September 14, 2008
If you thought I’m referring to Sarah Palin, you’d be every bit as wrong as those tens of thousands of wild-eyed, teeny-bopper like, screaming-meemies women waving PALIN signs who somehow don't care whether Alaska's governor really is qualified to be one missed heartbeat from being president.
Nah . . . I wasn’t referring to Sarah Palin. She’s not a bimbo, and any Democrat who dismisses her along those lines does so at his or her and America’s peril. Sarah Palin is smart! She’s smart, and quick, the way a good boxer is: thinking, plotting, reactive; when to feint, when to jab, and how often, and when to toss that haymaker. And if those are the limits of the qualifications you want in a candidate who could very well become the leader of the mightiest military . . . Well, go ahead and continue to mindlessly go all googly over the Alaskan governor. But, you see, Governor Palin is not merely ignorant of everything that should compose minimal job requirements for a vice-president, she is tragically so, and is reckless about it to boot.
For a moment, let’s remove every possible partisan, gender, racial, ethnic, age related aspect from the vice-presidential consideration and just build, as if from start, the position itself. Brand new office, it’s gong to be called “vice-president.” What’s it going to consist of?
First, the person filling the role of vice-president is rather akin to the nation’s life insurance policy on its president; to take over the full responsibilities of the office of the president should the president die or be unable, for any other reason, to continue his or her presidential functions.
It’s that role that mandates an examination of what it is that the president’s job consists of. And that one is, in the truest sense of the word, awesome.
The president not only meets and fêtes both foreign and domestic dignitaries, he or she negotiates with those dignitaries (or their representatives) on behalf of not only the United States’ population and economy, but often that of the western oriented world as well. The negotiations can take the form of serious business issues or grow to international armed hostilities. A grasp of the extent and especially the limits of US power, US leverage, and what truly composes the nation’s interests is quintessential. A false or lightly considered step can prove potentially or genuinely catastrophic for all concerned, which, as has been noted, can include every life on Earth. To that, a deep and abiding appreciation for nuance and subtlety can be everything.
The United States is a constitutional republic, with constitutional much more than an easily dismissible adjective. Too often in the recent and not really too distant past the country has been witness to the consequences of administrations that did not adequately understand that “constitutional” was the most important part of the term; Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and our current president. The name, the United States of America, can survive long after the components that made America what it was intended to be have been gutted. If the nature of the country, not merely the name the country adopted, is to survive, a president must have more than a passing familiarity with the spirit and the letter of the framework and the principles of the document that was first crafted in Philadelphia near the end of the 18th century.
Abraham Maslow is today too little understood and all too much undervalued for his basic premises. In 1943, Maslow penned his A Theory of Human Motivation. It was a treatise wherein his “pyramid of needs” suggested the basic physiological needs of survival — food, water, sex, etc — had to be satisfied before the higher level self-actualization needs of, say morality, creativity, etc. A shorthand might be to posit that the fundamental economic needs of the individual, then that of the society, be fully understood and deftly addressed. In other words, having more than just a basic grasp of the discipline’s rudiments, and the benefits and consequences of applying the federal government’s array of tools at its disposal is a key requirement.
In concert with the immediately preceding, today’s extraordinarily complicated mix of the technological and scientific influences on not only national economics, but on every bit as important pan-global issues of energy and climate change influence what the president must at least have some minimal appreciation for before he or she can begin to confront and deal with.
These and almost infinitely more intricacies are subjects the president — if the nation and the country as it was intended are to survive and prosper — must be able to face with an underlying foundation of understanding of his or her own limitations, and the honest desire to ameliorate those limitations via the courage to seek expertise from every source available. In a word: introspective judgment.