Live from Νεφελοκοκκυγία: Ezra Klein: Why Bernie Sanders's campaign makes me worry about how he’ll manage the White House: "Steve Randy Waldman has penned...

...the best defense of Sanders[']... policy proposals [that] are sketchy and... economic projections... [that] are fantastical. But he argues that none of that really matters. The president's 'role is to define priorities that must later be translated into well-crafted policy details,' he says. 'In a democratic polity, wonks are the help.'... Waldman has a point....

Debating the details of campaign proposals is, on some level, fantasy football for wonks. Events will intercede, bureaucracies will weigh in, Congress will balk, promises will be broken. Remember when Barack Obama ran for president opposing an individual mandate and then flip-flopped and supported one? So what's the point of paying attention to any of this at all?...

Here's my answer: Watching a candidate run his campaign's policy processes is one of our best ways of predicting how he would run his White House.... Campaigns give us insight into presidencies. Presidential candidates also have to decide whom to hire, which advisers to listen to, which ideas are truly good ones, which strategies are likely to work. To make those decisions well, they need a sound philosophy, yes, but they also need to want to hear good advice, they need to want advisers who will tell them when they're wrong, they need to have good instincts for when something they want to believe is true simply isn't, and they need to be realistic about the strategies that are likely to work and the ones that aren't. My worry about Sanders, watching him in this campaign, is that he isn't very interested in learning the weak points in his ideas, that he hasn't surrounded himself with people who police the limits between what they wish were true and what the best evidence says is true, that he doesn't seek out counterarguments to his instincts....

The reason I care about the puppies-and-rainbows promises of his single-payer proposal is that I think Sanders believes them — I don't think he's a cynical politician simply eliding the weaknesses of his plan. The reason I care about his campaign's circulation of fairly outlandish economic projections is that it makes me worry there's no one around Sanders with the sense to say that those results don't pass the smell test. The reason I'm frustrated by Sanders's promise that a political revolution will overcome all opposition to his plans is I think he believes it, and so I'm not sure he has a real plan B for when the political revolution doesn't happen. The reason Sanders's persistently superficial answers on foreign policy matter to me is that they're a test of his ability to learn on the fly about topics he's not terribly interested in.

In a democratic polity, wonks are the help. But that only underscores the importance of electing someone good at hiring and managing them. A President Sanders could hire excellent technocrats to help him make policy, but would he want to? A President Sanders could surround himself with experts who know the shortcomings of his ideas, but would he listen to them? A President Sanders could become deeply engaged on foreign policy, but would he decide to?

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