2016 hopeful Chris Christie made headlines a week ago when he was spotted embracing Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in that franchise’s owner’s box. While that sight provoked a response of pity or disgust — or a mixture of both — among many observers, it provoked in me a question: which of those two detestable men would I prefer to become the next President of the United States?
Because I’ve been trying to keep my posts short — for your sake, and mine — I decided to limit the scope of my question. First, I opted not to consider variables like age. Obviously, if I absolutely had to choose between candidates who should never become President, I would choose the one with the shorter life expectancy — but I’m no doctor, and trying to figure out how long Chris Christie has left seems like it could get me into trouble.
Second, I opted to primarily consider but one single question: how well does each “candidate” learn? Severely narrowing the scope of my inquiry to this degree might seem like a curious choice, so allow me to briefly explain before I proceed to the evaluation. The ability to learn implies the ability to adapt, to be flexible, to compromise. A President who cannot do those things well is unlikely to successfully govern four or eight years into the future, when conditions will almost certainly be different than they are during his or her initial election campaign.
I’m obviously not the only person who thinks this is an important trait for a President to possess. George Santayana famously argued, “Those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.” If he’s right, the people best-positioned to make history better pay attention to things that have happened. And perhaps more pertinently, a 2009 article in the Harvard Business Review argued that Abraham Lincoln’s “magic as a leader” stemmed from his ability “to acknowledge his errors and learn from his mistakes to a remarkable degree.” Slate also included in its list entitled “How to measure for a President” the question “Can they admit mistakes and learn from them?” Again, I am aware that there are obviously other important qualities that make for a good President, but I’m going to play dirty like Chris Christie in an election and focus on just one.
So, Jones or Christie?
It would appear that Jerry Jones betrays a clear ability to learn. While much of the recent focus has been on Christie and the intense awkwardness of his failed high five and attempted hug, no real explanations have been offered for why Jerry Jones rejected his advances in the first place. But I believe I have the answer: When precisely the same scenario played out in his owner’s box following a mid-December Cowboys victory over the Eagles, the awkward image failed to gain much traction because what follows is among the best angles any camera appears to have captured:
But do you know who did have a good view of the embrace? Jerry, who experienced it, and thereafter decided once was enough. When Christie went in for a second serving, Mr. Jones wisely decided he was good, and pivoted to embrace his son instead.
By contrast, Chris Christie’s very first effort to hug Jerry Jones — to say nothing of his attempted encore last week — would never have transpired had the New Jersey governor an ability to learn greater than that of an earthworm. Everybody knows, you don’t hug Jerry Jones, period, and especially if any part of you is squishy: