One of America’s enduring legends is that endorsements for president are helpful to the anointed candidate.
Truth be told, these testimonials range from useless to destructive. But that fact is obscured because well-adjusted people and maladjusted pundits keep taking endorsements seriously.
The best reaction to any endorsement is to laugh, roll your eyes and dismiss it.
That’s not what happened last week after two public figures from New Mexico announced their choice for president.
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber and retired newsman Sam Donaldson publicly backed Democrat Michael Bloomberg.
Shrieking followed. You would have thought David Duke was coming to the Plaza to deliver a lecture on race relations.
Webber’s decision brought animosity. How could he back Mr. Megabucks Bloomberg, whose stop-and-frisk policy while mayor of New York City had targeted boys and young men with dark skin?
The better question is how many votes Webber’s endorsement will mean to Bloomberg.
By my instant and expert analysis, it’s only three figures. To be more specific, Webber won’t cost Bloomberg more than 100 votes.
Even infrequent readers of the news know Webber and his bloated staff aren’t any better at running a police department than Bloomberg was. If Webber’s cops can’t keep track of evidence, why would anyone trust the mayor’s judgment on an issue of national importance, such as picking the president?
No matter how dynamic and popular a mayor Webber might be, his clout is negligible in presidential politics.
No one needs guidance in deciding who belongs in the White House. People vote for president with their gut instincts.
Voters liked Harry Truman because he was decisive. John F. Kennedy had style. Ronald Reagan was a likable sort, just like the cowboys he had played in movies. Donald Trump was crude and a bad golfer, but he wasn’t Hillary Clinton.
Whatever the reason, or lack of reasoning, a fundamental truth remains: No endorsement can persuade you to vote for a presidential candidate.
This brings us back to Sam Donaldson and the pundits fretting over his support for Bloomberg.
They question how Donaldson, tough as a boot when he covered the White House for ABC News, can take a stand for Bloomberg.
Distinguished professors and former colleagues claimed Donaldson had hurt his credibility and damaged his former profession.
Never mind that Donaldson is retired. And disregard that he let his opinions be known when he was one of the country’s more influential reporters.
Donaldson in 1987 wrote an entertaining book called Hold on, Mr. President. None of the pundits in those days came down with hives because Donaldson critiqued politicians in chapter after chapter.
For example, he said Reagan, then the sitting president, wasn’t a hard worker.
Donaldson also tweaked Reagan for creating a rope line to ward off reporters. They had to shout their questions at the leader of the free world.
Reagan’s tactic made him sympathetic, the kindly president being harangued by a pack led by Donaldson.
Defenders of one president or another said Donaldson was abrasive. He replied that his job was to elicit the newsworthy response of the day, no matter who disliked his questions.
All that is history. Donaldson hasn’t covered politicians in years.
He should be able to say what he pleases. Those who contend Donaldson is undercutting his former profession with his advocacy must not watch CNN or Fox.
Plus, this isn’t the first time Donaldson has endorsed a candidate. He backed Democrat Jeff Apodaca in New Mexico’s 2018 election for governor.
Donaldson even narrated one of Apodaca’s ads. The candidate’s claim was that he would create 225,000 jobs by using $1 billion of an untouchable state endowment for unspecified projects.
Apodaca’s campaign was as half-baked as his promises.
Donaldson’s endorsement meant nothing. Voters never took Apodaca seriously, and he lost the primary election in a rout.
But Donaldson hurt no one by adding his voice to the marketplace of ideas.
Can his endorsement help Bloomberg?
Sure. It’s worth one vote — Donaldson’s. And it will only count if Bloomberg is still in contention for the nomination when New Mexico voters finally hold their primary in June.