state budget are going to hell, makes for long days. Then there is the pressure from the public to keep everyone safe and healthy but also get people back to work and students back to school. Nothing is easy here. And the lack of federal guidance and support has left the states to largely fend for themselves on necessary supplies and infrastructure—and foot the bill for it. We can only hope Congress will get its act together and pass some budget relief for the states, otherwise, it will be yet another failure in the response from Washington, D.C., and this one will be largely due to problems they failed to solve during the initial relief stages.
Many Governors are demonstrating real leadership at a time when it is so desperately needed. Their strategy is not rocket science. They surround themselves with very good, qualified advisors. They listen to these experts and then make the tough decisions. These Governors respect science and take seriously that they are leading for all the citizens of their state, therefore leaving politics to a very definite back seat. And, as important as anything, they understand the value of communication that is accurate, understandable by the general public, and does not require walking the statement back shortly after its release.
I have always thought that those who have served as a Governor should be the most important pool from which to draw for potential candidates for President. I say that because in contrast to U.S. Senators, Governors have actually led large, complex organizations. They have experience making tough decisions that directly impact citizens as well as putting together leadership teams that are successful. And because Governors are closer to the people, they have experience dealing with the many challenges that come with being a decision-maker for the public’s interests.
When President Obama was starting out as U.S. Senator from Illinois, I recall telling him when he was in Topeka for a Washington Day Address that my unsolicited advice was to go back to Illinois and run for Governor and then he would be in a really strong position to run for President. Obviously, he didn’t take my advice and was a very good President, but could he have been even better with more Executive experience? On the flip side, given a high percentage of Illinois Governors have ended up in prison, rejecting my suggestion certainly had some merit.
The bottom line is that Governors represent not just the leadership needed now in this health and economic crisis, but they are the pipeline for future leaders of our country. Both political parties have talented Governors who would be excellent national leaders. Maybe the current debacle with a totally inexperienced leader at the national level will be a lesson we do not forget.