Editorial: Running for president while serving in office -- who does their jobs?

  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, shown campaigning in Carroll, Iowa, is one of more than a dozen current officeholders running for president.

    South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, shown campaigning in Carroll, Iowa, is one of more than a dozen current officeholders running for president. Associated Press/Charlie Neibergall

 
By Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted7/20/2019 2:00 PM

Indulge us today, please, while we tilt at windmills.

Imagine how it would be received if an employee in almost any line of work went to the boss and said, "I'm trying to land a better job. I hope you don't mind if I'm not around much in the next year because it's going to take a lot of outreach to make that happen."

 

One more thing: Imagine that the employee in this scenario expected not only to keep the current job during the job search but also to keep getting the full-time pay and benefits that go with it.

No boss would put up with the scenario we opened with. In fact, no employee would have the gall to make the request.

That scenario simply would never happen. Except in one field: politics.

In politics, it happens all the time.

We've written about this before -- back in 2007 while Barack Obama traveled the presidential campaign trail a little more than a year after being elected to the U.S. Senate from Illinois.

We thought then, as we think now, that someone who holds public office has an obligation to fulfill the duties of that office and we chastised Obama for the amount of votes he missed in Washington.

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Look, we get that there's a certain avenue to the White House, and the 2016 path being an exception, it usually comes through prior public service.

We get that such experience provides the credentials, insights and relationships that prepare candidates for the presidency.

And we get that current officeholders should be included.

But there ought to be some rules, and at the moment there really are none.

The current field of candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination includes more than a dozen current officeholders -- senators, representatives, governors, mayors.

"We elect officials and put our trust in them to represent our interests," a reader told us last week, "and in my view, they should give it 100 percent-plus of their attention and time to best represent us."

We don't know that we agree with the percentage. That's probably not realistic.

But we agree with the sentiment.

A public officeholder must demonstrate a commitment to carrying out the job -- not just the votes, but attendance and committee work, too. The engagement with the job.

If that's not possible, if the obligation is to the campaign, the officeholder ought to resign.

Is that too much to ask?

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