James Leroy Wilson's one-man magazine.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Fog of Politics: Theo Epstein should NOT be President

On Saturday night, October 22, 2016 the Chicago Cubs won their first National League pennant since 1945. The architect behind the team, General Manager Theo Epstein, was previously the GM of the Boston Red Sox when they won the World Series in 2004 and 2007.

Before 2004, the Red Sox famously hadn't won the World Series since 1918. The Cubs, even more famously. haven't won it all since 1908. If Epstein wins with the Cubs, he will attain a status in baseball of almost mythic proportions, if he hasn't already. And he's only 42 years old.

The thought crossed my mind last night: why don't we all just write him in for President? A person close to me expressed the same thought, independently, on social media. I'm sure millions of others have thought the same thing.

And if that's impossible, I thought we should start planning now for Epstein-Francona or Francona-Epstein 2020? Francona - Terry Francona - is the Cleveland Indians manager who managed those Red Sox teams under Epstein. The Indians are playing the Cubs in the series, and they haven't won it since 1948. Whoever wins this Series gets the Presidential nod for having the superior Magic Touch, with the other as Vice President.

Epstein-Francona is a ridiculous notion, but there is something appealing with plucking highly successful people from other occupations and saying, "Okay, now be just as brilliant, but this time in the White House."

But then I remembered Fog of War, which I recently saw again. I had written previously about it here and here. It's about Robert McNamara, the talented Ford executive who took a massive pay cut to become Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He was among the best and the brightest men of his era, but he carried out policies in Vietnam that proved disastrous.

Here's what McNamara could do at Ford that he couldn't do heading the world's largest government bureaucracy: measure success. While it's possible to measure a President's popularity through daily polling, you can't judge the success of a President's policies until years down the road.

At Ford, McNamara had profits and loss statements. At the Cubs, Theo Epstein has wins and losses in the standings. These are not popularity contests. The results, and the perception of the results, don't change over time. They are objective.

A President Epstein, however, will face choruses on all sides demanding that he "do something" about a domestic problem or a foreign crisis. He will be provided misleading statistics and bad intelligence. Epstein would blunder about in the fog of politics, and even if he, like McNamara, is among the brightest of our age, no amount of technocratic expertise will yield good results if his principles are flawed. His wars will make things worse, because wars always do. His laws, regulations, and domestic programs will make things worse over the long term, because that's what they always do. There's nothing about a Theo Epstein or other bright person that will make his bundle of carrots and sticks effective where others have failed.

If Epstein is as wise as he is bright, he will know that in matter of politics and State, the less one does, the better. The more free the people are, the more prosperous they become. The less the nation is at war, the more secure it is. If the worst GM in baseball understands this but Epstein does not, I'd prefer the inferior GM as President.

And in the end, I like my non-political heroes to stay out of politics. I'd like to think of Epstein as the genius who turned around two franchises and made life happier for millions of people. I don't want to view him, ten or twelve years from now, as a war criminal.

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