Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Unqualified For President

California will hold a strange Presidential primary election Tuesday. Strange because the nominee is not already a foregone conclusion. We registered Democrats get to decide between Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. You registered Republicans choose between Mitt Romney, John McCain and Mike Huckabee.

Tattered American Flag displayed in my neighborhood
Here's a quote from the radio version of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (Secondary Phase, part 6, starting at about 18 minutes 40 seconds) spoken by The Book (the voice of Peter Jones):
The major problem -- one of the major problems, for there are several -- one of the MANY major problems with governing people is that of who you get to do it. Or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.

To summarize, it is a well known and much lamented fact that those people who most want to rule people are ipso facto those least suited to do it.

To summarize the summary, anyone who is capable of getting themselves made president should on no account be allowed to do the job.
Zaphod Beeblebrox Galactic President and Ford Prefect drink a Pan Galactic Gargleblaster
I was reminded of Douglas Adams' monumentally and hysterically accurate observation by an equally accurate but deadly un-funny editorial entitled "Why They Really Run" by Michael Kinsley. Here's a quote:

When you hear the presidential candidates carrying on about democracy and freedom, do you ever wonder what they would be saying if they had been born into societies with different values?

What if Mitt Romney had come to adulthood in Nazi Germany?

What if Hillary Clinton had gone to Moscow State University and married a promising young apparatchik?

What if Barack Obama had been born in Kenya, like his father, where even now people are slaughtering one another over a crooked election?

Which of them would be the courageous dissidents, risking their lives for the values they talk about freely—in every sense—on the campaign trail? And which would be playing the universal human power game under the local rules, whatever they happened to be?

Without naming names, I believe that most of them would be playing the game. What motivates most politicians, especially those running for President, is closer to your classic will-to-power than to a deep desire to reform the health-care system.

In my opinion no candidate, Clinton or Obama or Romney or McCain or Huckabee, is really qualified to become President. I'm sure that having served in the U.S. Senate is helpful to a President. But if that is the only real entry in your resume you're not ready yet.

Likewise, if you've been a state Governor but never worked a top-level government job in Washington, you're equally unqualified.

Please, no more presidents who learn on the job.

Senator Hillary Clinton Boogie Doll - I guess it dances
Here is the list of qualifications I look for in a President:
  1. legislative experience on both the state and national levels: (get elected senator and representative a few times)
  2. executive experience on both state and national levels:( get elected governor or mayor of some megalopolis and also get yourself appointed cabinet secretary of something or other)
  3. be the Vice-President (a nice touch to your resume but not absolutely necessary because so few people get to be Vice.)
  4. real experience in international relations (hold a major ambassadorship and negotiate a trade treaty or two)
  5. run a business (this is NOT a sufficient qualification. Anyone who thinks they can run the country with a background only in corporate America is a darn fool. Ross Perot and Steve Forbes were spectacularly unqualified presidential candidates)
  6. run your political party (know how to manipulate the system, make deals, scratch backs and hide scandals)
  7. a good liar (Presidents must convince the citizens, our allies and our enemies that everything is under control - even when we know it isn't - and that we will damn well do what we say - even when we know we won't)
  8. be a good media-savvy speaker (yep, being a movie star is exceptionally good training for a future President)
  9. be capable of changing your mind (apparently there's an unwritten law which requires politicians to adhere to immutable principals of behavior. This is called "knee jerk" - like "no new taxes". These are usually derived from unprovable tenets of religious faith and economics. The President is free to privately believe anything he or she wants - but like the rest of us she or he should leave those ideas at home before going to work.)
  10. learn to apologize for mistakes (another unwritten law prevents Presidents from admitting they were wrong. There is no doctrine of infallibility for Presidents like there is for Popes. You're just this guy, you know.)
Some things are NOT qualifications, no matter what.

Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton in their youth
Being married to a former President is NOT a qualification.

Going to church, intense religious faith and straight-jacket morality are bad qualities for presidents. I want a President who could have an extra-marital affiar whether they choose to cheat on their spouse or not I want a President who will cheat and lie and steal - for the benefit of the entire country of course - and not get caught.

No one will have ALL of this preparation but can't we find someone who scores higher than 1 or 2?

Bill Clinton plays Saxophone to Boris Yeltsin
Having someone who agrees with me on a few issues would be nice icing on the candidate.

Using these standards the most qualified candidate in 2008 recently dropped out of the race. His name was Bill Richardson.

I'm not the least bit surprised by Richardson's lack of success. Most people want a tall handsome President who makes us feel good. A movie star or talk show host. That's no way to run a country.

President Harry Truman plays piano to Lauren Bacall
In my continuing effort to throw my votes away on principle, I'm going to vote for Richardson anyway on Tuesday. He might have a chance at being picked for Vice. If Dick Cheney can be the devil incarnate just a heartbeat from the Presidency, maybe Richardson can have some angelic positive effects.


Bill Clinton sax with bass player
Someone named Joe Queenan (described as a "New York-based writer") wrote an editorial pronouncing Mike Huckabee unfit to be President because of his choice of musical instrument - the electric bass. Here's a quote:
The president of the United States is the most powerful man in the world, just as the conductor is the most important person in the orchestra, just as the lead guitarist is the most important musician in the band. The bass guitarist, I'm afraid, is more like the Commerce secretary or Uncle Fred, a solid, dependable fellow but definitely not the guy you want with his finger on the red button. Bass players are too bland and dull to run a society as classy as this one.
Mike Huckabee plays bass in Iowa with Blue Elvis Impersonator
Joe Queenan has got it completely backwards. In my opinion, a bass player has an awful lot of qualities that we should expect from our President.
  • bass players must know the structure of the tune
  • bass players play the entire show, every tune, non-stop
  • bass players need to be solid; they "lay it down" and then "keep it together"
  • bass players help the other musicians sound good
  • bass players don't demand the spotlight
Having a Pres with some of these qualities would be a wonderful change for the better. The President is a Suit not a Star. A functionary. A servant of the people. If the President can keep the inner workings of the country solid, the stuff on top ought to come out okay.

Bill Clinton plays Tenor - so cool in shades
Fortunately, musical talent is not a qualification that anyone should consider in picking a candidate. But if it were, Mike Huckabee would be the man for the job. That's the only way I would ever possibly consider supporting him.

Young Richard Nixon played the violin
A previous MM post, including this picture of Dick Nixon, discusses Artistic Politicians. The world would have been a better place of Nixon had stayed a second violin.

The Huckabee picture came from here.

President Jimmy Carter once "sang" Salt Peanuts at a White House jazz concert. Here and here and here are articles which mention this event in no detail whatsoever. But I heard the broadcast. Carter sucked as a singer. The last link also mentions that President Richard Nixon once played Happy Birthday on the piano for Duke Ellington.

Mixed Meters predicts the winner in November: John McCain or Mitt Romney. The Democratic candidate is going to get swift-boated into a historical footnote (unless some 3rd party right wing candidate siphons off votes Perot-sytle.)

Addendum: the current White House chief-of-staff (quick, can you name him?) also plays bass guitar in a rock band. Click here or here.

Swiftboat Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Kraig Grady said...

The problem with your qualifications is that the person who most qualifies is Dick Chaney.
business-vice pres. etc. etc.
qualification was always the excuse of the royalty, in that they were trained for the job since birth, same in ancient china.
Personaly i would like to see Pablo soleri president.

David Ocker said...

If Cheney is qualified the Repubs should nominate him to run against Richardson or some other qualified Dem. He could pick Donald Rumsfeld as Vice candidate. That's a decision that wouldn't be hard to make.

Meanwhile, alas, in the real world, the presidential race is run as a beauty contest with Americans making decisions based on how the candidates make us feel. It's no wonder we get bozos.

I'm hoping more people will consider actual qualifications and previous experience in a potential pres. It makes more sense than merely using popularity polls and campaign treasury bank balances to see who's got a chance at the job.