I've used the same title for this article as Leonard Pitts used for an article in the Miami Herald, What it takes to be president. Pitts makes the very good point that no one has the experience to be president, since experience can only be had by the doing of it. Its also abundantly clear that the current president, even after having done it for over seven years, still has not the least bit of experience at being president.
Pitts says in his article, "The president of the United States governs 303 million people," Actually, a governor governs, a president presides. To govern means to rule, to be president means to preside. And, what does a president preside over?
Tom Eddlem, an educator, in an article on Lew Rockwell.com about being kicked off a jury because he insisted that the Constitution is the law of the land and takes precedent over the judge's jury instructions, points out that the Constitution is written to the 11th grade vocabulary level.
Article II, Sections 2 and 3 of the Constitution, is where we go to find what it takes to be president. Two very short paragraphs spell out the exactly and only 12 powers and duties of a president. What it takes to be president is the ability to read, understand and abide by those 12 powers and duties. As Eddlem points out, all that takes is the ability to read at the 11th grade level.
What those 12 powers and duties amount to is that the president is required to preside over the various administrative bureaucracies of the government to see that the law is being faithfully executed, to appoint officers, receive foreign dignitaries, and serve as commander-in-chief of the military when called into service by a declaration of war. The military hasn't been called into service since December of 1941. In other words, the president is first and foremost the nation's top bureaucrat, with some figurehead diplomatic duties thrown in.
Of course, George Bush has done exactly the opposite of what the law requires in performing those duties. He's instructed the various administrative bureaus to take unlawful actions, he's assumed the role of commander-in-chief unlawfully, and he's the last thing anyone would call a diplomat.
Going to the campaigns of Obama, Clinton and McCain, we see the list of their positions on the issues. Obama's and Clinton's agenda for what they're going to do when they become president are similar and overlap to some extent. What they say they're going to do concerns civil rights, disabilities, the economy, education, energy and the environment, ethics, fiscal, foreign policy, healthcare, Homeland Security (sic), immigration, Iraq, poverty, social security, technology, and veterans.
McCain's agenda reflects pretty much his right-wing, conservative, Republican ideology in contrast to Obama's and Clinton's. It includes such things a lowering taxes, again, for the rich, solving the health care problem by "allowing our companies to effectively compete around the world." Here, he's talking about insurance companies. Are they to start offering health policies world wide and insure the rest of the world? He talks about lobbying reform, with a staff composed of lobbyists, continuing the war in Iraq indefinitely, and strangely, he proposes spending a lot of money looking around among the stars to find the solution to the problems of citizens of the US. And, he mentions veterans.
McCain also mentions "A strict constructionist philosophy," referring to the Constitution. More on that below.
The thing that an 11th grade level reading of the president's powers and duties reveals is that, with one exception, none of the items on the candidate's agendas are within the powers and duties of the president and the executive branch. The issues they commit themselves to achieving are not possible from within the executive branch. That branch has no funding or the power to legislate laws to bring these issues to reality. Only the congress can legislate and provide the enormous amounts of money to achieve what these candidates say they're going to do. The Constitution is quite clear about that. The president is only to see that the laws and the programs that congress passes are executed, just as congress intends them.
The one exception and the only thing that all three candidates have on their agenda that they can actually see to being executed properly is the one about veterans. They can see that the Veterans Administration abide by the laws and see that veterans are taken care of as provided by law and funding by congress.
And, that's the only thing on their agendas that they can do. All the rest of it is prohibited to them by the Constitution in the Tenth Amendment. Oh, they can ask congress to do these things, just as you or I can ask congress to. The president can only propose things to congress for their consideration, just as you and I can. Our proposals to congress are more valid than the president's. We elected them, the president didn't.
McCain's hypocrisy on this is blatant. On the same list of things that the Constitution prohibits him from doing, he says that he believes in a strict constructionist philosophy of the Constitution at the same time he's listing the things he's going to do that the Constitution prohibits him from doing.
As it is, its readily apparent that we do not have a candidate with an 11th grade level vocabulary who can read those two short paragraphs that spell out what it takes, and all it takes, and only what it takes, to be a president. If we could find someone to do that, we would have the best person to be president. We would have one in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. And that would be a good president.