I’ve come to believe that most of what’s wrong with our country today stems from how we pick our politicians, from Mayor to President- and I don’t mean the electoral process, I mean how we, the voters, choose who we’ll vote for. To demonstrate this, I’m asking you to tell me the qualifications of your favorite candidates for President, within the following parameters:
Don’t tell me their positions. There are three reasons for this- first, positions are not qualifications; if they were, and you share those positions, you’d be equally qualified, wouldn’t you?
The second reason is that positions don’t tell you they can do, or will do, but only what they want. After all, Chamberlain wanted peace, and he didn’t get it. The lowliest Congressman has more say about whether a given position will be implemented than the President does; at least he can vote on it.
The third reason positions don’t matter is that no one knows what the issues will be during the next term, much less what the right position is. Notice that neither Gore nor Bush told us back in 2000 what they would do about the Patriot Act, or the Iraq War, or Hurricane Katrina.
Don’t tell me about their education. Contrary to popular belief, education does not impart wisdom- if it did, President Bush’s combined GPA and post-graduate degree would place him near the top in this century, ahead of Reagan, Eisenhower, and miles ahead of Truman. Don’t even speak to me to me about intelligence; again, contrary to popular belief, IQ doesn’t impart wisdom, either- according to this article recommended by Snopes , President Bush’s IQ is equal to JFK’s.
Do tell me about their character. George Washington said that character was the only important issue... but he didn’t mean “Does he go to church”, or “Is he a good husband”, or any of the other things that phrase has been twisted to mean in recent decades. He meant “How will the candidate react to the unexpected”, or as a modern politician once phrased it, “I am the most qualified to wing it.” The great challenges of almost any presidency are totally unexpected and cannot be prepared for; what in your candidate’s life leads you to believe that he/she will have the wisdom and courage to do the right thing in the face of an unexpected world class emergency?
Do tell me about his/her accomplishments. If in the legislature, what laws have they written and gotten passed? What positions of trust or leadership within Congress have they won? If in an executive position, how have they shown the type of character I described above? What do their careers in the private sector, if any, tell you?
Frankly, by the standards outlined above, the bullpens of both parties look pretty thin to me. I see several with charisma, which is a sort of qualification, I guess... but not necessarily a good one. I see some executive experience, but no governors from any state large enough to equate to a country. No one with any foreign affairs experience at a decision-level grade; no one who’s been a diplomat, or State Department head.
Nothing better displays the pitiful state of politics in America today than that with the Presidency wide open, no incumbent, no groomed for the job VP, no old war horse in waiting, we could have a list of candidates this long with no clear leaders on it. Never in the course of U.S. history have so many had so little to bring to so important a moment.