American Elephants


So Why Do You Want to Be President, Anyway? by The Elephant's Child

Haven’t you often wondered just what it is that impels a person to seek the office of President of the United States?  Admit it.  You have looked at one candidate or another and snickered and wondered “what were they thinking?”

There is ambition, of course, and we can all identify the candidates with burning ambition.  But what makes them think that they are up to the challenge? Do they want to do, or do they want to be?  Hillary claims vast experience, since she lived in the White House with the President — which is about as plausible as a wife replacing a retiring C.E.O.  It may have been interesting and fascinating, but it wasn’t experience, at least as we usually define experience.

John Edwards had one term in the Senate, and one campaign for Vice President, and apparently fell in love with his ‘two Americas’ theme.  Barack Obama was in the Illinois State Senate, but no sooner did he take his seat in the Senate than he began campaigning to be President, and hasn’t been in Washington much since.  Thin resumes indeed. 

 Occasionally a candidate will be selected by a group of others who seek him out and urge him to run.  But every one of the current candidates on both sides is self-selected.  This, I think, makes our job of learning about a candidate harder.  Why do they want to be President, and why should we agree?

Here’s how I think you do it.  First, go to a candidate’s website, print out what you can find under ‘Issues’ or some equivalent title, and go over it with a fine tooth comb.  Make notes.  Do they seem to know what they are talking about, or are they just pandering — promising to give you stuff if you vote for them?  Do they have a grasp of the current problems in foreign affairs?  Do they understand the current threats to the security of the United States?  This, after all, is the primary job of the President.  Do they have a clue about economics?  They can ask Congress to pass laws to accomplish other items on their to-do list, but Congress doesn’t have to agree, and probably won’t. 

Second, look carefully at who the candidate has selected as advisers.  Do these people have good resumes on their own?  Obama, for example, speaks of hope and change and unity, yet his advisers are from the Carter Administration and advised what many consider the worst presidency in history. 

Third.  Pay far less attention to the candidate’s looks, what they say on the stump (after a while they all turn into demagogues, promising goodies and avoiding the really serious questions). 

If I had my choice, I would do away with the debates.  It’s silly, waiting for someone to sweat, or get angry, or trip over his own tongue.  I’d like to see a relaxed conversation about the state of the country and the world with all the candidates and an interesting, scrupulously non-partisan host, rather than a Sunday show host who is trying to get the candidates to embarrass themselves.  No stage and lecterns, but comfortable seats around a table.  I want to get to know the candidates, not trick them into saying something they didn’t intend.  Much of the mischief on the campaign trail is committed by the media — who are ever ready to pounce on anything that might make a more interesting story.

How would you  prefer to choose a candidate?  Are you satisfied with the way we do it now?

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2 Comments so far
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I hate the way the presidential candidates are examined. It’s all impersonal. The debates aren’t nearly as comprehensive as they should be, especially since it all relies on what questions the moderator asks or who’s even allowed in the debate. How is anyone going to know about, say, Dennis Kucinich, if he gets no air time?

Comment by Cody

I think the debates have been practically useless. So much time wasted on irrelevant non-issues and the gotcha du-jour. People come away knowing next to nothing about the candidates’ policy positions.

Comment by American Elephant




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