Take it from a compulsive multitasker, the concept can be pushed too far. Some things are not meant to be done at the same time — like battling cancer while running for president.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-CO, is currently doing the former. But he recently said that he is also considering doing the latter.
I think that — under the circumstances — running for president would be a big mistake for Bennet, and I’ll explain why.
Before we get into that, let me first share the first rule of opinion writing, which I have a habit of breaking. The rule: Never start a column without knowing where it’s going to end. The habit: My best columns don’t sprint to the finish line, but wander toward an uncertain finale.
This could be one of those times. I have mixed feelings about the subject, and I can argue it either round or flat. I’ll need to spend the next several hundred words working things out.
On the one hand, I’m a great admirer of resilience and not giving up — even when the odds are stacked against you. In fact, especially then. I don’t think cancer needs to be a death sentence, and I have tremendous respect for those who survive it and then go on to tackle other life goals. Finally, I think that the assortment of oddball characters crazy enough to run for president should be as diverse as possible and look like America. That said, there should be room in that group for those who face cancer head-on and stare it down. You want to talk about courage. These people have buckets full of it.
On the other hand, ever since I turned 50, I’m all about introspection and priorities. Mothers are usually right. And my mom was right all those years ago when she told my siblings and me, as we were growing up: “Your health is the most important thing.” Getting better should be Bennet’s first and only priority. If not for himself, then for his wife and three daughters. He doesn’t need distractions, and it’s hard to imagine a bigger distraction than a presidential campaign. He shouldn’t be worrying about poll numbers in Iowa when the only numbers that should concern him are the ones in his blood count.
Bennet is reportedly close to reaching a decision about whether he will seek the 2020 Democratic nomination. He has said that, if he ran, he would make fixing the dysfunction of government a central theme of his campaign. In March, he visited Iowa and New Hampshire.
What’s one more? There are already about 20 Democratic presidential candidates either already in the race, or poised to enter it.
It’s not that Bennet doesn’t have the right to run for president; he does. Or that he doesn’t have anything to offer the race; as a moderate Democrat in a field that has lurched to the left, he may well. Or that he won’t find a following; he could, as a result of both his experience and personal story.
It’s just that one has to be careful with ambition. The pursuit of money, fame, and power can become all consuming — an end unto itself. Those who are overly competitive are at special risk of losing their way and forgetting what’s really important — like beating cancer so you can be around for your family.
Bennet recently revealed that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and said that he would have surgery during the Congressional spring recess, which began on April 11. He also said that he had planned to announce a run for the White House in April, but that those plans changed with the diagnosis. Still, he described the prognosis as “good” since the cancer was detected early.
The ordeal — or, as he put it, “unanticipated hurdle” — only reinforced the importance of a presidential run, he said in a statement. He insists that he looks forward to “contributing to the larger conversation about the future of our country” and moving that conversation in a positive direction. All this is contingent on his being declared cancer free, Bennet told a Colorado newspaper.
But here’s what Bennet isn’t saying: The process of going into remission could take months, and the presidential calendar won’t give him that kind of time to decide whether or not to enter the race. In all likelihood, if Bennet decides to enter the race, he’ll do so before his health issues have been resolved.
I know what you’re thinking. What business is this of mine? Shouldn’t this be a private matter between Bennet and his doctors?
It should. But Bennet changed that when he suggested that he might run for president. That made his health — and his judgment — my business, and yours.
Be well, Senator. And remember your priorities.
Ruben Navarrette is a contributing editor to Angelus and a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group and a columnist for the Daily Beast. He is a radio host, a frequent guest analyst on cable news, and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors and host of the podcast “Navarrette Nation.” Among his books are “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano.”
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