What Makes A Leader?
Hat tip to Russell at Totally Conservative blog
Hunter passionate about defense, trade and borders...
By JANE NORMAN
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
The Des Moines Register
What makes a leader?
This series examines this year’s presidential candidates through that prism.
Our leadership categories are adapted from standards developed by Fred Greenstein, a Princeton University scholar and author of “The Presidential Difference.”
Greenstein says the modern presidency is so powerful, voters should take careful stock of the strengths and weaknesses candidates might bring to the job — from their psychology, emotional maturity and vision to the way they process information, manage and communicate.
Using Greenstein’s work as a jumping-off point, we assess candidates in the following areas: political skills, communication skills, policy vision, decision-making style and management skills.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is making his first presidential bid, but he's no newcomer to politics. He has served 14 terms in Congress, elected in 1980 as part of the Republican landslide that brought President Reagan into office.
"I started this political career in a two-to-one Democrat district where they said Abraham Lincoln couldn't win as a Republican," he said. "I've been in 27 years, and I've never done well by contemplating defeat."
He's never forgotten Reagan's political success and is eager to invoke the late president's legacy.
"I came in with a guy named Ronald Reagan," he said to applause at a "values voter" conference in October.
Polls show Hunter in the low single digits in Iowa, so he is focusing on New Hampshire.
"I think Iowa is a two-man race," he said recently. "I think it's between ... Governor Huckabee and Governor Romney. And so I don't think there's daylight there."
A Vietnam veteran, Hunter, 59, grew up on a ranch outside Riverside, Calif., and dropped out of college to serve in the Army.
He was awarded the Bronze Star for conducting 24 helicopter assaults.
He farmed and then practiced law until he ran for the House. In redistricting, he was given a more reliably Republican district, where he has been re-elected by wide margins.
Hunter is retiring from Congress this year.
His son, a former Marine who served in Iraq (and Afghanistan), is running for his seat.
Hunter is not afraid to confront the brass or stick up for soldiers.
In a recent television appearance, he told how his son had called him on a satellite cell phone while in the middle of battle in Fallujah, Iraq, "with some unsavory words for all politicians in general."
Hunter said his son told him that U.S. forces had been sweeping through the city, but were ordered to stop. Hunter said he hung up and immediately called the Pentagon, which told him that further fighting would "tear the Sunni community apart."
"So they stopped," Hunter said. "But that was a great example, I think, of the United States making a political decision."
He issued strong criticism of President Bush when Bush failed to issue pardons for two U.S. Border Patrol agents sentenced to prison for shooting a Mexican drug smuggler.
Hunter says the challenges facing the nation require a leader who has traditional values as well as a commitment to protecting freedom and expanding it around the world.
He has argued that he's tough enough to stand up to China and demand better trade deals.
He also points to his advocacy for the U.S.-Mexico border fence, which he said has reduced the smuggling of people and narcotics in part of San Diego by 90 percent.
In his tenure as Armed Services Committee chairman, he set up a new subcommittee on emerging threats. Hunter also was a strong advocate for veterans and refused to hold hearings on the abuses reported at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Hunter has targeted conservatives who want to continue to mount a strong defense for the United States, toughen border security and gain better footing on trade.
In GOP debates and public appearances, he has zeroed in on those topics.
"Americans start a football game with a clean scoreboard. But China starts a game against our businesses with a 74-point advantage," Hunter said about trade, arguing for a more level playing field that would aid American workers.
Hunter says he's the only real conservative in the GOP presidential field, with his "major selling point" being his position on trade and opposition to illegal immigration.
"I built the border fence in San Diego and I wrote the law that extends it across the southwest United States," he said. "And I think that resonates with the American people."
In November, Hunter sent a letter to the chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America complaining about a movie called "Redacted," which he said "portrays American service personnel in Iraq as uncontrollable misfits and criminals."
Hunter isn't a one-issue candidate. He's focused on three issues, he says.
Tougher border control, stronger national defense and a more equitable trade policy sum up his message in his quest for the White House, Hunter says.
"You know, if you have got the issues, you don't have to spend as much money on image consultants and folks that are shaping a message," he said.
"I know what my message is.
So what I have to do is reach out and get the message to people."
Sources: USA Today, Almanac of American Politics, MSNBC, Fox News, ABC News, Washington Times, McClatchy Newspapers and news conference transcripts.
Power to the people.... right on.