I love Oprah! But not for the big job

By Bill Press

It’s estimated that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders combined to spend $326 million competing for the Democratic nomination in 2016. But it may not be so expensive in 2020. Democrats have figured out how to do it a lot cheaper next time around: no primary, no contest, no national convention. Just nominate Oprah Winfrey by acclamation.

That’s the buzz sweeping the Democratic Party today. Ever since her speech at the Golden Globes, Democrats nationwide have been positively swooning over Oprah: hoping, pleading, begging her to run for president in 2020 against Donald Trump. Meryl Streep is leading the charge. “I want her to run for president,” she said immediately after the awards ceremony. “Where do I send the check?”

Democrats haven’t been this excited since Barack Obama beat John McCain. In 2016, they chanted “Bernie, Bernie” and “Hillary, Hillary.” Today, they’re already chanting “Oprah, Oprah.” Cheered by a quick Rasmussen poll showing Oprah beating Trump 48 to 38, every Democrat in the nation, it seems, is over the moon for Oprah to run for president.

Every Democrat? Well, not every Democrat. Not this one. Let the Oprah bandwagon pass me by. I’m not jumping on.

Nothing against Oprah, mind you. I’m a huge fan. Always have been. She’s awesome. She’s the most talented, positive, effective, inspiring person any of us have ever seen or heard. And she has a lot of advantages over Donald Trump: she’s not under criminal investigation; she can read a book; she’s in bed with a guy named Graham, not Putin; and every other sentence out of her mouth is not a big fat lie. I’d vote for her in a second.

Plus, you have to admit, an Oprah vs. Donald campaign in 2020 would be a talk-show host’s dream. Think of it: two billionaires; two TV stars; two talkers; two celebrities, one real and one phony. Better than WWF.

But – you knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you? But – do we really want to turn the presidency into a sinecure for aging celebrities? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s old-fashioned, but I think being president is a serious job, dealing with serious issues and requiring serious credentials. It’s not show business. Just because somebody’s famous doesn’t mean he or she has the necessary skills, discipline or character to run the country.

Besides, to be honest, what do we know about Oprah’s position on the issues? Almost nothing. We know she campaigned for Barack Obama. That’s a good start. But where is she on climate change, immigration, vouchers or the estate tax? Unlike Donald Trump, does she even know what the “nuclear triad” is? Again, the job’s too important to take a blind leap on anybody.

It’s also unclear where Oprah fits on the Democratic Party spectrum. This is one of the central questions facing Democrats today. In many ways, it’s a replay of the 2016 Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Who has the best shot at winning in 2020, a centrist Democrat or a bold progressive candidate? And to which camp does Oprah belong? Nobody knows.

The rush to Oprah also belies the fact that it’s not like the Democratic Party is lacking in strong candidates for 2020. In fact, it’s just the opposite. There’s already a long list of outstanding, substantive, experienced, potential candidates for president out there. They include: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Corey Booker, Sherrod Brown, Kamala Harris, Tim Ryan, Andrew Cuomo, Jay Inslee and Eric Garcetti – all of whom have expressed some interest in running, and any one of whom would be a vast improvement over Donald Trump.

So, let Oprah Winfrey continue to lead and inspire us in the ways she does best: on television, on Broadway, on the big screen and in the many great causes she champions. But let somebody else with proven leadership skills run the country. Democrats should not follow the Republican Party over the cliff. The answer to one TV celebrity president is not another TV celebrity president.

Haven’t we learned anything? Of course, there’s no reason why celebrities can’t run for public office. But president of the United States is not the best place to start. We’ve already seen how much damage one celebrity president can do. Let’s not take a chance on another one, no matter how attractive she is.

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