Who would you like to be in the White House if Pakistan fell to al Qaeda and the Islamists gained control of its nuclear arsenal?
Answer that question and you will know your candidate. All the rest, as they say, is commentary.
One issue here is that this is a pretty outlandish hypothetical. The odds of the Pakistani government collapsing and al-Qaeda taking over are low. But more to the point, much more than a president who’ll respond effectively when al-Qaeda seizes control of a nuclear arsenal you want a president who’ll make it unlikely that al-Qaeda seizes a nuclear arsenal. There’s an unfortunately tendency to look at crisis-response as the essence of statesmanship when in reality it’s avoiding crises that is most important. I think, for example, that George H.W. Bush did the right thing in prosecuting the first Gulf War and, indeed, that he did a good job of waging the war. But an even better president might have been able ot avoid the whole thing in the first place by dissuading Saddam from invading Kuwait.
My hope, in short, isn’t that the next president will be better than Bush at reacting than disaster strikes, but that he (or, more likely, she) will be better than Bush at forestalling disaster.