President Dobbs: The First Tell-All Memoir

November 24th, 2009 at 2:26 pm | 49 Comments |

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Lou Dobbs is saying he might run for president in 2012. As one who worked for Dobbs a decade ago, stuff when he was CEO of the Internet venture Space.com, sildenafil I wish to point out that his management skills and style were unequal to running a web company with some 100 employees. As president of the United States, he would be a disaster.

A successful American president needs some ability to rise above certain temptations of the office. These include the temptation to put yourself in a bubble, listening only to reverent aides who will tell you what you want to hear, and the temptation to think of the office as being all about you, making it a platform for endless ego gratification.

Dobbs has zero ability to resist such temptations. He was a boss who sought to rule by intimidation; being a famous anchorman in a roomful of young web journalists gave him considerable leverage to do that. At the same time, he became increasingly irritable running a website about outer space, which I attribute not only to the dot com boom deflating (which meant he was not going to become as wealthy as his friend Ted Turner) but also to the fact that he was no longer in the public eye on a daily basis.

It was, in short, all about him, and he made it crystal clear that his employees were as expendable as the fall-away parts of a rocket. My own employment at Space.com ended during a staff meeting in which, after I suggested company management practices could be improved, he promptly told me he would accept my resignation.

Years later, I ran into Lou in a Manhattan office building (we share a periodontist) and we had a pleasant conversation going down in the elevator. He’s not an altogether bad guy. He can be agreeable company, for example over a drink or after getting dental anesthesia. But there should be no mistaking him for someone who would contemplate multiple points of view thoughtfully or cultivate a talented administration of individuals with whom he might have to share some credit for real or imagined achievements.

His TV show of recent years gives ample reason to think the substance as well as the style of a Dobbs administration would be awful. His anti-corporate populism and hostility to free trade would be impediments to the prospects for economic revitalization. His railing against illegal immigrants is overblown, emphasizing us-versus-them emotionalism over serious policy analysis. His receptiveness to fringe conspiracy theories such as the birther business is simply disgraceful.

It’s hard to know whether Dobbs is really serious about contemplating a presidential run. Even if not, it is the sort of thing he’d likely be talking about, just to keep himself in the limelight and ensure a ready audience for whatever shows, books and speeches he might produce. It is also hard to judge whether there is any serious prospect he would win a presidential race, either as an independent or a rogue Democrat or Republican (and speaking of rogue, his sharing a ticket with Sarah Palin has been much discussed).

But it is not hard to judge what kind of president Lou Dobbs would be. His greatest achievement would be to make all our recent presidents and the current one, whatever one thinks of them now, look like paragons of statesmanship.

Note: Unlike a decade ago, when Lou Dobbs made his first abrupt departure from CNN, Ken Silber does not anticipate sending Dobbs a résumé.

Recent Posts by Kenneth Silber



49 Comments so far ↓

  • BarryS

    2012 looks like it might be an interesting election.

  • ottovbvs

    “wish to point out that his management skills and style were unequal to running a web company with some 100 employees. As president of the United States, he would be a disaster.”

    ……You forget this is not considered a disqualification amongst the conservative voters likely to pull the lever for Lou……after all they eagerly supported GWB and would love to elevate Sarah Palin, both of whom suffer from similar disabilities

  • Chekote

    I think Dobbs would be interesting in the presidential debate. We would actually discuss issues instead of just trading talking points. Oh how I wish we had a Prime Minister Question Time in the US. The Palins, Bushes wouldn’t be possible.

  • BarryS

    Chekote

    Oh how I agree with you. That is definitely something we should adopt from the UK. Though to be honest even that institution has disintegrated into farce with the current Prime Minister refusing to answer actual questions and instead posing them himself!

  • Carney

    He should stay out of politics; he’d only humiliate himself. Instead he’d be a perfect fit for Fox Business Network. He made his name as a respected financial journalist on “Moneyline” and at CNNfn, and FBN is desperate for ratings and needs star power.

  • Chekote

    Still, Brown is someone who can talk about the issues. As can all British party leaders. Right or wrong. Agree with them or disagree with them. They are articulate. What we have in America is trained robots that repeat the same talking points over and over again.

  • Carney

    Chekote, I understand your point, but glib verbal dexterity isn’t everything either. We had it up to here with that under Bill Clinton, which is why we voted for Bush, and as Frum himself wrote an entire book on, Bush, with all his flaws, was the right man at the helm for the War on Terror. For that we needed clarity and unflinching resolve.

  • Carney

    Chekote, the system weeds out the loquacious and spontaneous in Darwinian fashion. Look at Newt Gingrich, whose mind is too restless to repeat talking points ad nauseam. He’s seen as undisciplined, erratic. Meanwhile it takes iron will to repeat things, but it’s necessary in a vast continent sized nation like ours; every time you say something thousands if not millions will be hearing it for the very first time. Who cares if political obsessives are getting bored and impatient?

  • ottovbvs

    Chekote // Nov 24, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    “Oh how I wish we had a Prime Minister Question Time in the US. The Palins, Bushes wouldn’t be possible.”

    …..you’re right that the adversarial debating system weeds out the duffers…..in fact I can think of no other western democratic society where two such unqualified people as Bush and Palin would make it to the top…..even in societies such as Germany, Austria or Israel where the president is a figure head they have usually made it through the political system……can you imagine Bush or Palin as head of government (chancellor or PM) in any of these countries……..even in those countries where they were crooked (Chirac or Netanyahu), slimy (Blair), understated (Merkel), histrionic (Chretien) none of them were fools or intellectual lightweights.

  • ottovbvs

    Carney // Nov 24, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    “Bush, with all his flaws, was the right man at the helm for the War on Terror.”

    …….this guy was without question the most disastrous president in my lifetime a view generally shared since he left office with average approvals in his last six months of around 25%

  • CentristNYer

    Carney // Nov 24, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    “Bush, with all his flaws, was the right man at the helm for the War on Terror. For that we needed clarity and unflinching resolve.”

    Clarity? He outsourced our Iraq intelligence to a guy named “Curveball,” causing us to spend billions on an unnecessary war. He allowed his justice department to find a way to justify waterboarding, which became an excellent recruiting tool for potential terrorists. He turned long-term and potential allies into enemies by appearing arrogant and pig-headed. His DADT policies drove gay interpreters out of the military, leaving us without sufficient resources. He put insufficient troops into Iraq up front then waited too long to finally initiate a surge (the original ditherer). And this is just for starters.

    I’m not sure how much more of this clarity the country could take.

  • BarryS

    Have to agree with Centrist on that one. Bush was a disaster in Iraq and a disaster on fiscal discipline. Never vetoed a spending bill from a GOP lead congress.

  • ottovbvs

    BarryS // Nov 24, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    “the current Prime Minister refusing to answer actual questions and instead posing them himself!’

    ……actually that’s one of the skills of PM’s question time…..when I was in college there in the late 50s/early 60′s we used to go to the public gallery sometimes to watch debates…..Macmillan was PM and he was good, very good……even leftists like Michael Foot who was subsequently a disastrous Labor leader were very good speakers……there was also a Tory at the time called Ian MacCleod who died quite young who was knockout……Clinton could have held his own there or Obama and Mrs C…….Republicans Newt probably, Cantor perhaps…..and there’s also another problem if you’re a loony like say Bachman you get groaned out of the place(it’s really embarrassing)….it even happened to Churchill several times

  • rbottoms

    I’m not sure how much more of this clarity the country could take.

    Now these guys are in a tough spot.

    They know Bush was a disaster as CINC, enacted policies completely at odds with conservatism, spent a trillion dollars on wars he nearly lost, get hit not once but twice with attacks on our soil (9/11, Anthrax), bungled the response to the greatest natural disaster in a century, destroyed the GOP brand on defense & security, decimated the United states military, got 5,000+ troops killed and left 40,000+ maimed .

    These guys cannot in any way admit those things :

    a.)actually happened
    b.) if they happened were bad for the country
    c.)know anyone named George W. Bush (la, la, la)

    If they did their heads would explode from the cognitive dissonance.

  • Carney

    CentristNYer, DADT was a Clinton policy Bush held on to. And in fact DADT was and is in direct violation of the law passed by Congress and signed by Clinton in 1993, which maintained an outright and explicit ban on homosexuals in the military.

  • CentristNYer

    Carney // Nov 24, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    “DADT was a Clinton policy Bush held on to.”

    Bush, unlike Clinton, was a wartime president and knew well (or certainly should have known) the dangers of driving good people out of the service at a critical time. Clinton’s policy was a mistake. Bush’s continuance of it was a tragedy.

  • Carney

    Further, I am quite critical of Bush in a number of areas, as is Frum, but reciting a laundry list of complaints about him does not make the reality go away that we needed, after 9/11, not verbal dexterity, in-the-moment wit, and clever comebacks, but mulishly stubborn will power. We especially needed it in 2004 and 2005, when Bush was under enormous, nearly unbearable pressure to buckle and flee from Iraq, but held on, shifted strategy, and broke the enemy. Many lesser leaders would have broken – we saw Sarah Palin do so in Alaska facing the far less burdensome pressure of spurious ethics complaints.

  • ottovbvs

    17 Carney // Nov 24, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    ‘but mulishly stubborn will power.’

    ……oh yes we got that in spades…..the problem was it was all in pursuit of totally misguided policies……Sir Douglas Haig demonstrated similar mulish willpower in WW 1

    “and broke the enemy.”

    …….you mean temporarily bought them off……they all still have their guns….are all still divided into the same camps…..are still bumping each other off at the rate of about 150 a month……and will have at it when we leave

  • CentristNYer

    Carney // Nov 24, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    “and broke the enemy.”

    With all due respect, if we broke the enemy, why are we still at war?

  • Carney

    CentristNYer, I didn’t say we had made Iraq into Vermont; I said we broke them. The enemy has any prospect of overthrowing the Iraqi state, which in the darkest days it looked as if it could do. It is reduced to occasional harassing attacks. The security environment and daily life in cities such as Baghdad is radically different from just a few years ago, with bars and nightclubs operating openly. I’m sure you’ll eagerly trumpet this or that strike as an example of their inevitable triumph and why we should flee in tears, but it’s been like pulling teeth to get the smugly self-styled “reality based community”, starting from Obama on down, to acknowledge that the reality in Iraq is now night-and-day compared to the no doubt fondly remembered days of 2005-6.

  • Carney

    I meant the enemy NO LONGER has any prospect.

    Lame, non editable forum comment system.

  • ottovbvs

    20 Carney // Nov 24, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    “I said we broke them. The enemy has any prospect of overthrowing the Iraqi state, ”

    …….Judging by these comments you have no idea of Iraqi reality ……Who are the enemy?……..the Shiites who are essentially very close to the Iranian and will be closer still when we leave……the Sunni’s who are the most well educated and technically proficient part of the population but whose insurgency was largely bought off……or the Kurds who are anxious to establish their own state in Northern Iraq around Kirkuk…..and in fact the bars, nightclubs and markets never actually stopped functioning during even the worst times which is why the bomb attacks were so murderous ……and even today Americans don’t wander around in Iraq without security….about 150 a month are still being killed in bomb outrages ……this whole mess has just been swept under the carpet until we leave when a civil war will likely break out with Iraq emerging as an Iranian client state…..just the outcome we wanted

  • BarryS

    Carney,

    Yes it’s better than when they were in civil war.

    But we only have a lid on the pot. And the pot is still a pressure cooker. We (the west) created an intrinsically unstable entity as Iraq. The only way that country held together was by fear (of Sadam) It would have never naturally been a country due to it’s tribal makeup. As soon as we leave (whenever we leave) it will blow up and we will end up with three distinct states. Nothing short of permanent occupation can stop that reality.

    The only things that have altered the situation are plenty of troops and plenty of bribes.

  • CentristNYer

    BarryS // Nov 24, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    “it will blow up and we will end up with three distinct states.”

    Which, of course, was the Biden plan, which he floated almost two years ago and which was roundly dismissed by conservatives as a surrender.

    But I think you’re right, this is where things are headed.

  • ottovbvs

    CentristNYer // Nov 24, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    “it will blow up and we will end up with three distinct states.”

    “But I think you’re right, this is where things are headed.”

    …….Not really…..maybe two as it’s conceivable the Kurds could establish their own state in the north but even that is unlikely given a) internal resistance from Sunni’s and Shia’s….and b)the attitude of Turkey which is never going to tolerate a Kurdistan on their border……much more likely a civil war in which the Sunnis probably go with the Iranian backed Shias…..impossible to predict the outcome but probably the Shia’s come out top given their numbers and the presence of their patron across the border…….so ultimately Shia strongman and Iranian client status…..relatively stable but definitely in the anti America camp

  • BarryS

    The main problem with the Bush administration was no appreciation of history. If they had stopped and though for a while after 9/11, they would have never invaded Afghanistan the way they did. Instead they would have used air power and special operations to destroy what was then a small band of terrorists.

    Why we did a wholesale invasion of that country when the plot was undertaken by Saudis and planned in Germany I will never know. It was a quagmire waiting to happen. And the Russians only pulled out of this same hellhole pretty recently. Obama is going to make the same error I fear.

    And to then compound the situation by launching the Iraq adventure, again a little history would have taught the folly of that move. If we genuinely wanted regime change then a simple air assault to weaken the army would have seen an uprising pretty damn soon. The same result will happen anyway.

    So we have spent what a trillion and a half. Lost 4000 plus troops, maimed countless others not to mention the dead Iraqis and the displaced. What a mess. So sad.

  • ottovbvs

    which the Sunnis probably go TO WAR with the Iranian backed Shias…..sorry missed key phrase

  • sinz54

    BarryS: Instead they would have used air power and special operations to destroy what was then a small band of terrorists.
    First of all, it wasn’t a “small band.” The CIA estimates that as many as 30,000 al-Qaeda were trained in Afghan training camps, and many of those were still in Afghanistan on the day of 9-11.

    Secondly, I don’t see how you can destroy al-Qaeda inside a country whose government has cut a deal with them and which is actively opposed to our actions. We’ve been trying to destroy al-Qaeda in Pakistan, whose military has never been very supportive of our actions. And we haven’t been successful, have we?

    Hillary got sufficiently exasperated that when she was in Pakistan, she blurted out the truth: al-Qaeda could be eliminated in Pakistan, if the government and its military really wanted to do it. They don’t. They fear the resulting civil unrest more than they fear us. So they let them operate there, modulo some showpiece “offensives” in which they move into the badlands, kill a few terrorists, and stop.

    Do you think the Taliban–who kept referring to Osama bin Laden as their “guest” whom they refused to give up to us–and their troops would have just stood around peaceably while our Special Forces went after al-Qaeda inside their country? What happens the first time the Taliban gives the order to their forces to fire on our troops?

  • ottovbvs

    sinz54 // Nov 24, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    ……Sinz we should have gone in there, got Bin Laden and as many of his associates as practical……..shot a few hundred Taliban and got out of there…..This is what the British used to do after they got their fingers burned twice….not perfect but much less expensive in blood and treasure….we’re screwed buddy…..much better to recognize it…..regroup and think up a better way to nail these bastards…..which could well mean a short punitive expedition into the Pakistani border lands

  • palomino70

    Dobbs running would be a disaster for the GOP. It would be 1992 all over again, with Dobbs taking the place of Perot. Any chance the GOP might have had in 1992 disappeared when Perot entered the race.

    Dobbs’ support, like Perot’s, comes disproportionately from older white voters with traditionalist impulses (ie, natural constituents for the Republican Party). If Dobbs siphons these voters away from the GOP, Obama’s reelection looks like a sure thing.

    Voters leaning toward Obama, on the other hand, are generally unlikely to find Dobbs and his nativist populist message very appealing.

  • BarryS

    Sinz, It’s a screw up either way. We gave so much warning of what we were doing that 90% of the terrorists were over the border anyway. And 3000 is a pretty small number.

    If we had done the special opps and bombed the living daylights out of them we would be in a much better position now. Do you really think that short of staying in Afghanistan indefinitely we can stop the Taliban taking over? The country is un governable in a western sense. To stay and try for ever is foolishness.

    We should get out and revert to special opps both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are doing it in both countries anyway. The only benefit of our current occupation is to prop up the current corrupt government.

  • BarryS

    WOW it’s nice to have a rational reasoned discussion. I guess the children are tucked up in bed!

    No swearing, no screaming troll accusations. How wonderful.

  • ottovbvs

    BarryS // Nov 24, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    ….I doubt it’s permanent…..would garlic help do you think?

  • CentristNYer

    Agreed. And not a word all day from Addie. Do you suppose they revoked her computer privileges?

  • BarryS

    She probably bad mouthed someone so badly that they gave her a clip round the ear :-)

  • brandon

    I don’t think Lou Dobbs would have near the appeal of a Ross Perot. His level of support would be closer to what Pat Buchanan got, if that much.

  • Socrates

    What are Dobbs’ qualifications again?

  • Carney

    BarryS, you may be right about Iraq being an inherently unstable and untenable country due to its ethnic and religious divisions. Countries like Canada, Belgium, and even India somehow muddle along despite them, but it was asinine to have drawn up those borders that way. Afghanistan is even worse.

  • BarryS

    As you will recall Carney the Brits did the same in India. They forced an unstable fusion which resulted in the independence of Pakistan in 1947. That was never going to work either.

    A whole lot of the problems in the world today are the direct cause of empire making. The Brits and French hold a lot of blame and we are well in the mix as well. And we are still doing it.

  • sinz54

    ottovbs: Sinz we should have gone in there, got Bin Laden and as many of his associates as practical……..shot a few hundred Taliban and got out of there
    EXACTLY!!!

    But we tried something like that and FAILED.

    You got me all wrong. I don’t want to do nation-building in Afghanistan. Time was when we conservatives used to OPPOSE nation-building by armed force.

    In November 2001, we had Osama bin Laden in our sights at Tora Bora. But due to some major tactical errors on our part, he escaped.

    The escape of Osama bin Laden and his henchmen to Pakistan left us with Afghanistan as a kind of plug, to keep Osama from ever breaking back out of the Pakistan badlands. What’s done is done.

    And now Obama is going to rationalize defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan as a way to maintain this plug, so that al-Qaeda can be forced to fight a two-front war between our forces on the Afghan side of the border and the Pak forces in Pakistan.

    That’s a viable strategy, but MUCH LESS cost-effective than if we had done the job right in 2001.

  • sinz54

    ottovbs:

    In December 2001, when I heard that Osama bin Laden had escaped, my heart sank.

    Because then I knew that instead of a quick and relatively straightforward counterterrorist mission, we were now letting ourselves in for a long, difficult, counterinsurgency struggle as Osama’s forces regrouped.

    And on a personal note: That’s when investing in hard assets (gold, oil, etc.) began to look better and better to me.

  • sinz54

    BarryS: The Brits and French hold a lot of blame and we are well in the mix as well. And we are still doing it.
    I don’t accept that we are in the same category as the Brits or French.

    America has rarely attempted to redraw borders for its own aggrandizement. Except where our own borders were concerned, we usually worked with national borders as we found them. We granted independence to the Philippines, rather than keeping it indefinitely as a U.S. colony. And we rejected Biden’s “solution” of breaking up Iraq.

    The fact that we emerged from World War II as the dominant nation on Earth, and the fact that we were faced with facing down an aggressive USSR which was truly bent on imperialism in the style of the Brits and French, does NOT mean that we were becoming an empire ourselves. We didn’t want colonies. We didn’t try to redraw national borders all over the world. We were simply defending our position as top dog on the planet.

  • BarryS

    We are in the mix Sinz. How many overseas bases do we have? Why are we nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan exactly? Were we not heavily involved in the drawing up of the borders of Israel?

    Biden’s solution was to accept reality and recognize that there are three distinct countries in Iraq. It’s going to happen eventually.

    In my opinion Biden has a very intelligent way of looking at things, he is exactly right on Afghanistan and the next 5 years of that war will prove it.

    I accept hat historically the USA has not been an empire builder in the British mold. However it has far too often stuck it’s fingers in where they just don’t belong. Iraq and the Shah comes to mind.

  • MI-GOPer

    BarryS calls out, preemptively, “WOW it’s nice to have a rational reasoned discussion. I guess the children are tucked up in bed! No swearing, no screaming troll accusations. How wonderful”

    What you really mean to say is that the far Left democrat activist trolls have had a thread almost all to themselves and –well, lookie here– that makes for sane discussion? LOL. No, what it does makes is an echo chamber that only JimmeyJunkyardDawgCarville would find seductive. And the DailyKos achieves every day. You guys are so transparent & facetious you make WH communication hack Robert Gibbs look enlightening by comparison.

    Hey BarryS, I don’t recall you from earlier threads… are you another manufactured character in the TrollTribe? The real people here are having problems keeping up with all the new faux-names in the Tribe.

  • CentristNYer

    MI-GOPer // Nov 25, 2009 at 10:12 am

    “What you really mean to say is that the far Left democrat activist trolls…”

    I wondered how long a run we could manage without input from Frum Forum’s Drama Queen In Residence.

    Do you think he gets paid for every use of the word “troll”?

  • CentristNYer

    BarryS // Nov 25, 2009 at 10:04 am

    “Biden’s solution was to accept reality and recognize that there are three distinct countries in Iraq. It’s going to happen eventually. In my opinion Biden has a very intelligent way of looking at things, he is exactly right on Afghanistan and the next 5 years of that war will prove it.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Biden was really the only candidate in 2008 (R or D) who had a realistic, credible plan, which is why I was an early supporter.

    And you’re right, too, about Iran and the Shah. We’re still seeing the consequences of that today, three decades after his death.

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  • BarryS

    Mi-GOPer.

    I have never responded to one of your posts for good reason. And this is the only one I will ever respond to.

    Definition of a troll.

    “1c. Noun
    A member of an internet forum who continually harangues and harasses others. Someone with nothing worthwhile to add to a certain conversation, but rather continually threadjacks or changes the subject, as well as thinks every member of the forum is talking about them and only them. Trolls often go by multiple names to circumvent getting banned. ”

    Please take a look at the reasoned discussion in this thread. Please observe the total lack of ill will and attacks, please see the worthwhile conversation taking place. Note that not all the participant agree with each other but can still discuss the subject in a sensible manner. Not all are of the same political makeup though you lump everyone together.

    Now take a look at your contribution to the discussion. What do you see there. I see the definition of a troll.

    You need to take a long hard look in the mirror.

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