Charles Krauthammer articulated a major hurdle that Ted Cruz will face as he runs for the presidency:
First term Senators, we already tried a first-term Senator. … Cruz talks about you have to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk. You have to have done something but that's not his record in the Senate. He's a good rhetorician, but when Walker says I ran the state, I took on the unions, I took on liberals and I won I think it is going to be a strong argument.
The same applies to Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. Erick Erickson calls it, “the fair and relevant question.” Allahpundit breaks down the prospective response here.
I do not think the issue of experience is dispositive. We have had very fine presidents with little political experience—Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower come to mind. We’ve had terrible presidents with lots of political experience—James Buchanan, for instance. There is no relevant job experience because the presidency is so different from everything else.
Rather, the essential question is: Can the president influence Congress to pass a conservative reform agenda that enjoys broad public support?
This query fully prices in the president’s role in our constitutional order. Article I, Section 1 reads: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” We must acknowledge Congress, not the president, is at the center of our regime.
Congress has made a mess of public policy. It has generated an endless tangle of inefficient, half-baked, contradictory rules that secure client-patron relationships between politicians and all manner of interest groups. That goes for tax policy, farm policy, infrastructure policy, regulatory policy, everything.
From top to bottom: Congress is an irresponsible steward of the public trust. Almost all of our problems trace back to the dysfunction of the Congress. Even Obama’s executive overreach: Congress has been handing legislative authority to the president and bureaucracy for 80 years; is it any wonder a president finally took something that wasn’t given him?
What conservatives need is a president who can induce Congress to make reforms that it would not otherwise make. This is no mean feat. After all, public policy emanating from Congress works quite well for … members of Congress! They like the status quo, thank you very much. Ideally, a good president helps members see their self-interest rightly understood, as Tocqueville would say. He gets them to do what they should be doing, anyway.
There are two ways a president does that. The first is the “inside game.” This includes paying attention to members, sharing the perquisites of the presidential office, helping them deal with a recalcitrant bureaucracy, supporting favored pieces of legislation, and offering campaign assistance. It all gets down to a president knowing what levers he can pull to get Congress to do what he wants.
The second is the “outside game.” The president applies pressure on Congress indirectly, by influencing public opinion. The thinking is that if the president rallies the people, Congress will follow along.
In general, the president’s power is limited, regardless of strategy. The appearance of executive authority often has less to do with the president’s mettle than with the political context in which he finds himself. Moreover, the ideal of a “strong president” is a Progressive Era myth that facilitates government growth. Propagated by Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, it gives the false impression that somebody is “in charge.” In truth, nobody is actually in charge of our government. Conservatives would do well to follow the Framers’ lead, and focus more energy on Congress.