Rather than commenting on the candidates and their qualifications (or lack thereof), let me approach the problem from the opposite direction. Let me ask you what you look for in a president. Once you clarify your own thoughts, you can decide which candidate best meets your requirements.
A wartime leader.
In time of war, I would place the qualities of a wartime leader at the top of my list. But first one must recognize that we are in a war, and many people fail to do so. They fail to recall that:
● Our embassy in Iran was seized in 1979 and our diplomats mistreated for 444 days.
● Our Marine barracks in Lebanon was bombed by Hezbollah in 1983, killing 241 and wounding 60.
● USS Stark was hit by Iraqi missiles in 1987, killing 37 and wounding 21.
● Pan Am 103 was blown out of the sky by a bomb in 1988, killing 270.
● The first World Trade Center attack occurred in 1993, killing six and wounding 1042.
● Our barracks in Saudi Arabia was bombed in 1996, killing 20 and wounding 372.
● TWA 800 was blown out of the sky in 1996 for uncertain reasons, killing 230.
● Our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed in 1998, killing 223 and wounding over 1000.
● USS Cole was bombed and nearly sunk in 2000, killing 17 and wounding 39.
With the possible exception of TWA 800, these were all acts of war. They all occurred before 9/11, and before our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. And after those events, what of Major Hassan killing 14 Americans at Fort Hood (not 13, one was pregnant).
What of recent mobs storming American embassies in Egypt and Libya, burning our flag and killing a U.S. ambassador and three others? Is this the way our ambassador should be treated? Is this how we want the world to see us? The current administration wants America to be loved, doesn’t care if we are respected, and definitely does not want us to be feared. My priorities are the exact opposite.
Extremist Muslims have been at war with us since at least 1979, when liberal, submissive Jimmy Carter was president. From this we should have learned that a posture of weakness does not deter attacks – it attracts them. Most of us recognized the fact that we are at war only on 9/11. But some still fail to recognize it.
Other people admit we are under attack, but they blame us. This is a control fantasy, similar to primitive people believing that if they had done the rain dance correctly, the drought would have ended. For these people, an attack is less threatening if they convince themselves that they are responsible. Then they believe they can stop the attacks if they just do something nice for our enemies – send them more money, abandon our ally Israel, whatever.
But what of the terrorist attacks on London, Madrid, Bali and Beslan, Russia? What of the death threats over Danish cartoons or the British teacher who allowed Sudanese first-graders to name a teddy bear “Muhammad”? What about persecution of Christians in Muslim nations? Who is to blame for these events? The end result of blame-the-victim is to blame everyone except the guilty.
Still others believe that if they just sit down and talk to our enemies, all will be well. A narcissistic belief in the power of one’s personality to win over enemies is a poor trait for a wartime leader.
An even poorer trait is inability to recognize that we are in a war at all, or who our enemies are. How many times has President Obama used the terms “Islamo-fascism” or “extremist Muslims”? I don’t recall even one. He rarely uses the word “terrorism,” preferring “man-caused disasters.” Keep this picture in mind if a wartime leader is what you seek.
A member of the clergy.
If we are looking for a clergyman, we have a right to know whether his theology matches our own. But for any other occupation – including politics – religious beliefs are none of our business. When the covers of Time and Newsweek mock Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, we should refer the editors to the Constitution. Article VI states, “…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” That is clear enough for even the willfully ignorant to understand.
Someone to “run the country.”
Some people have the bodies of adults but the emotions of children. They look for an all-powerful parent figure to make everything right. Their heads are filled with messianic notions of building a paradise on earth, so they fall prey to conniving politicians. In the extreme, such thinking brings us tyrants.
It is absurd to believe that it is possible for one person to “run” a nation of 314 million people − with its billions of economic decisions made daily. It is equally absurd to believe that the president has a “stash” and can give them money – without first taking that money from them or borrowing it from their children and grandchildren. Our ancestors left us a beautiful legacy of freedom. We will leave our descendants a crushing burden of debt. This is called “progressive.”
Imagine the captain of a ship. He stands on the bridge and orders the wheel turned left or right. But it is the engines, run by the engineers, that provide motive power. The officers on the bridge – the government – control the direction. But the engineers – the business people – keep the ship moving.
The captain wears gold braid and poses for photos with passengers. But without the engineers, the ship is dead in the water, and turning the wheel is a meaningless gesture.
Nevertheless, it is possible to try to run a country. Louis XIV ran France, insofar as the technology of that era allowed. Recall his remark, “I am the state.” More modern technology allowed Hitler to run Nazi Germany, Stalin to run the Soviet Union, Mao to run China, and Pol Pot to run Cambodia. They did so with tragic results and mountains of corpses. Less extreme examples include the tin-pot dictators who plague Latin America, Africa, and Asia. As with Fidel Castro, “El Máximo” at best turns out to be “El Mínimo,” and at worst “El Diablo.”
Someone to take care of me.
Other people have the bodies of adults but the emotions of teenagers. They want to continue unhealthful habits, but they want Mom to take care of them if they become ill. They want to spend money as they please, but they want Dad to help out financially. They want to be sexually active, but have someone else pay for their contraceptives.
But if pregnancy results, either they want an abortion paid for by Dad, or they want Mom to help care for the baby – while they pursue their own “lifestyle.” And they expect the government to take the place of Mom and Dad.
Like most teenagers, they are intolerant of rules and want “change.” They want government health care, but they don’t want the bureaucracy and rationing that go with it. They want to “stick it to big oil,” but they also want to drive their cars everywhere. They want to control the “obscene profits” of “big pharma,” but they can’t see that this will choke off development of new life-saving drugs. They want to “save the planet,” but in the process they are likely to lose their freedom – and ours.
In short, they want the government, personified by the president, to be their parent, and yet not to interfere with their fun or their ability to make destructive choices. Teenagers in adult bodies are dangerous to a democracy. They want freedom without responsibility, which never has existed and never will.
First decide what you want in a president. Then look at the candidates. Glib speeches and vague ideas are no substitute for genuine leadership, especially in a critical time.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.