I get the outsider schtick. America has seen it over the years, but rarely have the American people elected someone who is truly off the rails.
In this field of Republican candidates for president, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are off the rails. Their current polling advantage is due to their outsider persona, no question, but none of them have, to use Richard Ben Cramer’s book title from the 1988 campaign, “What it Takes.”
Wendell Willkie ran as an outsider/insider business guy in 1940 against Franklin Roosevelt. He was an experienced, viable national figure, knowledgeable on the issues, but lost to FDR in his bid for a third term.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was hardly an outsider, though he had never held elective office before. He was an immensely popular general who had helped mastermind D-Day and was courted at times by both political parties.
Jimmy Carter was surely an outside Washington candidate. That did him enormous good in 1976, but he was still an accomplished governor, two term state senator and experienced politician.
Popular General Ulysses S. Grant and experienced government hands William Howard Taft and Herbert Hoover were other presidents never to hold elective office, but few questioned their experience or qualifications.
In 2015, you have to ask yourself when examining the candidacies of Trump, Carson and Fiorina whether they are truly presidential. Do they have the temperament, experience, knowledge and understanding of “what it takes” to run for president and be president?
[READ: Amateur Hour]
Trump is clearly number one in the off the rails category. Everything is an attack, everything is a show, and everything is about him and his outsized ego. There is no uplifting message of substance, no indication he understands the nation’s problems or is ready to offer any concrete plans to solve them. This is a soap opera on steroids, “Entertainment Tonight” that is rapidly ceasing to be entertaining. It is a candidacy that is no longer, if it ever was, meaningful. Trump has no where to go but down and with each passing day of his antics he drops in the public’s estimation.
Carson is totally out of his league. There is truly no reason for him to be a candidate. He does not understand the issues. He appears not to have read the Constitution on just who can be president or even how the government works. He may understand brain surgery, but he doesn’t have the slightest understanding of basic foreign or domestic policy. His participation in debates and as a candidate subjecting himself to scrutiny will doom any future campaign faster than the Washington Nationals got swept by the New York Mets.
[READ: Meet the New Republicans]
As for Fiorina, she is no wunderkind, as her career at Hewlett-Packard can attest. In fact, most analysts are appalled at her performance. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld pointed out that during her tenure the value of HP fell 55 percent, 30,000 people were laid off, and she invested $25 billion in the dying Compaq computer company. She walked away having made $100 million after her failure and her firing. Not exactly a record to run on.
But, more important, she does not appear to have the leadership skills or the temperament to be a strong leader in the political world. She does study her briefing books, she does prepare for the debates more than some of the others, and she is not shy and not afraid to mix it up. But at the end of the day, she shows her true inexperience by stating that she will refuse to talk to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and shows very little understanding of issues, from Planned Parenthood to Iran.
So my guess is that even though these three have taken the lead in some of the polls they will fade quickly and then we will be back to more serious Republican candidates: Bush, Kasich, Christie, Rubio and Cruz. When voters get serious, Trump, Carson and Fiorina will be the outsiders, looking in, and wondering what hit them.