Candidate Candor that Might Electrify the Electorate

U.S. media reporting on the Iowa Caucus tell us that the 2016 primary candidates, Republican and Democratic,  face voter dissatisfaction with American politics. “Outsiders” like Trump, Carson, and Fiorina, who have no previous political experience, are tapping widespread anger among Republicans and especially conservatives.

The performance of governors like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Mike Huckabee at least gives them claims to practical skills as leaders. More deeply tarred with the political brush are Senators like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul. They may have silver tongues. But what have they accomplished? The candidate with the longest identification with politics is Hillary Clinton, who has been neck deep in it since she was a Goldwater girl in 1964. Bernie Sanders is a special case. He’s so uncharacteristically straightforward that people don’t associate his 25-year history as Representative for Vermont with the record low standing of Congress as an institution. He’s attracting young people who are ready to overlook the fact that the 73-year old Sanders appeals exclusively to liberal voters.

What would happen if  candidates had personal transformations that made them  publicly own up to failures, weaknesses, or odd behaviors? I’ve tried to create some scenarios of this kind for a sample of the candidates.

 

Hillary Clinton 

I need to make an acknowledgment. Back in 1992 when Bill took office as President of the United States he honored me by giving me the lead in developing a comprehensive health care plan for the nation. To avoid confusion and distractions I convened a task force that didn’t include a diversity of stakeholders and experts. In fact, I didn’t even ask Bill for input on our proposal. Embarrassingly, my initiative sank like a stone. I learned an important lesson from this mistake. I now make a pledge to voters. If I’m elected President I will definitely seek Bill’s input on big initiatives!

 

Jeb Bush

I love my brother. But honesty requires me to say that George made a fatal mistake in taking Dick Cheney as his Vice President. Dick talked him into abandoning his campaign commitment to reduce CO2 emissions, convened a secret energy task force, and warned George about the grave threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. After the defeat of the Iraqi army Dick felt General Gardner was too friendly with the Sunnis and Kurds. He urged replacement of Gardner by the more decisive Paul Bremer. People now remember Bremer as the man who dismantled Saddam’s army and turned loose 300,000 soldiers with weapons but no jobs. These and other developments during George’s administration have led me to an important decision: I am going to change my last name! That way voters can elect me president without having a third Bush in the White House!

 

Donald Trump

I’ve enjoyed amazing success in my business deals, projects and in the TV entertainment world. My primary campaign is going so great that I want to level with voters about things I have not talked about. I wouldn’t be so successful and rich if I weren’t open to creative strategies. To tell the truth, in negotiations I usually start with much bigger demands than I’ll finally settle for. It’s not a secret. I made the point in my best-selling book, “The Art of the Deal”, but the pundits are so dumb they take what I say at face value.

Example: what I said about Muslims has given the liberal media fits. Editors and writers at the Washington Post, who are normally cool and controlled, completely lost it. You could see it; they got emotional, called me a bigot, demagogue, Mussolini, Hitler. And what happened? 1) I didn’t have to pay anything to completely dominate political news – the equivalent of more than $100 million paid publicity, and 2) conservative voters got the message that nothing was going to move Trump off security – not fear of offending people, reluctance to say things that are POLITICALLY incorrect – or getting in trouble with the editorial writers and columnists. So if later I say Muslims are great people and tell about my great Muslim friends the experts will rack their brains trying to figure out my real position. The voters will still feel that I’ll be a rock on security, even though I might be trying to figure things out myself.

 

Carly Fiorina

I started out in the Republican campaign practically unknown, just as I started out at Hewlett Packard as a secretary, getting coffee for my bosses. I worked my way up to become CEO of HP through force of personality and intelligence – you have to be good if you’re a female executive in business. People have said I am exceptionally articulate and look presidential. You probably saw male candidates flinch when I challenged them in the first debate. I rose from a 1% rating and with only 39% of voters having even heard of me when I began my campaign to the level of John Kasich and Rand Paul.

But I now admit that my career has had a lot of flash but too little results. I think I know what went wrong. I started as a management trainee at AT&T and rose to become Vice President of the hardware division, but a money-losing initiative at Lucent Technologies and my loss to California Senator Barbara Boxer happened because I didn’t listen to people. I have learned from all this, my firing from HP, and troubles in my campaign. I am now considering starting over as a secretary in order to learn humility.