Sunday, September 07, 2008

Presidential Resume

Book cover of Book cover via Amazon Of all the talk from the recent political conventions, two themes really struck me: the battle over who is the biggest "outsider" and the question of presidential qualifications.

Candidates seem to take it for granted that being a political outsider is a good thing. Since the public has an incredibly low opinion of Congress, the idea is to boast that you have nothing to do with Washington. (Neither ticket can honestly make this claim, by the way. McCain and Biden have each been in the Senate for decades). But why is a lack of association with Washington a bad thing?

I just finished reading a book called The Dark Side by New Yorker writer Jane Mayer. It chronicles a record of shocking Constitutional abuses by people who did not know the law. President Bush bragged that he, too, was a Washington-outsider. He called Washington a "culture of lawyers." He mistrusted lawyers -- even about legal issues so much so that in his administration, Mayer writes, "neither the President, the Vice president, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, not the National Security Adviser was a lawyer" (54).

Since no one knew the law, the author argues, no one felt restrained from ordering torture or expanding presidential powers. On nearly every important matter the President deferred to his Vice-President, Dick Cheney, (a real Washington INSIDER, who was President Ford's chief of staff) who knew how the system worked and how to enforce his ideology. Nothing -- good or bad -- can get done in Washington without a knowledge of how Washington works.

Whether or not you favor an insider or an outsider, what exactly are the minimum qualifications of being President of the United States? Here's what the US Constitution says. Is it enough? After all, plumbers, teachers, doctors, secretaries must all meet minimum standards in order to be hired. What do you think a president's resume should look like?

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7 comments:

Kimber said...

It seems that the qualifications to be eligible to become the President of the United States of America are less than those of a high school senior entering a competitive college. The United States Constitution in Artice II, Section I, specifies that to be president on has to be a natural born citizen, age 35 or more and must have lived in the United States for 14 years prior to becoming president. In contrast, students entering college must attain a high GPA, must write an impressive essay, must pass and obtain high scores on tests such as the ACT and SAT, and must also obtain written recommendations from their teaches. These recommendations cannot just be from anyone, but from teachers in the junior year. This most likely avoids any nepotism. It truly seems that the credentials required to become president are minimal. Choosing the most important position in the United States, the president, has become more of a popularity contest. The only format to learn more about what and how the candidates think have been the debates. Unfortunately, the debates no longer tell us as much about the candidates because they are given the questions ahead of time and they have a team of specialists and speech writers helping them with their answers. I would actually be more comfortable with someone who was an “insider” as there is a political track record that can be followed to help understand the candidates beliefs and prior actions.

Matt B said...

I agree and disagree with Kimber's comment. The only thing that the United States Constitution, specifically Article II, Section I, has that keeps me from being the President is 35 years of age and I think that's ridiculous. However, I think the Constitution is vague because Americans choose their President, we decide the requirements in which the candidates need to become President of the United States. The Founding Fathers knew things would be different in the future, so they didn't hinder us with all sorts of requirements to be President, this would require the Constitution to eventually be rewritten. What requirements would you make? When you really think about it, they'd have to be extremely general, like 35 years of age and a natural citizen. If America was a country constantly at war, surely there would be a minimum military experience requirement, "He shall have had 4 years of service in the military and at least a ranking of General." That would be crazy, America is not always at war and if it was, surely the people would want to get out of it. This is why the constitution is so vague. The President should be what the people need in the time he or she is elected, and the public will decide that for them selves.

Shannon C said...

I completely agree with what matt said, there aren't really specific requirements that can be determined for becoming president, its what is needed in the position at the time. And besides our government is supposed to be "by the people for the people" so it's expected that voters can determine who the president will be based on what they see as necessary. Plus, just because anyone can RUN for president doesn't necessarily mean anyone can become president, for example I don't think a majority of voters would vote for someone who didn't graduate from high school, not to mention with how much it costs to campaign they had to have been somewhat successful to have the means to afford to run. Basically, I don't think there need to be more specific minimum requirements because only one person can have the job, and it's the responsibility of the people to decided who that is.

Leslie Co said...

I agree a lot with what Matt said. I think the constitution merely states the minimal requirements. I think it is our job as Americans to decide what we want our president to be, and the time to choose that is every 4 years when the presidential elections roll around. As far as what I personally think the qualifications should be, I think there are a lot of different factors that go into becoming/being president. When I was looking at Obama and McCain, I didn't really think about how much experience they have had in the government or military experience or where they went to school or where they grew up. I looked at what kind of person I wanted to run my country. I want someone I believe will be a good representative of America. I think its more important to look at the ideas that the candidates have and what their plans are, whether or not they can be accomplished. Because lets be realistic, every idea that Obama and McCain have wont necessarily happen, it just their plans, and whats wrong with having a plan? Every American is different and I believe that the candidate shouldn't have to live up to the "I'm not with them, I'm an average guy" ideal. I think what would appeal to me more is saying, "Yeah this is who I am, where I've been, and what I've done.I'm me and I can't pretend I'm any different" It shouldn't matter what school they went to or how much "experience" they have in congress (although I wouldn't want a president who didn't have any idea how to be president... so experience is somewhat important to have, but I don't think how much experience you have really matters as long as you have "experience")I want a president to be an American and to be someone who shares some of the same opinions on subjects I care about. And that's all that matters to me.

Jackie said...

What Shannon and Leslie said was pretty much what I was going to say. The constitution states that you need to be a 35 year old citizen, but I think what that basically means is that you need to be a 35 year old citizen to run for president. Just because you can run for president doesn't mean you can be elected president by the public. I think something that makes our country great is the fact that any 35 year old citizen that can capture the hearts of the American people and become elected, can be president, whether that means a good president or bad president. I think that the the resume the constitution laid down is fine, becuase as I stated before, just becuase you can run doesn't mean you can get elected. If there is a person with these qualifications and they are elected, then majority of the American public believes that they can run the country, which means that they probably have some other characteristics that qualify them beyond just being a 35 year old citizen. It may be vague, but the American people aren't going to elect a random person that doesn't have any history in politics, therefore I actually think that constitutional resume makes sense.

Max Rice said...

I dont think that more than 50 % of America would ellect an unquailified president, even if the canidate doesnt have too much "experience" he would have to make the point that he is qualified. Especially with today's media really digging into the canidates personal/professional lives, it would be pretty hard for unquaulified guy make it through even the primary process. A good book wich sort of touches on this topic is called Being There, by Jersey Kozinski. It tells the story of somewhat homeless mentally disabled guy who by a string of accidents becomes the vice-president of the United States, its really good book and even better movie so go check it out.

Kelly said...

I think that the requirements to be president of the United States should not be based on the person's academic achievements. Rather, it should be on their leadership qualities and ability to make difficult decisions. They should be knowledgable of national security issues and international affairs. It is important to have a president who knows what makes a strong economy and how to deal with the fluctuations. When I am thinking of what candidate should be president I think of what their accomplishments have been for the American people in the past. It is important that the person is not just being a politician in the moment and future but is supporting their views from their personal past. Personal past experiences and actions can be a prediction of what someone may do in the future.