It is amazing to me how early the election cycle is beginning this year! We haven't even finished the primaries for 2006, and we're already talking (incessantly) about 2008. But, I think it is important to think about a presidential election far in advance. We won't hear any official candidacy declarations until January (I heard this from one potential candidate's mouth), but I think we should start thinking about it.
Personally, I am tired of blind party loyalty and personality-cult politics. Shouldn't we be thinking deeper about our candidates than what party they belong to... or how good-looking they are? Rather than sit back and let the media decide for me, I think each of us needs to sit down and decide what our ideal presidential candidate looks like. Then, when we see him or her, we should throw all our support behind them.
So, I ask: What kind of a person do I want to be President? I have been talking about this for the last few weeks, it is about time I wrote it down (DISCLAIMER: I use the masculine pronouns [his, he, him] in this post because we have not yet had a serious female presidential candidate... and it is too hard to write "his or her" every time. I strongly believe and hope that we will have a female President someday. But, for now, I will refer to presidents with masculine pronouns.)
First, a President needs to be an EXECUTIVE. The Executive Branch of the US Government is a (pick your adjective[s]: huge, unwieldily, gargantuan, confusing, bureaucratic, scattered, etc.) organization. To be an effective chief executive over one of the most complicated organizations in the world, a President MUST have strong executive experience. Almost without exception, a good Presidential candidate will be a former state governor. In fact, every President since Nixon was a former Governor or former Vice President (Ford was the only exception, and he was never elected). Governors have experience being executives in the public sector. State Government is a perfect place to learn how to deal with the problems a President will face.
With that said, I strongly believe that legislators (Senators or House members) do NOT make good Presidents. I am sure there are (and will be) exceptions. But, think about it for a minute: legislators are NEVER held responsible for their decisions. Their power is in persuasion by committee, not in management. Legislators only take credit for things they did that were good. On the other hand, the President of the United States is the national scapegoat. He MUST be able to take responsibility for every decision he makes (and even some things that are out of his control). And, he must be able to stand up in front of the American people and explain his decisions.
Second, a President needs to be a DECISION MAKER. I was once in a group meeting with President George W. Bush, and he pointed this out as his primary Presidential role. A President must be decisive, even when he does not have all the information. Sometimes, a President must make a decision based upon his gut feeling, or his idea of what is right. This is another place where executive experience is paramount. The President of the United States must be decisive.
Third, a President must be a moral-driven person... that generally favors a President who is religious. This county was founded based on morals--on "self-evident" truths--and I think a President needs to be driven by a high moral status. I think religion is important, but not required, for a President. Religious believe tends to show a commitment to an idea or power greater than self. It doesn't matter to me what religion the President follows. I think we will have a Muslim or Jewish President one day. What matters is how he applies his religious belief to his job. He must be religious, but he must be tolerant of other beliefs. And, he must apply his beliefs wisely as he makes his decisions.
Fourth, a President must love and respect his Wife (or Husband). The office of President of the United States is a commitment to a cause higher than yourself. Marriage is a commitment to a cause higher than yourself. In both institutions, a good President must be humble and put the needs of the other ahead of his own (Humility is not weakness). In our meeting with President Bush (mentioned above), he said something that really caught my attention: "My marriage has improved since I became President." He talked about how important it is to grow together every day in a marriage. And, he said he has had great opportunities to work with his wife and grow closer to her. A President must be committed to his wife. Because, if he is committed to his wife, he is more likely to be committed to ME.
Finally, there are those intangibles that are hard to pin down: trustworthy, honest, respect for the office, respect for people.. I don't have to agree with every single policy a President puts forward, but I want to have some confidence in the way he makes decisions. So, there is always an intangible.
So, as I start looking at the prospective candidates, both Democrat and Republican, there are very few on the horizon that fit this bill.
I assume that we will get the following candidates into the Primary Election Cycle for the 2008:
Hilary Rodham (Clinton)
(there may be a few governors that rise to the surface)
Condoleezza Rice (doubtful, but maybe)
With that assumption, the clear frontrunner for my vote is Mitt Romney.
1) He has been a very successful executive, both in public and private sectors. He founded the uber-successful venture capital firm Bain Capital and made his fortune by rebuilding less-successful businesses (like Staples and Domino's Pizza). He then went on to resurrect the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics from scandal, turning it into the most successful and profitable Winter Olympics in history. And, for the last 4 years, he has served as Governor of Massachusetts... carefully walking the political line to keep both Liberal and Conservative happy.
2) He is a decision maker. He has done a great job revamping companies and making them successful, so he is obviously a GOOD decision maker. He is confident in his demeanor and seems very decisive. He has the demeanor and executive experience Americans should and do demand from their President. (And look... as I write this, I find out that David Frum agrees with me!)
3) He is a religious and moral-driven man. He is a faithful member of the LDS church. And, as the surprising and impressive site called Evangelicals for Mitt points out, Romney's Mormon-based values are more compatible with Christians than any of the other current "front-runners." He is a real religious man (as opposed to a fake one).
4) Mitt Romney LOVES his Wife. He and Ann appear often together, and I have watched them interact with their 5 boys. He is a family man, and committed to making his family succeed. So far, he has done pretty well. All five boys are happily married and have given him 9 grandchildren. And, he still calls Ann his "high school sweetheart." C'mon... how romantic is that? As a president, his commitment to his wife shows that he will be more committed to his job and to his constituency (in other words... committed to me... and you too). I read recently that since many other major candidates have been divorced or have obviously rocky marriages (cough... Clinton... cough), it is ironic that the Mormon in the race is the one with only one wife! (A reference to the common misconception that Mormons practice polygamy... c'mon people, Warren Jeffs is NOT a Mormon... but I digress...)
5) You should take advantage of opportunities over the next few weeks to WATCH and LISTEN TO Mitt Romney during his various speeches. He has that "intangible" feel to him. I thought Mr. Romney was a very long shot... until I watched him give a speech on C-Span. He knows how to boil the issues of this country down better than anybody else I've seen. His speeches are direct, concise and to the point... and he doesn't wander into platitudes.
So, I'll have to tell you, as I analyze the current presidential race, my vote is quite firmly behind Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican from Massachusetts. Of course, like any responsible citizen, I am looking carefully at who deserves my precious vote in 2008. But, that is what we all should be doing... jumping on a horse and riding it. But, never be afraid to jump on the better horse.
For now: Romney for President 2008. Now, I just need to get a T-Shirt.
That is all.