Thursday, January 3, 2008

Choosing a President Wisely

Here is another refreshingly and genuinely non-partisan reflection on the presidency and the candidates for it by a Republican. Below, I reported one from Peggy Noonan. Here I report on Larry Lindsey's essay in the Wall Street Journal, "What We Want in a President" (January 2, 2008). Dr Lindsey (Ph.D. Harvard, economics) has served under the last four presidents.

In short, he says that because of the world's vast complexity and thus the unpredictable and inevitable turns of fortune, every president comes to office in need of learning a great deal. Thus:

Our job as voters should be to select someone who will (1) know what he or she doesn't know, (2) get up to speed quickly, and (3) avoid making serious mistakes in the meantime.

Furthermore, while the primary process focuses largely on policy positions and mastery of the process itself (commercials, debating technique--Plato illustrates this in The Republic 488b-d), it is personal character that makes a president either great or disastrous. By character, he does not have in mind matters like truth telling and faithfulness to one's wife, at least not chiefly. Instead, he lists three critical considerations.
First, has the candidate faced a crisis or overcome a major setback in his or her life?...Second, has the candidate had a variety of life experiences? ...Third, can the candidate tell the difference between a foreign enemy and a political opponent?

He expands on these persuasively and offers historical examples of people who hold these virtues and also of those who were tragically missing them. He leaves the reader to apply these criteria to the present slate of candidates.

The first question clearly disqualifies Mitt Romney. I'm sure he "got straight A's, never got turned down for a date, was never fired from a job or defeated in an election." McCain and Giuliani are the most obvious overcomers in a crisis candidates. Huckabee's weight loss doesn't cut it.

The life experience question seems to favor Giuliani and Romney, even Hillary Clinton if only on account of her actual White House experience, and it is most disfavorable to Barack Obama.

And what name rushes to mind when you think of someone who treats domestic political opponents, even within her own party, at least as ruthlessly as she would treat a foreign enemy? The thought is chilling.

But do your own analysis. Invite some friends over and make it game!

It is interesting that the man whom Lindsey identifies nar the beginning of the essay as his own choice, Fred Thompson, does not appear to fare well according to the first two questions on this test, or so it seems to me.

To my many friends in Iowa attending the caucuses tonight: be wise!

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