Quick Take: Oprah 2020?

Brian Gongol

Should Oprah Winfrey run for President in 2020?

1. I've said before that if we drafted our members of Congress at random, then we should end up with a legislative branch that is not quite as good as the one we have -- but not terrible, either. That's because lawmaking should improve with experience, expertise, and practice -- but legislation shouldn't be so far out of reach that we couldn't imagine a truly citizen legislature.

2. I don't feel the same way about the Executive Branch. The United States government is one of the biggest operations in the world, with a budget that consumes one-fifth of everything we produce as a country and more than 2.7 million civilian employees. Congress sets the rules, but it's up to the President and his or her appointees to ensure they are carried out. There's no room for amateur hour at the top.

3. The Presidency isn't about policy. That's what Congress is for. The Presidency is about execution -- getting the job done right. The closest jobs to being President are being a governor, a Cabinet secretary, a Vice President, or perhaps the mayor of a very large city. There is no White House simulator, so the next-best thing is seeing how someone behaves when executing laws that have been decided by others. Presidents who think the job is all about them are destined to make huge and damaging mistakes. The true turning points in the Presidency are those moments that nobody can predict, but for which only prior experience serves as practice: Moments like 9/11 or the Cuban Missile Crisis or the fall of the Berlin Wall. If someone hasn't spent time in an analogous role, they can't be expected to know how to act when they're on the biggest stage of all.

4. If people want a ceremonial head of state, then let's have a debate about that. But for now, the job of the President should mainly be the execution of the laws chosen by others, not expressing a primal scream on behalf of voters. And let's not lose sight of the fact: The Presidency is a job, the President is an employee, and we're the employers. Everyone knows that interviews are a pretty poor predictor of job success, and being a celebrity is just like having a long-running interview. What matters is demonstrated experience.

5. I have nothing at all against Oprah Winfrey. But if the last 12 months have you excited about a political novice running for President because you think they're YOUR novice, then you have absolutely missed the point.