This piece ran in the Baltimore Sun and here on opednews in April, 2007. I run it here again because it forms the foundation for a piece I consider potentially important that I will be running here on opednews on Tuesday.
In 2008, we Americans will pick a new president. But how will we make our decision?
We’ll look at the candidates’ records, but they’ll have no record showing how they’d act as president.
We’ll listen to their stump speeches, but those are invariably more like advertisers’ pitches than genuine windows into their minds.
We’ll watch them debate, but the present debates mostly flush out their talking points.
Wouldn’t it be good if –before we hire someone to guide our country through these dangerous times—we citizens could get a meaningful look at how the candidates perform as president? As is demonstrated so powerfully by the film <em>Thirteen Days </em> (about the Cuban Missile Crisis), the fate of our civilization can depend on a president’s ability to navigate strategically through the perils of the unknown.
At this very moment, the United States is paying an enormous price for the defects (in terms of competence as well as of morality) in the decision-making process of our current president.
So wouldn’t it be good if we could see how well those running for the presidency can ask the necessary questions of the appropriate people, probe to get the relevant information, and make good decisions?
Well, we can. It’s time for us to institute a new tradition in our presidential campaigns: along with the debates, we should institute <em>televised presidential simulations</em>.
There have been televised simulations before. In the 1980s, ABC television teamed up with a major foreign-policy think tank to conduct simulations in which former high government officials in the national security field participated.
In such simulations, the participants are delivered news of some emerging crisis in the world. The group then seeks to learn as much as possible about the situation and to decide how to respond. News continues to come in, at intervals during the course of the simulation, and how the group responds also influences how the crisis unfolds.
It is possible to conduct a good and realistic simulation, and the participants seem to have no difficulty treating the simulated events with the utmost seriousness.
In the context of a presidential campaign, each candidate who meets some agreed-upon threshold of support in the polls would be the head of a group of advisors selected by him/herself to form an acting “National Security Council.” Each candidate would be free, as presidents are, to run the group as s/he wishes.
The simulations might last for, say, two days (with time off, presumably, for sleep). The deliberations of each group could be <em>continuously</em> televised on a specific C-Span station, available for any American to watch. The other news media could provide what they regard as the important highlights.