Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Picking a President -Is Anyone Actually Qualified?

Who would ever want to be President? It opens your entire life to the ultimate scrutiny. Your family must endure the hurt of personal attacks. You have to make decisions that can truly affect million of lives. If you do something well you rarely get the credit. When anything goes wrong you always get the blame. You have to give up your ideals to become what the party accepts. You have to compromise goals and beliefs to keep your base happy. You have to try to please and entire country (not to mention the rest of the world). You may be asked to give the approval to shoot down a civilian airplane. You have to be ready to send soldiers to war –and quite possibly to their death.

Who is truly qualified to hold this office? Whose past is error or sin free and able to withstand the vetting? Who is morally qualified to make life and death decisions? As November 2nd approaches, these questions swirl through my mind. I came across a blog the other day of a Christian man stating that he believes that it is wrong to vote at all because whomever you vote for will inevitably the Commander in Chief (he doesn’t believe in a military because he doesn’t think Jesus would). Others don’t vote because they don’t believe their vote really counts. Some abstain because they just don’t care. Many people that I have met stay away from the voting booth to avoid getting jury duty (a widely believed urban legend). Still others say they won’t subscribe to the concept of the ‘lesser of two evils’.

Is it right to choose the most important job in the world from two choices? My brother has been preaching the benefits of a run-off voting system. In this system you would number your choices. If you voted for Nader and he wasn’t going to win your vote would go to the second person on your list –this way smaller parties would have a chance and your vote would never ‘be wasted’. It does seem that this may be the only solution to our current two-party system. I can’t see the powers that be ever letting it happen.

Another thing that I often think about is how we REALLY know who we are voting for. In ‘All’s Fair’ by Mary Matilin & James Carville they both talk about Ross Perot extensively. They both say that neither party took his candidacy seriously because everyone that really knew him was aware that he was a certified nutcase –and apparently that was obvious to anyone who had met him more than once. The Clinton camp and the Bush camp were amazed as he began to rise in the polls. Americans rail against ‘negative campaigning’ but according to Carville and Matilin many Americans voted for a lunatic in 1992 –how were they to know? Should negative campaigning be seen as a positive aspect of the vetting process?

I would love to be a part of the political system and it wouldn’t be for personal gain. I would love to effect change. I would love to have people call for help and actually be able to make a difference. Is this how all politicians start out --and then the system changes them? Do you need to lie to get ahead -- sell your soul to ascend? You need a lot of money to run for anything, and to get that money I am sure you have to compromise many of the principals that prompted you to enter the race in the first place. If I ever decided to throw my hat in the ring I would obviously be running as a Republican –the problem with that would be that much GOP money comes from the NRA... and I believe strongly in gun-control. This would leave me in a moral dilemma. Would I take the money knowing I was going against what I feel is important and justify it with the fact that if I ' got in' I could do good in other places? Does the end justify the means?

The Presidency is appealing to many for the power that it bestows, but at the end of the day I believe that the cons surely outweigh the pros. I had trouble making the decision to put my dog to sleep as he suffered from a brain tumor. Who am I to end a life? I have trouble saying no to any and all who come to my door asking for a check to one good cause or another –Clean Air Council, SPCA, College for Inter-City Children…etc. Who am I to limit someone’s potential? As the election approaches and foibles and missteps are exposed…I think that we are lucky that anyone chooses to run and that we have people who are willing to expose themselves to the expectations and the inspection. Regardless of what I think of each candidate’s policies –they are both brave men just to embark on this undertaking. I am rarely able to make decisions that please the four people in my family…let alone the entire world…

May the best man win.


Paul G. said...

No person morally fit for the office would ever accept it.
No person willing to seek it is morally fit to hold it.

Cynical? Maybe but I believe it.
As far as I am concerned Jimmy Carter was the most moral president of my lifetime, and a total failure as a direct result.

BTW I've linked CB, Jen and yourself over at While You Were Watching the Distractions

riceburner147 said...

This post of yours is a refreshing change of pace. Could it be that humility (a good thing) has reared its ugly head. How true is it that when one wants to do good it is sooo hard to be true to ones principles in the political arena. Perhaps there is another arena that would be more satisfying ? H for H ? or such

redleg said...

a most thought provoking post. I would not want the office even if I could see myself seeking it.

But gun control... true gun control is the contents of a full magazine in the X ring. And remember, Teddy Kennedy's car has killed more people than my guns. And I keep them safely locked up, even the one by the night table for taking out an intruder.

justrose said...

ALa71, have I told you lately how much I love you and how your blog has everything, even the most amusing commenters in the world.

Thanks for this. I know we've talked about it many times, but it's nice to see your (very cogent argument, despite the fog of pain) thoughts written down.


91ghost said...

I wouldn't mind being King for a day. In fact, sometime when I have the energy, I'd love to run my crackpot King for a Day Drug War policy by you--I really think it would work.

About Ross Perot: He might just be a nutcase, and I never was an avid political fan of his (although I loved his chart lectures), but I can say that he is a good man. After the 1991 Gulf War, the Veterans Affairs healthcare system was outfitting new amputees with World War II era prosthetics--Perot personally bought over a thousand Gulf War amputees state of the art prosthetics. He never sought any publicity for his kind act either--also, he personally funded some key University of Texas Medical School studies regarding illnesses in Gulf War veterans. He personally testified before Congress more than once on behalf of ill Gulf War veterans. His actions regarding both the prosthetics and the illnesses have significantly contributed to a better V.A. healthcare system for the Iraqi veterans of today.

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

Funny because it's true:


Play "This Land". You won't regret it!

Tom said...

Hey, doll:

The first part of your essay sounds a lot like what you have to put up with in a marriage. Except for your decisions affecting millions of lives ...

ALa said...

Tom: That's true! Wow, I could be President!....LOL

Tom said...

That could be why we haven't elected too many unmarried presidents.

leftyjones said...

Now, thats the more moderate, thought provoking Ala71 that I know. Evil Ann Coulter is going to be pissed when she reads your post.:)
I agree with a lot of what you have to say. Somehow, most of the problems in the political arena seem to me to stem from two basic things....time and money.
Our election season is ridiculously long and the only way to compete is to raise eleventy billion dollars. If we had a shorter season, it may cut down on some of the need for politicians to raise so much money and in turn to cut down how much access and how many favors they owe.
Of course, many would say that a shorter season would use the same money, just larger media blitzes. They may be right but it seems to me that there is one possible way to help reduce the costs of running. If government issues communications licenses to networks and other television,cable and radio outlets, perhaps it could be a provision of those licenses that a certain amount of political advertising is "free" in exchange for receiving the license. I truly don't know much about how media licensing works but aren't at least the networks holding their licenses in something of a public trust? If so, maybe there is an area to work in.

leftyjones said...

One other thing that drives me nuts are these groups that give large quantities of money to both parties. They don't even care who wins, they just want their business to move along as usual.
I hate that in the latest campaign finance debates there was a lot of conversation that attempted to link cash with free speech. It seems to me that cash is much more likely to equal access and to tilt the playing field to the people who give gobs of money to both parties. They want their interests protected at all costs.
Politicians meanwhile, spend a huge portion of their terms meeting with funders, schmoozing them and trying to collect checks. Its no wonder we feel that tey are all owned on some level.
Maybe we could find a candidate in the near future that would run in a local campaign, centrist views and who would unabashedly refuse special interest money of every kind. Interested people from anywhere could write personal donations at a low cost capped level by the candidate. Maybe then......ugh, it sounds so ridiculously utopian. A candidate that works for the people. Sigh.

Tom said...


So now you're a "moderate"? You know, like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton ...

ALa said...

Don't worry...the spirit of Coulter just possessed me and the next post is sure to incite ire! Don't want to disappoint. I was feeling sick and tender yesterday, but the antibiotics have returned my usual spunk!

Bigandmean said...

As an example of what Ala71 was saying, until 1980, Harris County (Houston)was completely controlled by democrats. They controlled all of the elected offices for the city of Houston, the county, the courts and the voting process itself.

The leader of the Democratic party was Jesse Jones, a multi-millionaire in the oil and real estate businesses. He controlled the party because of his wealth. If you wanted to become a judge, you couldn't just file and pay a filing fee. Mr. Jones had to approve of your name appearing on the ballot. You would have to interview with him and ask for his permission to run. It was more like an audition than anything else. You could run as a republican but to challenge Mr. Jones meant being destroyed financially by his political machine. The end result was that whoever Mr. Jones picked as the democratic candidate would be the judge until Mr. Jones decided your time was up.

Was the system corrupt? Of course it was. Is it corrupt now? Well, Mr. Jones has long since died and the republicans have been in control since 1980. The republicans are much more honest than the democrats were but they too often enter politics for personal gain. It was common knowledge among Houston lawyers that many of the democratic judges were taking bribes. That common knowledge of such activity is no longer evident but it is suspect because all of the judges in the county above Justice of the Peace are republicans. That concentration of power is scary.

The really frustrating thing is that we allow the political class to do this to us because we become too partisan.