George Clooney does a sensational and under-appreciated job of portraying Ohio Governor Mike Morris in the recent blockbuster The Ides of March
. As a political staffer myself, I was pleasantly surprised at the accuracy with which the film portrayed the cutthroat world of campaign politics. It would appear that some of Clooney's own beliefs were manifested in his character. Clooney has long been an ardent supporter of Democratic candidates, having given nearly $70,000 of campaign cash out to various Democratic candidates over the last ten years.
Notably, Clooney made some comments of his own that could be narrowly construed as a veiled message that he'd be interested in entering politics. If so, the guy is seriously a glutton for punishment. But, for the sake of "what if," let's explore the possibility of Clooney running for office on the national stage. It certainly wouldn't be the first time a major Hollywood player has made the transition between the two, since both businesses measure success by your ability to lie and manipulate your way to the top.
Here, in order, are the three things George Clooney needs to do in order to viably establish "Clooney 2016" or "Clooney 2020" and claim his role among the pantheon of American Presidents:
1. Establish some street cred
Everyone has to start somewhere. Just like Harrison Ford got his start as a carpenter on the set of Star Wars
, all Presidential hopefuls need hold another elected office prior to running for the Oval Office. Clooney, according to his official website, was born in Kentucky and lives in California. Clooney seems to be a rational progressive, so he is not nearly conservative enough to be elected governor of Kentucky. So, he'd have to set his sights on California. The sitting governor, Gerry Brown, is 73 years old and won't be around forever. This is probably Clooney's best shot at quickly and efficiently gaining nationwide attention as an elected official. California has a long and rather embarrassing history of electing celebrity governors--one of which became president in most of our lifetimes. More on him in a moment.
2. Rack up a ton of debt as California's governor
If Clooney wants to be a liberal Ronald Reagan, he should run his economic house like a true liberal. That means a lot of taxing and spending, and plenty of borrowing. Reagan nearly tripled California's budget deficit during his time as California's governor, and the American people richly rewarded him for it by electing him twice with a sweeping mandate. Clooney would need to spend like there is no tomorrow, and make sure that his predecessors would inherit the debt. Governors on both sides of the aisle have embraced this concept in California and the rewards have been huge. Economic sensibility will get Clooney nowhere. Notably, California has a bunch of public works projects that are chronically underfunded at present. If Clooney wants any shot at the White House, he's going to have to issue long-term revenue bonds to make sure that California is still paying for his mistakes long after he's drinking brandy in the Clooney Presidential Library. If Clooney tries to lower taxes, consolidate bloated bureaucracies, or even mentions the phrase "shared sacrifice" once, his shot at re-election, let alone a White House bid, would be sunk faster than the Andrea Gail in The Perfect Storm
3. Defeat the existing governors who don't suck at their jobs
Possibly the biggest hurdle to a Clooney Presidency isn't the voters of California, who have proven time and time again that they are easily duped (they also elected Arnold Schwarzenegger more than once!). It would be trying to prove that he is more qualified than existing liberal politicians who have real records of reform. The 2016 Democratic Primary may likely feature New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley duking it out for the Presidential nomination. Clooney would have to convince Americans that balancing budgets is something that is totally overrated. Perhaps he can unveil a plan of "Ocean's 11 Economics"--which involves using financial gimmickry and one-time stopgap measures to solve the nation's debt crisis. It wouldn't be the worst budget proposal out there. However, if I were Clooney, I would not point to my role in Syriana
as proof positive that I have a firm grasp on Middle Eastern policy.
Quite frankly, it would take a perfect storm of political malfeasance by the Democratic establishment for this to happen. But, when it comes to politics, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility. After all Barack Obama won the White House six years after being a freshman in the Illinois State Legislature, Andrew Johnson taught himself to read, and Ulysses Grant was a drunk. Stranger and more unlikely characters have reached the pinnacle of American politics. Stay tuned for a profile piece about Val Kilmer's flirtation running for governor of New Mexico!