Politics/Law/Government

Want a nice new top job? Quit your current job to seek it

Let’s say I want a new job. I’m not rich or powerful, so my employer is hardly likely to allow me to take a few weeks off — let alone more than a year — to search for a new job. My employer expects me to do my job. If I want to look for a new job, I’ll have to do it on my own time — and probably secretly.

At the moment, there’s a gaggle of politicians who have jobs — important jobs — who are running around the country looking for a new job. And none of their current employers seems to be complaining all that loudly. They should be.

I am one such indignant employer. I’m irritated that the woman I hired to do a job for me — be an fully effective senator for the state of New York — is too busy seeking a new job that she’s falling down on her current job.

This isn’t a complaint solely about Sen. Hillary Clinton. Accompanying her on the campaign trail are other officeholders seeking a new job while supposedly working to improve the lot in life of the people who hired them to perform competently in their current jobs.

Like Sen. Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain have current jobs that pay them $169,300 a year. Sens. Chris Dodd and Joe Biden used their current jobs to seek a new job until they withdrew from the 2008 presidential election sweepstakes.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Rep. Ron Paul, too, get paid $169,300 per annum. Ditto Rep. Duncan Hunter, who has also used his current job and that fat salary to seek a new job.

Gov. Bill Richardson, paid $110,000 by the state of New Mexico, also wanted that nice new job until he, too, withdrew from the presidential race.

They all want this really great new job: $400,000 per year, including a $50,000 expense allowance. A nice plane. Limos to everywhere. Housing provided. Housing staff provided. Best medical benefits in the world.

How can these people perform well in their current jobs if they take up to a year or more to campaign virtually full time for a new job? Oh, they say, We have staff people. We have the most modern, reliable communication equipment to keep in touch. We can fly chartered planes back to D.C. or the statehouse if need be.

That’s poppycock. As it is, these people do not spend full time on their current jobs; as much as half their time (if they weren’t seeking a new job) is spent raising money so they can retain their current jobs. For any of these candidates to claim that they can perform fully and competently in their current jobs while running for president is political deceit.

Many of these people, when seeking their current job, promised this: Don’t worry. If you hire me, I will serve out my full term. I’ll place my full attention on you, the people who hired me.

If these people want to run for president, fine. Many are suitably qualified to be a competent, if not inspirational, president. But, damn it, quit your current job first so we can find a replacement who will give us the full attention we need.

It is morally reprehensible for presidential candidates to claim they can fully and competently serve in Congress or a statehouse while running for president. They demonstrate a lack of courage by holding on to that “fallback” job while spending a year seeking another one.

As we measure the character of these candidates, let’s keep this in mind: Past behavior is an indicator of future performance.

11 replies »

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  2. Dr. D., thanks for putting things in perspective.

    Re Hunter: The error is his for thinking anybody wanted him in the race in the first place.

    Meanwhile. . .

    “Past behavior is an indicator of future performance.”

    What’s a standing president campaigning for? Unless, like Bush, who, while holding his current job, has been campaigning for his next — ruler of the earth (or at least, its oil fields).

  3. I have to say, Dr. D, no one here in Texas appeared to be particularly concerned when Governor Georgie went out on the campaign trail… but that’s a special case, I imagine.

  4. Forgive me for seeming naive and idealistic, but not all jobs within the democratic process are created equal.

    True, the job description of an elected official is to vote as a representative of his or her constituents in legislative assemblies, but there is an overarching duty to the process itself that should supercede that.

    For better or worse, the position of president comes with immense influence over the future of your nation. It’s not terribly unfounded to suggest that the more qualified candidates exist within the nomination pool, the better the country’s chances ofending up with good nominees. By participating in a run for a nomination (and, hopefully, the presidency), a senator/congressman/postal worker can contribute to the democratic process in a more useful way than the one vote they wield on the floor of a legislative body.

    The harm in not being in assembly is further diminished by the fact that rarely does a resolution stand or fall by virtue of a single vote. If such was the case, it would likely be predictable days, or even weeks, before the actual vote took place. A candidate could return to legislature from the campaign trail to resolve such an unlikely exigency.

    I would also suggest that the harm in penalizing public officials for participating in the presidential horse race is greater than the harm in allowing them to evade a strict reading of their job description. Having experience in government would likely be an asset in what is probably your government’s most influential role. To prohibit public officials from holding their post while running for president would increase the already-significant risk assumed in such an attempt. This could easily dissuade presidential hopefuls from ever moving beyond hopeful daydreams.

    Running for public office can not be so easily compared to hunting for a new job in the private sector. The imperative to make the strongest possible contribution to the democratic process irrevocably shifts the ethical calculus of a mid-term presidential run away from that of job hunting on your boss’s dime.

    True, not every candidate is the best possible choice, but there is more to gain by allowing qualified candidates to throw their political hat into the ring than there is to lose by a one-vote change on the senate floor.

  5. To the Canadian Student:

    Running for any political office is exactly like a horse race, however why is it that the
    contenders are, for the most part, always the back half of the horse???

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