Understanding the Constitution: Prerequisite to being President.
The criteria for evaluating a presidential candidate that are discussed below, may seem obvious, but I have not seen it presented in this way and thought it would be worth expressing my thoughts on the matter.
When a candidate is elected to the Presidency of the United States, he takes the oath of office, which reads:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Given that this is what the new President has sworn to do, it seems reasonable that that person should know and understand the meaning of what is in that document. It isn’t clear that President George W. Bush realized to what extent he was in violation of the Constitution when he ordered warrantless wiretaps, torture of prisoners, suspension of Habeas corpus, and many other egregious acts. If he fully understood, perhaps he would not have done those things. If it is required that he really understand, it might be easier to hold him accountable.
As Ron Paul has said, “I don’t wear a flag in my lapel, close to my heart. Instead, I carry a copy of the Constitution in my breast pocket.”
The details of administration are not really handled by the President. Rather, he or she defines policies and attempts to convince the Congress, and the people, to support those policies and pass legislation that will implement them. The wording of legislation and the budgets that support the legislation, are proposed, and developed by experts in the field of law and finance, etc., not the President. Having specific experience in those fields, or any other specific fields, is not the most important aspect of the job. Having good judgment and the ability to pick good people is much more important.
What is important to the voter is what those policies are and whether of not the voter agrees with those policies.
How will the President deal with the economy, taxes, energy, the environment, the deficit, the debt, job creation, trade, immigration, etc. are the questions that must be answered. The voter must then understand the answers and determine whether of not they fulfill the voters expectations.
The same would be true for foreign policy. How will the President get us out of Iraq, what should we do about Iran, how should we deal with Afghanistan and Pakistan so that we can once and for all, get rid of Bin Laden and the headquarters and training bases of al Qaeda and what should our policy be for dealing with the rest of the world? How should we work to make the world a better and safer place?
Examining the candidates policies and determining that you agree with them, is only part of the job. The next assessment involves the President’s ability to sell his program to Congress and the American people.
When President George W. Bush proposed the privatization of Social Security, he used the bully pulpit to attempt to convince the American public to go along with his proposal. Fortunately, his arguments weren’t well founded and he, himself was not terribly convincing, and that proposal failed. He unfortunately had better success convincing the Congress, and much of the public, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was an imminent threat to the United States, and received permission from Congress to use force to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
The President’s ability to present his case and convince the nation that his or her policies are correct and should be implemented, is the next most important attribute of a President and will, to a great extent, determine how effective that President will be. The ability to speak coherently and effectively, is therefore, very important.
If we use the above criteria, I believe Barack Obama is by far the most qualified candidate of all the candidates running for the major or minor parties.