I don’t usually post on politics, but my preferred presidential candidate has stepped down.  I am looking for the “next-best” now…  and reviewing the options that remain.

So, let’s talk politics a bit: What makes for a good leader? What is the difference between campaigning and doing the job? What sort of qualifications should one have to be president of the United States?

Well, those aren’t in a very good order, let’s start with the middle question: The difference between campaigning and doing a job.

Like going to a job interview, or dating, campaigning is almost scripted. There are certain things the person WILL say or MUST say. If they don’t, the deal falls through. The person is on best behavior, and, temporarily, will have abundant verve and sparkle; stamina will seem limitless, just from the adrenaline rush.  They might inflate their qualifications, or even outright lie about their preparation.  Doing the job, you are going to see the worst of the person at times. They will be tired, sick, distracted. They will sometimes take unnecessary risks, they will make mistakes. They may not have the skills or interests they so loudly trumpeted earlier.  When you are interviewing you look for the chinks in the facade, those key signs to the person’s real values…  but it’s difficult to tell sometimes. Once the person is hired, married or elected, it is difficult to change your mind. The difference between campaigning and doing the job? Almost everything.

Next topic. Actually the other two really go together in many ways. So I’ll bundle those responses. What makes a good leader — and what qualifications does one need to be president?

I’ll start with the two key things I look for in a candidate: intelligence and good management skills. The president does need to make a lot of decisions, to weigh complex alternatives, to discern fact from fiction. Only an intelligent person can do this. But no matter how intelligent, there is simply too much information that flows these days, so the president needs to be a good manager — able to pick a reliable team who can parse the information and distill the most important non-routine parts for the president to work on. Micromanagers have no business in office.

But I think a good president has some additional qualities, that we haven’t seen in a very long time (perhaps my entire life!). Courage — not the kind it takes to lead a nation into war, but the kind it takes to place oneself in the light when scrutiny is on the office and its workings. Compassion — a true, abiding concern for the well-being of others, not just when it’s convenient, not just when it garners votes, and even when it means that the status quo needs to be adjusted. Creativity — I think the president needs to be willing to look at new information; to look at old information in new ways; to play around with “what if” and be open to change course if necessary.  Finally, I think the president needs to be a Coalition Constructer — rather than setting up “me/mine vs. them” in the government, the president really ought to look for the common interests, bring the people together and help them look forward.

That’s pretty much it, in a nutshell.

I do think the president should be an independent thinker, not bound by religious authorities whose basic theologies undermine the constitution; not beholden to corporations and their profit-margins.  But being an independent thinker doesn’t mean that the opinions and hopes of others are ignored, just that decisions are made based on all the facts, and what will be best, in the long run, for the most people.

I would like to see my country move out of the extremely divisive, black-white thinking modes that have really predominated since the 1980s…  and become a truly United nation once again.

The chances of that happening any time soon, at this point…   I don’t know.


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