Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What Makes A Good President? Maybe, Not What You Think!

I mentioned that my approach to matching Presidents against each other in competition would be somewhat radical. This is, in part, because I mean to challenge the common assumptions made, and for that I must begin with the criteria which is so often used in comparing Presidents.

I did some looking around, and I found the following six words used the most often to describe an effective President:


These are all good, desirable qualities, but there is a glaring problem with any of them. They are all subjective values, determined by how the grader feels. That’s a big red flag for me, and one reason why time often changes the position which Presidents occupy. And it gets no better when you look at professional historians. A site called “History News Network” examined President George W. Bush, mainly in terms of whether or not he is the “worst President ever” or merely just a “failure”. The article is no better than a smear job, obvious when one notes that the qualities of famous failures are subdued in favor of slamming the current Commander-in-Chief. The historians were every bit as biased and subjective as popular polls have been, with the exception that the worthy folks at George Mason University attempted to present their tilt as an objective finding. But that is neither here nor there, for our purposes. It means for us to consider, carefully, how we shall avoid the same blunder in measuring these men. The historians used a largely negative yardstick, measuring all Presidents in such categories as “economic damage”, “imperialism”, “dishonesty”, and “arrogance”. All words which can be, and are, liberally applied to paint a selected target in foul colors. Such a circular argument is useless on its face.

I also eschew the complex examination. That is, if great detail matters, one should endeavor to read some of the many fine biographies of Presidents, but the sheer volume of information would be unwieldy in the extreme here. So, I have determined to walk through five basic qualities of Presidential responsibility, and to try to set out some standards for certain levels in each skill. These five areas are determined by the needs of the United States through its Presidential History (since 1789, that is). They are:

[] Responsible Attention to Military Threats and Needs
[] Responsible Attention to the Economy
[] Responsible Attention to the Balance of Branch Authority
[] Responsible Attention to the U.S. Constitution
[] Responsible Attention to Advancing/Protecting American Interests

With apologies to Mr. Gore, I am afraid that “green” activism is not a mark of a responsible President of the United States. With apologies to Ms. Clinton, I must contend that advancing Socialism is not in the best interests of the Nation. With apologies to Rev. Sharpton, I observe that the President of the United States is not obliged to show preferential treatment towards a racial minority, and is in fact obliged to rather oppose racial, gender, or cultural bias in his performance and decisions. The careful reader will observe that the responsibilities of the President of the United States are, in some ways, much different than the responsibilities of the Congress of the United States and of the Judiciary of the United States, to say nothing of the state, county, and local levels of government. There is, admittedly, still a risk of subjectivity in even these more-clearly defined areas of duty, but at least we can establish certain benchmarks for these categories before we assign values to individual Presidents. And as I mentioned earlier, each of these areas will differ in their weight of significance according to different conditions and times.

Next, defining the benchmarks.

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