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What sort of President does the United States need? January 22, 2008

Posted by Tim in Observations, Politics.

I was watching a Meet the Press round-table discussion this Sunday (it made me a little late for church).  Of the guests, I found Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan to be particularly prescient.  A conservative, Ms. Noonan’s observations sparked in me a lot of thought.  Consider the following:

“[T]he country is hungry for [a] sense in its leaders that they have thought it through, that they have a philosophy, that they’ve considered the relationship of man and of the state, and considered the moment of history we’re in, that philosophically, they are coherent.”

Which leads me to the question: what sort of President does the US need?  Most people think our country is headed in the wrong direction.  We are tied to unpopular conflicts in lands we are largely ignorant of, our economy (and the world’s with it) teeters on recession, and the political landscape bares the scars of a devisive decade.  People have lost faith in the federal government on all levels, and along with it some have lost faith in America itself.

It is exciting that the campaigns for President have been so dramatic.  Both parties are testing multiple candidates, and many ideologies and leadership styles are on the table.  As much as we can put ideology aside, what sort of President do we need?  Is that sort represented by a candidate in the field?  Obviously, due to the unfortunate tendency of people to be human, none of the candidates is ideal.  But does one offer more hope for building a greater nation than the others?

McCain has a reputation as a man of principles, and brings with it both the legacy and baggage of having crossed the aisle on many votes.  Huckabee is a true populist, a man of the people who both speaks his mind but also refuses to gloss over his religious beliefs.  Clinton is probably the most devisive person in American politics, but has demonstrated herself to be one of the more intelligent and capable candidates.  Giuliani is one of the few candidates who can claim true executive experience, with the record (good and bad) that comes with it.  Obama is one of the few candidates to maintain a conciliatory tone throughout the race, but he himself admits that he sometimes lacks substance.  Romney was a successful businessman and governor – but the baggage from the latter career is backfiring.

I believe most, if not all, of these candidates has what it takes to “be” President.  But filling a desk, reading pre-written speeches, and making appointments is one thing.   Leading a nation is another.  Do we need someone to cross the aisle, make concessions, and bring a spirit of cooperation to Washington?  Do we need a principled or even calculating executive who is willing to trade popularity for what he or she feels should be done?  Should our next President trade our reputation abroad to protect the citizens and Constitution of the US, or should the President lead our nation to make sacrifices for a greater cosmopolitan good?

I don’t know.  I do know that I agree with Ms. Noonan: we need someone who has thought it through, from the bottom up.  And so far, the only candidate I’ve heard offer a clear presidential philosophy happens to rank last in my preferences for President.

What do you think?



1. Meghan - January 31, 2008

I agree, the current political environment is far too complex to point to a single label and say “THIS is what we need.” And, from a rather more pessimistic point of view, it really looks to me as though the office of president is littered with landmines that are impossible to predict on this side of things, and i highly suspect that anyone who takes office is inevitably going to end up stepping on several.

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