Following up on my ambition post from Friday...
1. Seth Masket has an excellent point (and thanks for the blog love, Seth!). I had speculated that lack of ambition was a factor in George W. Bush's failures as president. Seth: "I think it was augmented somewhat by the fact that Bush's vice president had no aspirations for the presidency, creating even less incentive to do the stuff that voters care about."
2. Some of the comments responding to my post tried to draw a distinction between healthy and unhealthy ambition, with Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon as examples of the latter. I'm not sure that's the right way to go...after all, the things that Johnson and Nixon did resulted in both of them ending up very unpopular and chased from office. But I'm not sure it's wrong, either, which leads to:
3. In my view, political scientists haven't done a very good job at all of sorting through the concept of ambition. The literature talks about ambition for office, which is fine as far as it goes (and is basically what I used in my post the other day), but I don't think it really goes very far. Think, for example, about Dick Cheney. It's true that as Veep he didn't have "progressive ambition" -- he didn't run for president, and as far as we know really didn't have any intention of running for president. And as Seth says, that had real consequences. Yet I think it would be a real mistake to say that he had no ambition at all; it's just that his ambitions were devoted (apparently) towards amassing influence during the Bush presidency, not towards having a presidency of his own. Overall, I just think we collectively don't quite have a handle on ambition.