Election weeks not even here yet and I'm burned out on politics already. I had been avoiding the news coverage for most of the year intentionally but got sucked in by the bank failures and so-called "bailout". I've listened to the arguments made by both candidates, watched the debates, and while I haven't read either candidate's entire platform I've read some amount of them. Neither man would be my first choice, so once again I'm left with voting against someone rather than voting for someone. I've even tried to think of who I'd want if I could choose anyone, but I've failed to identify one person. So, let me think "out loud" for a moment...
What qualifications should the President have? (I'm using "he" out of convenience, as I don't have a bias against a female executive)
1. Executive experience.
The President is the ultimate CEO. He must surround itself with the most talented people available representing the various interests to be managed by the office. He must be able to absorb the multitude of opinions and interests and act on what he fundamentally believes to be best for the country, in spite of public and private opinion. He must also be able to act against what he personally wants to this end, and in this sense, exercise executive "judgement".
As with a successful CEO, the President must be able to garner support from those he leads, and in this case it's everyone; at least everyone in the United States. He must be able to rally support for initiatives and ideas, and even convince those who would disagree to act in the interest of the country. His sphere of influence includes his cabinet, all political parties, special interests, industry leaders, foreign leaders and the public at large.
Given the stakes, the moral foundation of the President must be based on Universal truths regarding decency and humanity. It's hard to know that this has been the case throughout history as much as I want to believe it to be, but this is what I expect out of this position. Perhaps this is what makes it such a difficult office to fill. Those who would have this quality may well not desire to test their metal in such a weighty manner.
The leader of the free world should have a fundamental understanding of the forces that keep it operating including domestic and global economic policy, foreign and domestic politics, military history, world history, world religion, and philosophy. I don't expect any single person to master each discipline, however in order to make informed and independent decisions I expect the President to have a solid comprehension of these forces even given the amount of expert advice which assuredly would be given.
5. Courage and a calm demeanor.
The president must be able to stand up under the most trying circumstances. He will inevitably be tested and will need to present calm and clear leadership as well as an ability to synthesize what's required versus what's not in making decisions. He must be able to determine when immediate action is required versus when patience is the best alternative.
The President must always conduct himself in a manner that represents the status of the office. While I understand that even Presidents are human, all great leaders are called upon to rise above their flaws, if only for the short time they must. It is plainly unacceptable for leaders of nations to behave in ways that do not represent the best of who they lead. We have been sadly, and greatly let down in this regard for far too long. We have seen this at all levels of leadership over the past 20 years and it's time we insist on better.
Considering these six factors, how would you rate your choices?
Here is my analysis.
Obama: Has never served in an executive position. In fairness, both men have run Senate offices, but have had managers to direct their day-to-day business.
McCain: Led a Navy squadron, but never held a business or non-military executive position. In fairness, both men have run Senate offices, but have had managers to direct their day-to-day business.
Winner: Tie – Neither have an adequate amount of executive experience. Sarah Palin has more executive experience than Obama, McCain and Biden combined, but she’s not running for President.
Obama: Has been very convincing in a leadership role in every position he’s held. In fact, I would say Obama’s leadership skills outweigh everything else about him being able to sell those around him on his ability and nearly instantly begin work on his next step up at every level.
He serves as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Veterans Affairs Committee, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
McCain: Led an Navy squadron. Sponsored 38 pieces of legislation. While he has been more outspoken in Congress than most, he’s never truly led the House or Senate. Ranking member on Armed Services Committee (tenure?). Serves on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Indian Affairs committees.
Winner: Obama – While McCain has unquestionably led as a Senator, he has not demonstrated the same level of “leadership” as Obama. That said, it should be pointed out that many leaders are not viewed by history as forces for good in the world. These leaders were able to lead even when there was no rational support for their advance.
Ethics (voting records and stands on issues not considered)
Obama: Has some questionable associations including Tony Rezko, ACORN, William Ayers, Emil Jones Jr., Rashid Khaladi, Rev. Michael Pfleger specifically. Obama’s campaign contributions have raised the question of ethical misconduct, or at the very least, ethical contradictions. Experimented with drugs as a youth.
On the positive side, Obama has worked in the interest of the economically disadvantaged as a community activist.
McCain: McCain was implicated in the Keating 5 scandal, but cleared and chastised later. There are some rumors about McCain related to adultery and gambling, however these have not made it very far in terms of media scrutiny.
In his favor, his prison camp story is compelling, and he made the right choice in remaining versus being released, a point he doesn’t seem to let pass anyone by.
Winner: McCain, but narrowly. Obama’s association with such a multitude of questionable actors over a course of time shows a continual lack of judgment regardless of whether he actually did anything untoward.
Education: Harvard Law School; BA Political Science, Columbia University
Economy: Political experience; Relies on advisors
Domestic politics: State and federal senator for 12 years. Education, teaching, and activism.
International politics: Congressional experience, including foreign affairs committee.
Military history: Relies on advisors
World History: Cannot judge
World Religion: Obama Christian, Father raised Muslim turned atheist, mother Christian, lived in Indonesia, Pakistan
Philosophy: Cannot judge
Education: US Naval Academy
Economy: More political experience; Relies on advisors
Domestic politics: US Navy liason to Congress (5), Congressman (26) for 31 years.
International Politics: Military and Congressional experience including Armed services committee.
Military history: US Navy, Annapolis, Armed Services Committee
World History: Cannot judge
World Religion: Christian
Philosophy: Cannot judge
Winner: Obama, but narrowly. McCain rates higher with regard to International politics and Military history. Obama wins in education, domestic politics, and world religion.
Courage and demeanor
Demeanor: Calm and cool exterior. Has appeared to get rattled during debates, but nominally.
Courage: Cannot judge
Demeanor: Generally calm and cool. Has demonstrated agitation during debates, but nominally.
Courage: Has shown courage as a prisoner of war. Otherwise, cannot judge.
Winner: McCain - I rate them a tie in demeanor but McCain wins in courage.
Obama: Aside from the aforementioned ethics questions, nothing has surfaced that indicts Obama’s professionalism.
McCain: While there have been sparse reports of breaches of personal ethics, nothing has been publicly substantiated. Otherwise, nothing has surfaced that questions McCain’s professionalism.
Winner: Tie. Neither are exceptionally professional nor unprofessional.
For me, rating the men against the qualifications for the position results in a lackluster tie. I rate Obama higher in leadership and knowledge, but McCain higher in ethics and courage, but neither win in a convincing manner in their respective categories.
So now I have to consider their position on issues. On the surface my tendencies are conservative since I'm a state's rights advocate (a.k.a. federalist), Catholic and free-market advocate. I can't remember when we have had a true fiscal conservative in control of the government. I suspect my analysis of the issues will produce yet another non-choice situation for me; where I'm voting against someone and not for someone.