If You Can’t Run a Convention or a Campaign, Can You Run the Country?

By Jack Limpert

Ron Fournier, a savvy political reporter for the National Journal and the Atlantic, last week tweeted:

Every campaign day is a test. If Trump can’t run a decent convention, why should voters trust him w/ their country?

This week Fournier repeated the sentiment in an Atlantic piece:

If a candidate can’t run a political convention, they’re probably not up to the challenge of running a country. Trump flunked his test in Cleveland last week. Clinton is off to a poor start.

As a journalist once involved in a political campaign, I felt the same way. In 1968 I was a Congressional Fellow in the Senate office of Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. When President Johnson announced in March 1968 that he wouldn’t run for reelection, Vice President Humphrey became the Democratic candidate for President.

I’d never been inside a political campaign and at times was stunned by the chaos and disorganization. The weekend before the Tuesday election, we were flying somewhere and I was talking with Max Frankel, then Washington bureau chief of the New York Times. Humphrey was closing strong after breaking with President Johnson on Vietnam and it looked like he had a good chance to win the election.

Back then there was a fair amount of off the record conversation between campaign staff and the press. Talking with people like Frankel, Jack Germond, Walter Mears, and other reporters, we felt we could talk frankly without worrying about getting burned.

It had been a chaotic last few days and I said to Frankel, “Max, if we win, how are we going to run the country? We can’t run a political campaign.”

He said, “Don’t worry, Jack. If you win, we’ll all describe you as political geniuses.”

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