The debt ceiling and the fifth labor of Heracles

I was at a dinner party last night at which several intelligent and opinionated people were asked to speak about matters of the moment, including presidential politics (Who? Who?) and the debt ceiling.

Two things saddened me about the former: 1) several people suggested that the Republican to back was the one who was most effective in attacking President Obama; and 2) the person who fit that bill was Mitt Romney.

I think that’s wrong on both counts. In the first place, when it comes to presidential elections, the line to hum is “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” The successful candidate will be the one who wraps whatever criticisms he makes in the pleasing integument of a positive vision. Bonus points go not to the person who mounts the most telling attack but the one who presents the most creditable alternative.

In the second place, the idea that Mitt “Mr. Establishment” Romney is the best placed candidate is (as I suggested in this space before)  laughable. One eminent commentator last night (sorry, Chatham House rules, so no names) commended Mr. Romney because, unlike Barack Obama, he has “experience” and understand business. Well, the president certainly lacked experience running anything other than a political campaign, but more worrisome is his incompetence. Experience accretes naturally with time. What is wanted is insight, understanding, and wisdom, qualities that are gifts of  talent, not longevity.

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