Choosing a Presidential Candidate
WHERE HAS COMMON SENSE GONE? No. 22, Thomas Paine – August 2011, The definition you prefer depends on your view of President Obama’s job performance.
If you support his policies (however poorly defined) you will likely view him as hapless, never able to get a break or experience any good luck. If you do not support his policies you will likely view his tenure in the Oval Office as one of helplessness in which he is seemingly unable to transform rhetoric into an executable action plan that has any merit. No matter which definition you choose, the presidency of Obama provides an opportunity for some insightful review of how we, as a nation, qualify candidates and then elect one of them as our president. With an impending presidential primary election in the not too distant future now would be a good time to review some lessons learned about how not to pick a candidate.
While it is true President Obama inherited some significant problems from the previous administration, it is also true he inherited an “AAA” credit rating. Now look at what has happened. He has had an increasingly negative impact on everything he inherited plus he has created a few new problems on his own. George W. Bush was not perfect by a long shot, but he did identify which issues demanded priority attention and he took action when it was warranted. Sometimes he produced good results and sometimes they were not so good. I believe the important point is he did not try to avoid priority issues. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to identify one single positive impact Obama has had on our country.
Sure, you might say, but Obama has had to contend with poor job performance by his own appointees and also a largely dysfunctional Congress. George Bush also had to deal with a disorganized Congress and some of his appointees were less than stellar.
Never-the-less he was on the job and trying to make things better for everyone. He also would not be considered fully qualified to be president by the methodology I will describe. He was the most acceptable candidate in the field however.
Now our country finds itself in need of a strong leader who can rise to the occasion when faced with extreme adversity, both foreign and domestic. Our country needs a leader who can actually analyze a situation and come up with a reasonable action plan that fits the situation. Our country needs a leader who will appoint experienced advisors, advisors who have a demonstrable history of positive successes in any field other than government or academia, both of which are now failing our country at every level.
It is time to think clearly about how we select our next president. I have prepared a check list of positive and negative markers of each candidate to assist me in my selection process. I am going to share an overview of how I view that list now, along with some explanation of why the marker was chosen. It is important to glean as much information as possible about a candidate’s history. Setting the most intensely personal issues aside, the track record a candidate can demonstrate in areas of experience likely to be relied upon during their time in the presidency is of utmost importance.
What is the candidate’s character and who are his associates? Does the image he projects as a candidate mirror his life history or is it a fabricated image designed to please voters who are not very sophisticated with respect to the political arena? How freely is he willing to share insight into his life and career and answer questions about any of the important details? Who have been his friends and associates in the past?
How do they stack up as the type persons we would like our children to grow up to be? Has he associated with leaders or spoilers? There is a difference between the two that is not always easy to discern. COMMON SENSE IS NEEDED TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE.
What experience does he have, outside of politics that shows a clear ability to function in a world of reality as opposed to opinion? Is the candidate demonstrably intelligent or merely popular and persuasive on a superficial level?
Every candidate who has been long active in both commerce and politics will surely have made some mistakes in the past. Just like any other person, when exposed to the intense scrutiny of the election process, a past error will surely give his detractors some thread to try and weave into a smothering blanket. Always remember, the candidate who has no known flaws is a candidate who has never met any difficult challenge of note and is not likely to do much differently if elected president. They have never been tested sufficiently to determine their true ability. What is of utmost importance is where they have been, what they have done, and what successes and failures have they have participated in at a high level.
This is how I use the information I have gathered. I use a simple diagram to help me understand my view of a candidate’s capability to be president. This diagram looks a bit like a capital letter T. The cross bar on top represents a candidates life experiences and achievements. The vertical bar represents the field of endeavor and the degree with which the candidate has made his most positive impact.
If the cross bar is wide and fairly plush with quantifiable accomplishments outside of politics this is the sign of a person who is likely to have faced adversity and triumphed. If the cross bar is not so plush but the vertical bar is long and representative of a public life largely devoted to politics WATCH OUT. You are looking at a person who has become skilled in manipulating the image he presents to the real world. The problem with this is the real world viewed from his perspective is unlikely to even remotely resemble your real world.
If the cross bar is plush and the vertical bar is long but representative of significant accomplishment in some field other than the political arena or academia you are looking at a candidate who has been tested in the real world and succeeded. This candidate is worth a closer look. A close look at their public history will no doubt give detractors some kernel of opportunity to cast derisive allegations at the candidate and at the same time direct praise towards a more politically astute opponent that they favor.
Do not reject a candidate if they have been a strong verifiable success in the real world for a significant period of time even if, on occasion, they have come up short. But do consider rejecting any candidate who has scored most if not all of their noteworthy accomplishments somewhere in the political arena.
Wait a second you might say. Does this mean a candidate should get no credit for being an elected public servant or political appointee of one during a long career of service to the Nation or the State? The answer is clearly “YES – NO CREDIT” towards qualification to be president. A career, predominantly in politics, does not qualify one to be president of our country. Politicians who have enjoyed a long political career, to the near exclusion of any other productive activity, have become masters at conflict avoidance on important issues, but often claim success with more mundane issues. A president must lead. He must appoint truly qualified and experienced persons to high level assignments and direct their activity in a way that will solve the important issues facing our country. He must be prepared to face vitally important issues head-on, no matter how much criticism it generates from his detractors. A career or near career politician will not do this. One need merely look at the job performance our current President and Secretary of State to see what happens when a person of little practical experience finds themselves in a job for which they have no discernable qualifications or experiences to guide them. Having an acceptable degree of intelligence is not enough. The president’s on the job training must not take place after he is elected.
So once again I say, when qualifying a candidate consider using the cross bar /vertical bar approach. Select a candidate, who has a qualification history strongly shaped like the capital letter T. A candidate with qualifications derived mostly outside of politics and academia, one with a history of actual accomplishments is worth sincere review and consideration for our highest elective office.
TP – 2011