October 20th, 2020
As Obama was leaving office, I posted this list of talents and qualities I want to see in a President. This is, notably, without regard to any particular policy.
As people flood the polls now, almost four years later, I re-post.
And ask yourself, of the two main candidates, who has the qualities that are needed?
- I want a policy wonk. Fundamental to any leader is an ability to understand that the choices aren’t between good and bad, but between bad and awful. And you want a president with the deep understanding of policy to figure out which is which.
- I want someone to appoint qualified people. The vast, vast majority of America has no idea who the head of the EPA, FEMA, Department of Energy, or HUD are. You know why? Because they didn’t become part of any grand screw-up. There’s something to be said for not knowing who they are, as it means they are most likely doing their jobs without conflict.
- I want someone that doesn’t make rash decisions. And that’s because policy is full of nuance. Slow and deliberate is the way to go, so that a president can absorb as much information and as many opinions as possible.
- I want someone who can keep his cool under pressure. Every president will face pressure, be it from foreign conflicts, hostage/kidnapping/terrorism or domestic political problems. Being able to take the long view, instead of instantly ranting and raging, is a quality to be admired.
- I want a scandal-free administration. When was the last time a president walked out of the oval office after 8 years without major scandal?
- I do not want drama. If there is some sort of drama regarding the White House, it is never, ever good.
- I want someone who doesn’t blanch at the prospect of admitting error and reversing course. Every president will make mistakes, and ego often gets in the way of admitting error. But it’s far better than making the situation worse by continuing on, in the desperate hope the bad decision will magically turn good.
- I want someone with a fundamental appreciation for the fact that ignorance and arrogance are both awful in a president, and together they can be deadly. And the wisdom to recognize it in themselves.
I put up these qualities, instead of issues, because there are thousands of issues that will cross a president’s desk. Cherry-picking what I liked (or didn’t like) would miss the point about the human qualities that someone should have to be an effective president.
Historians will remember Obama well.
I wish we’d had an election between Joe Biden and John Kasich. It would have been between two fundamentally decent people, regardless of what you thought of their politics, and no doubt focused on policy issues. It would likely have been boring. When it comes to politics, I usually like boring. (And the press would have hated it which is why so much free press is given to the most outrageous candidates.)
The nation is worse off when presidents don’t have these qualities.
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