Last week, the Washington Post published a column by "Democrats" Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell arguing that President Obama could save the country and cure political gridlock by not seeking reelection in 2012. Their proposal was intellectually vacant, and the Post neglected to inform their readers of Schoen's financial relationship with New York City mayor, and potential 2012 presidential candidate, Michael Bloomberg. As if to accentuate the bad-faith character of their advice, last week "Democrats" Schoen and Caddell appeared all over Fox News to promote their idea and then headed off to participate in Restoration Weekend, an annual gathering of right-wing politicians and pundits put together by conservative activist David Horowitz.
In short, it wasn't exactly a shining moment for American punditry.
Now, a week later, the Post has published an op-ed by Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, who points out what everybody already knew -- Schoen's and Caddell's argument was empirically and laughably absurd:
In an essay in The Washington Post's Outlook section on Nov. 14, veteran pollsters Douglas E. Schoen and Patrick H. Caddell offered an unorthodox piece of advice for President Obama. If he announced now that he wouldn't stand for reelection in 2012, they argued, he would be able accomplish more politically, rally support to his side and better deal with the nation's challenges. Their advice flies in the face of what this Silicon Valley executive faced and what all we know about how to wield power and exercise leadership to get things done.
Getting things done, whether in the private sector or in government, requires power, and having power means retaining the capacity to affect what happens to others, ensuring that those whose support you remain dependent on you. As former secretary of state and Stanford University provost Condoleezza Rice told one protege, "People may oppose you, but when they realize you can hurt them, they'll join your side."
Similarly, Laura Esserman, director of the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center at the University of California at San Francisco, told my Stanford class on power that she stopped saying she wasn't interested in senior administrative posts at the university after she realized that signaling she would never have power over her colleagues reduced their incentive to support her initiatives.
These examples and the principle on which they are based -- you have power to the extent that others are going to depend on you in the future -- is just one reason that Schoen and Caddell's proposal for Obama seems singularly misguided.