Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Job

In my present position, I am often called upon not only to review the performance of my staff and to hire new employees, both contract and permenant, but also to describe job positions. This happens because as my company grows and evolves, the positions needed to perform even core competencies also change, and we have to make sure people are brought on board who are qualified for the work and clear about expectations. The job description provides a template for determining who makes the cut for later interviews. It seems to me that it would be worthwhile to consider the job description for the President of the United States.

The United States of America is a well-established global concern, mature yet also still enjoying growth. USA Operations are directed by its Constitution, which established three legitimate arms of control, none of them supreme and none of them inferior. Laws are created and passed by the Congress, pursuant to approval through signature from the President, who is accorded limited veto power. The federal courts may also rule a federal law to be unconstitutional, requiring modification or destroying the law. The President holds the power to begin wars and to a large degree control their conduct, although funding for all wars depends on Congressional approval, and therefore Congress can end any military venture it deems should be ended. Congress can create Congressional amendments by which (if ratified by the states) the Courts must abide. The federal judiciary is appointed by the President, pursuant to approval by the Senate. As a body the Congress holds the most power, as a group the Supreme Court is the most independent (facing no elections or term limits), but as an individual the President of the United States is arguably the most powerful and influential human being on the planet.

The President of the United States must be 35 years of age at his inauguration or older, and he (or she) must be a ‘natural’ citizen of the United States, which is to say born to American citizens and by law a citizen at birth. There are no additional formal requirements to become President, except that the person who would become President must be elected to that office, or else be the sitting Vice-President or next-in-succession at such time as the sitting President resigns, is removed from office, or becomes unable to preform the duties of the office as defined in the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. There are no requirements regarding education, military service, race, gender, employment, or vocation. Depending on the mood at the time of election, various types of experience and background have helped or hurt various candidates throughout the years.

Because the President has authority to deploy troops anywhere around the world, and to initiate military actions at his decision, a candidate’s military service is often a key qualification in electoral practice. However, in recent years the requisite quality more often desired is judgment, the ability to gauge the effect of a decision in advance of the action. Accordingly, a candidate who second-guesses a decision without a clear and productive alternative is weak, as is one who holds a position without explaining his reasoning. A candidate who can respect actions taken by a predecessor, yet offer an effective new direction for future strategy, however, is far more formidable a candidate.

Because the President has authority to nominate federal judges and Supreme Court justices, a candidate’s political bias and environment is crucial to voters’ perception of his likely nominations. While judicial appointments are often cast as ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’, better descriptors might be ‘activist’ and ‘constructionist’ judges, on the basis of whether the President would appoint judges inclined to believe that the Constitution is incomplete or sufficient to define and address the conditions on which those judges will decide the constitutionality of a lower court action.

The President has no formal authority to influence the Economy, beyond presenting a proposed federal budget each year to the Congress, in practice a President often enjoys a unique position to influence public opinion, and in such position to sway a close Congressional vote on a key action, especially one involving taxes. The President enjoys a traditional annual forum to speak to the nation’s key issues, called the State of the Nation address.

That’s it, essentially. The President appoints judges, signs or vetoes legislation, proposes budgets, sends the military on missions, and influences the national course through persuasion. He does not and cannot stop hurricanes, foretell the future, control the affairs of foreign governments, or command the economy to lower prices, increase wages, or otherwise make life wonderful through sheer will. He can work to persuade business leaders to make sound decisions, he can stay out of the way of people who know what they are doing, and he can do his best to appoint people to federal positions who can make a difference, but he is not Superman, despite the election hype.

There you have it, a job description of what the President should be and do. One final mention, the references to ‘he’ does not mean that only a male would make a good President; in English grammar the non-specific gender reference for any unknown human entity would be male. Thus, when a person’s gender is not know, by default that person would be referred to as ‘he’ or ‘him’.

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