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Saturday, December 29, 2018

What Makes an Effective President?

At The Washington Examiner, David Drucker asked former Secretary of State George Shultz: what makes an effective president?
A key is to have a strategy. Nixon was a strategist...Ronald Reagan was a strategist. He was long-headed and I'll give you an example. I was chairman of his economic policy advisory panel during the primaries, during the election campaign, and for the first year and a half of his time in office, before I was secretary of state. And, he came into the office and he knew that we couldn't have a decent economy with the kind of inflation that was going on. And we all knew that, and we all said that.

And there was [Federal Reserve Chairman] Paul Volcker over at the Fed. Paul had been my undersecretary when I was secretary of the treasury so I knew Paul well. And, he was doing what you had to do, namely, discipline the money supply. And people would run into Reagan and say, Mr President, Mr President, we're going to cause a recession, we're gonna lose seats in the midterm election. And, Reagan basically — he didn't say this, but basically he said, if not now, when? If not us, who? And he basically put a political umbrella over Paul. And, I let Paul know that.

But Paul told me, I was talking to him recently, he said, I remember seeing many occasions when reporters dished up a question to Reagan, sort of inviting him to come down on the Fed, and he never did. So what happened? We did have a recession, we did lose seats. But by early '83, inflation was under control and everybody could see that it was going to stay that way. And the incentive that had been put into the economy kicked in, and the economy as you remember took off like a bird in 1983. But that was a president taking a long-headed deal and saying the country has to get rid of the inflation if we're going to be healthy. That means we're going to take a short-term hit for a long-term objective. That's strategic thinking — and acting on it. And, that takes guts, political guts. And, the ability to stand up to things.