Can Anyone Be President of the United States?

It is an essential part of American folklore that “anyone can be President of the United States”. This idea goes back to the establishment of the US constitution and its rejection of monarchy, along with the idea that only people in a position of privilege (usually by birthright) can lead the country. Of course, this is also a fundamental principle of democracy as a whole, but is it really true in practice? After all, we very nearly had a situation where the last four Presidents of the USA would have been Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton. The realities of the party political system mean that you have to have the right connections to have a real chance of becoming President of the USA, and you also need to have enough financial support to gain pre-selection as your party’s Presidential nominee. However, in light of the current Presidential election, perhaps an even more important question to ask is this: should just anyone be President of the United States?

Of course, I’m not questioning the fundamental democratic principle here. What I mean to ask is this: is the average person qualified to be President of the USA? Given the way many people vote (particularly on the conservative side), it would seem that many people consider the answer to this question to be an unqualified “yes”. Bush gained some points in the last Presidential election by asking voters the question “who would you like to have a beer with?”. And in this election, John McCain has chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate primarily on the basis of her “folksy appeal”. The conservative media have indulged in an orgy of reverse snobbery to support her, dismissing anyone who criticises her as a “stuck-up elitist”. They keep trying to play up the idea that she’s “one of us”, even taking it to the point of describing any criticism of her as an insult to average American people. The problem with this idea though is that she isn’t being judged as an average person—she is being judged as a potential President.

And so she should be. I mean, let’s face it: the chances of the US President dying while in office are not insignificant, especially when we’re talking about someone of McCain’s advanced years. We can’t afford to just write Sarah Palin off as a novelty: if the Republicans are re-elected, there is a very real chance that she will become the President of the United States. So does being an average “hockey mom”—in particular, a fundamentalist Christian hockey mom—make her qualified to be the most powerful woman in history? Sex aside, we already have a precedent for this: the current President of the US, George W. Bush. He has much the same “folksy appeal”, the same fundamentalist Christian beliefs (hence the same politics), and a very similar overall level of intelligence. So the answer to the question of whether or not Sarah Plain is suitable for President comes down to whether or not you think George W. Bush is suitable for President—I guess we all already know the answer to that. In short, being an average person does not make you qualified to be President, because it is not an average job: it requires knowledge, intelligence and diplomatic skill far beyond the average person.

I think that one of the most ridiculous arguments put forward by the Republicans in this Presidential campaign is that Barack Obama is not sufficiently qualified to be President. Well for goodness sake, these are the same people who voted for Bush in the last two elections, and who support Sarah Palin now. At the very least, Obama is clearly a man of great knowledge, intelligence and diplomatic skill—qualifications essential for a President, but qualities which are seriously and sadly lacking both in the current President, and the Republican nomination for Vice President. Just look at her appalling performance in the Vice Presidential debate: she didn’t even try to answer any questions she wasn’t able to, instead just sticking to the script defined by her obviously very limited knowledge of politics and global affairs. How could anybody take the idea of this person becoming President seriously?

The Republicans’ nomination of Sarah Palin for Vice President is yet another example of the culture wars they love to whip up, in the hope that they can “divide and conquer” the US electorate. A vote for McCain in this election is also a vote for Palin, and the possibility of her taking over from him at some point is very real. And let’s not forget—not voting for Obama brings her a step closer as well.

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BTW, I haven’t forgotten about my article on the financial crisis – it’s just that, with yesterday’s vice presidential debate, I felt compelled to write this now!

  
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From writer Sam Harris:

Ask yourself: how has “elitism” become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want s omeone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn’t seem too intelligent or well educated.

I believe that with the nomination of Sarah Palin for the vice presidency, the silliness of our politics has finally put our nation at risk. The world is growing more complex—and dangerous—with each passing hour, and our position within it growing more precarious. Should she become president, Palin seems capable of enacting policies so detached from the common interests of humanity, and from empirical reality, as to unite the entire world against us. When asked why she is qualified to shoulder more responsibility than any person has held in human history, Palin cites her refusal to hesitate. “You can’t blink,” she told Gibson repeatedly, as though this were a primordial truth of wise governance. Let us hope that a President Palin would blink, again and again, while more thoughtful people decide the fate of civilization.

Harris is a founder of The Reason Project and author of The New York Times best sellers “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation.” His Web site is http://www.samharris.org.

  
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Thanks for your comments Doug!

I have to admit that Sam Harris is one of those authors whose books I’ve really been meaning to read, but haven’t had a chance to yet. It looks like I definitely should keep track of his articles too!

I’ve added his site to my blogroll.

  
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Otis R. Needleman

Otis R. Needleman’s avatar

Sarah Palin is the governor of an American state – in size, the largest state in the Union. She was elected to her office. Obviously a number of Alaskans believed she could do well as governor, and apparently she has. Before becoming governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin was also a mayor of a town, and had held real, everyday jobs. She is a mother and a wife, as well.

It’s easy to sit back from Australia and criticize Sarah Palin. However, she’s as qualified as any of the three men running for President and Vice-President to become President. She has two more years executive experience than any of the three Senators. Running any American state is not easy – ask Arnold Schwarzenegger. In contrast to Joe Biden, who has been a Senator since the age of 29 (!), Sarah Palin has actually held real jobs.

I would also say that the more the mainstream media savage Sarah Palin the more her support grows. Working mothers nationwide see how Sarah Palin is being treated and can easily see themselves being treated the same way should they decide to run for office. I was in a room with a number of working mothers when the news of Sarah Palin’s selection came out. There wasn’t a woman who disapproved, and I think her selection is great.

So Sarah Palin is weak on foreign policy. Governors of states are expected to take care of their state first. Dealings with foreign powers are handled generally by Washington. She can learn. Matter of fact, every Vice-President has had to get up to speed when becoming President. A great example was Harry Truman – when he became President upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Truman had no idea whatsoever about the Manhattan Project. Do you know about The Manhattan Project? Hint: Japan was the first foreign recipient of the results of the Manhattan Project.

I’m sure Sarah Palin will make an excellent Vice-President, and should it come to that, she will be an excellent President.

  
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Originally Posted By Otis R. Needleman
So Sarah Palin is weak on foreign policy. Governors of states are expected to take care of their state first. Dealings with foreign powers are handled generally by Washington. She can learn.

Well for one thing, a potential presidential candidate really ought to be well and truly up to speed on foreign policy before seeking election in Washington. For another thing, the huge problem is that she thinks she understands foreign policy, which is potentially extremely dangerous given her obvious ignorance of the outside world. The parallels with George W. abound – he too was a State Governer, but has proven to be an utterly incompetent president. He too thinks he knows foreign policy – based on the same fundamentalist beliefs as Sarah Palin’s – but in fact has absolutely no idea, which has been utterly disastrous for both the US and the rest of the world. I should also point out that while Alaska is the largest state in the union by area, it is also one of the smallest in terms of population.

  
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she says “A vote for McCain in this election is also a vote for Palin, and the possibility of her taking over from him at some point is very real.”

and also she says “And let’s not forget – not voting for Obama brings her a step closer as well.”

I watch the conversations (speaches) at the democratic convention. Just a few of them. I did not really listen to them. I am not particularily warm to Obama as he leans towards some internationally popular positions on some special interest items that I lean in towards the other direction so I am not overly fond of having Obama elected.

However, I enjoyed watching him and later, I also enjoyed watching him on a debate, but I think “The Other Guy” pulled his leg and he did not respond in kind.

But I also watched his wife speak at the convention. I did not listen to her because I did not care what she had to say, she is not running for votes. She struck me as being a very friendly person with a nice personality. I can see how, he, Mr Obama, having lengthy experience with her mannerisms, could be a bit hesitant at choosing to work with Ms Clinton. Warm and Friendly are not exactly the first two adjectives one would pick to describe her personality.

I thought maybe he would pick another woman as running mate since that would thwart Ms Clinton’s prospects. But he picked a Mr “Other Guy” clone instead.

So when the woman was picked by the Very Elderly One With The White Hair, I saw it as a likely to be successful effort to stop any place for Ms Clinton to particpate. Ms Alaska was not obnoxious and as vice president, is not likely to do any more harm than Gerald Ford did. If she is in office, it will not be for long. So she is ok in my book.

So in this matter, I have to vote for the US soveriegn position of the special interest, and I think Obama simply is too young to have a strong position about anything. Therefore, I would like to see the old man win.

  
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Otis R. Needleman

Otis R. Needleman’s avatar

@Sachiko – Sachiko, unfortunately, you just don’t get it. Some people do vote based on a candidate’s foreign policy positions, but many more vote based on values and record. If George W. Bush were up for re-election your parallels might be more valid, but he isn’t running. He hasn’t been perfect but the alternatives would have been worse. I don’t agree with John McCain and Sarah Palin on everything but I identify with their background and values, whereas Obongo is the antithesis of most I hold dear. Oh, I am well aware of Alaska’s population; keep in mind that Delaware is one of our smallest states. Hey, did you ever find out what the Manhattan Project was all about?

  
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@Otis R. Needleman – I know all about the Manhattan Project, and the truly horrific consequences thereof – I am intending to write about this in the future actually. However, I fail to see its relevance to the present discussion, apart from what it says about the history of US foreign policy. I “get you” very well: you will vote on the basis of your own selfish, narrow fundamentalist middle American view of the world, instead of the common good – once again, just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean I don’t understand you. It is in fact you who “just doesn’t get it” – what you fail to realise is that what’s good for the rest of the world is good for you too, as we’re all on this planet together.

@wheeler92196 – Why do you want to vote for the “US sovereign position of special interest” and run the risk of the outside world hating you? No mater how powerful the US may be, why on earth would you want to go against the rest of the world, instead of living together in peace and harmony?

  
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Unfortunately, the world today isn’t about peace and harmony.
It is about money, power and control of Land, Labour and Capital.
Just like it always has been.

If you are looking for some questions about these issues, these movies might set you on your way to some answers. These movies are not source materials for answers, although there is much truth in them, they simply allow for better questions/research/discussion/understanding of the issues to them.

http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/

Zeitgeist: Addendum deals with the economic crisis and the current election issues that you are looking to speak to. The first hour is informational, the second hour is unfortunately not anywhere near as informative.

Zeitgeist deals with religion, and religious issues (it even uses Carlin).
The first hour is again full of relevant information, but again, the second part is not anywhere near as informative – Too much speculation, and conclusions drawn without a huge amount of information.

As a whole whoever puts these up, does do research, does bring in informative perspectives and then of course shoots themselves in both feet and kneecaps by going into complete speculation mode both times in the second hour of their programme.

But if you are looking for information, that has been sifted through, and are looking for questions to ask, or are looking to see how far the bread and circuses have progressed through religion, politics and empire building, then the first hours of both these programs are full of enough vetted/documented/verifiable information sources to be useful.

  
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Originally Posted By Akacra
Unfortunately, the world today isn’t about peace and harmony.
It is about money, power and control of Land, Labour and Capital.
Just like it always has been.

Sadly, I cannot disagree with you. That won’t stop people like me from trying to change it though, whether we actually succeed or not. After all, bad people can only do what good people let them do.

Thanks for the info about Zeitgeist and Zeitgeist: Addendum. I had dismissed them as a conspiracy theory movies actually (as per the speculative second halves), but now I think I will look into them!

  
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Otis R. Needleman

Otis R. Needleman’s avatar

@Sachiko – Got news for you…most of the rest of the world hates us, has always hated us, and will always hate us, no matter what we do or whom we elect. So Americans need to do what’s best for America. “The rest of the world” isn’t always right. Matter of fact, most of the rest of the world is far more screwed up than the USA – look at how many people want to immigrate to the USA, and by comparison how few Americans emigrate to other countries. So I believe we are doing an awful lot right.

  
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@Otis R. Needleman – People haven’t always hated America – I can still remember very clearly the overwhelming wave of sentiment toward you, right across the western world, after the September 11 attacks. The news across the western world was dominated by it, and everyone was expressing how terrible it was, and how sorry they were that it happened. But the Bush administration completely turned that sentiment around with its actions since then, particularly with its illegal invasion of Iraq.

The middle east have hated you for a lot longer than that, but with very good reason, give the US government’s very biased support of Israel. The US has made some very serious mistakes with its foreign policy (particularly under Bush), and this is why there is now so much hatred toward you – people don’t just hate you (or anybody else for that matter) for no reason. And perpetuating this sort of foreign policy will only make them hate you more. The rest of the world wants Obama as president because they don’t want to hate America – they want to get along with you in peace and harmony.

  
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@Sachiko

I don’t think there is much of a risk in having some parts of the world hating the US just because of our politics. We are not going to change our views and for good reason. There are lots of conflicting opinions in the world and it is impossible to make them all happy. We are not here to appease the ill feelings of everyone with a bad temper, and we should not even try. Besides, those some people in those same countries are not likely to lift a finger except maybe the middle one, if it were suggested that perhaps they modify thier behaviour based on my suggest.

I see nothing inherently wrong with voting in the direction of my special interests. I have few and my voice is small. It is the strength of many voices doing the same that sets the direction of our country.

And just like trying futilely to change the world opinion, it is equally unlikely that all the special interst will get satisfied as many of those interests are in conflict with each other.

For example, Otis has some words I agree with but I assume if I look carefully, I will see that there are other voices he speaks that I disagree with whole heartedly. I don’t think one person can have the so called “right” opinion for everyone.

  
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According to Article II Section 1 of the Constitution, the only requirements for president are:

- Must be a natural born citizen
- Must be at least 35 years old
- Must have lived in the U.S. at least 14 years prior to running for president

So according to that, most Americans are eligible for the job if they so desired. I meet the requirements but I have no desire for that job.

The perks are great, such as:

- Free room and board in a mansion in the heart of Washington D.C. for you and your family for four to eight years
- A getaway retreat and Camp David, just a few miles from Washington, D.C. when things get too hectic at the White House
- A very efficient office staff who can get you anything or anyone in the world
- A 24/7 fully staffed kitchen
- No hassle with airline security because you travel all over the world on your own custom built 747 (Air Force 1) for you, your family, and staff
- A personal helecopter (Marine 1) to get you and your family to and from the White House, Camp David, Reagan International Airport, and other places
- A motorcade for you, your family, and staff to get around town at home and abroad
- A $200,000.00 a year salary (for life)
- The best personal security company in the world (which you get to keep after your term(s) is/are up)
- Your personal signature plate collection

Those were just a few I could pull off the top of my head.

But seriously, throughout U.S. history most if not all presidents have had serious connections one way or another to get elected. As for Democrats and Republicans, there isn’t much if any difference between the two. I’ve been disatisfied with both parties for years now and have been getting more and more invovlved with the Libertarian Party which from my understanding adopts the good parts of liberalism and conservatism.

Unfortunately third parties/independents aren’t very well at getting their agenda together like Democrats and Republicans and as a result don’t do too well in elections. The Libertarian Party is 30 years old and has been gaining ground for years now but not enough to topple or replace one of the two favorites. This year they basically committed suicide with their selection of a Republican as the Libertarian Party nominee for president and the party is severely fractured. Thirty years of progress down the tubes.

As for the Manhattan Project, according to a book I’m reading about Naval Warfare in World War II by Nathan Miller, had it not been for General MacArthur’s insistence to retake the Philippines (which all the other Chiefs of Staff opposed), WWII would’ve ended sooner, less lives lost on all sides, the Philippines would’ve been released by default, and no nukes being dropped on Japan.

I’m getting off my soapbox now. Hopefully I haven’t offended anyone, if so then I do must apologize.

  
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Well you certainly haven’t offended me anyway – actually, I found you comments quite enlightening!

  
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Just received this amusing image from Michael Wheeler :-D

  
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Where to start? Let’s go to basics: the original concept of political office in this country was that a man would leave his personal life to serve ion government for a time and then return to his personal life. Instead, we have ended up with generations of ‘professional politicians’ who start out with the intention of going as high up the political ladder as possible, and to collect along the way as much power and prestige (and money) as they can. Washington is loaded with the offspring of wealthy families who have run the country for a long time. All others need not apply. The deals, the quid pro quo and the lobbying have made politics and congressional votes a stock market of its own, and no bailout in sight.
Perhaps we should try a new approach — anyone who wants to can be President, but at the end of his/her second term, will be publicly executed. That should eliminate all but the most sincere.

  
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Originally Posted By mmcquown
Perhaps we should try a new approach — anyone who wants to can be President, but at the end of his/her second term, will be publicly executed. That should eliminate all but the most sincere.

Yes, I’m sure it would. :-D

  
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Originally Posted By JohnFourtyTwo
As for the Manhattan Project, according to a book I’m reading about Naval Warfare in World War II by Nathan Miller, had it not been for General MacArthur’s insistence to retake the Philippines (which all the other Chiefs of Staff opposed), WWII would’ve ended sooner, less lives lost on all sides, the Philippines would’ve been released by default, and no nukes being dropped on Japan.

I’m getting off my soapbox now. Hopefully I haven’t offended anyone, if so then I do must apologize.

There has been tons of speculation about the end of the war in the Pacific. Granted, MacArthur was a supreme egotist, but I am not sure how not retaking the Phillipines would have avoided the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The usual logic has been that the Japanese would resist to the last man once the homeland was invaded, unless something drastic was done to destroy the will to resist. Given that the last Japanese holdout in the Phillipines did continue activity until 1975, and surrendered only after his former commander was brought in to convince him that the war was truly over, it may have been true. If there can be said to be an up side to it, the effect was so horrifying, nobody has actually used the bomb since, but the proliferation of countries with nuclear capability makes it imperative that. like the Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki must never be allowed to be forgotten, nor the internment of Japanese-Americans in that same war.

  
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Michael McQuown

Michael McQuown’s avatar

Here’s a quote from that wickedly witty pianist Oscar Levant: “The only difference between the Republicans and the Democrats is that the Democrats allow the poor to be corrupt, too.”

  
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Originally Posted By mmcquown

Originally Posted By JohnFourtyTwo
As for the Manhattan Project, according to a book I’m reading about Naval Warfare in World War II by Nathan Miller, had it not been for General MacArthur’s insistence to retake the Philippines (which all the other Chiefs of Staff opposed), WWII would’ve ended sooner, less lives lost on all sides, the Philippines would’ve been released by default, and no nukes being dropped on Japan.

There has been tons of speculation about the end of the war in the Pacific. Granted, MacArthur was a supreme egotist, but I am not sure how not retaking the Phillipines would have avoided the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The usual logic has been that the Japanese would resist to the last man once the homeland was invaded, unless something drastic was done to destroy the will to resist. Given that the last Japanese holdout in the Phillipines did continue activity until 1975, and surrendered only after his former commander was brought in to convince him that the war was truly over, it may have been true. If there can be said to be an up side to it, the effect was so horrifying, nobody has actually used the bomb since, but the proliferation of countries with nuclear capability makes it imperative that. like the Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki must never be allowed to be forgotten, nor the internment of Japanese-Americans in that same war.

@mmcquown -

Admirals Nimitz and King favored taking Formosa which is on the Chinese coast and closer to Japan than MacArthur’s Luzon Plan from Mindinao to Luzon or the Basement to Attic Plan as the admirals called it.

Unfortunately after Japan destroyed most of the American airbases in China the Formosa Plan was dropped. The Luzon Plan was still strategically unnecessary because of the capture of the Marianas Islands from where the B-29s almost ready for deployment would be launched for the final assault on Japan.

Had the U.S. ignored MacArthur’s pleas for saving face with the Philippines and concentrated their forces on Japan’s merchant shipping and remaining naval forces thereby denying Japan of basic essentials and resources, then the use of the atomic bomb might not have been necessary since Japan depended very heavily on imports of everything from food and fuel and most everything else in between.

I don’t think a land assault on Japan was in the plans basically because of the huge amount of manpower needed to carryout such a plan which the U.S. didn’t have from fighing a war on two fronts and taking heavy casualties on both sides, and the Luzon Campaign was very heavy on loss of life also.

I’ve also read that had an invasion occured it would’ve been fought to the last man plus the Japanese commanders of all the POW camps had orders to execute all POWs if an invasion occured since they would be needed to defend the homeland and not guarding prisoners.

As for MacArthur being an egotist, I had an uncle who served under him in the New Guinea Campaigns and he had a different set of adjectives he used to describe him, none of which I can write here because of a special Lady present here, but they will make a sailor blush.

  
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Originally Posted By Sachiko
Well you certainly haven’t offended me anyway – actually, I found you comments quite enlightening!

That’s a relief. When I originally posted this was at the end of a very long workday and sometimes, especially when I posted regularly on other sites, I’m not thinking straight and what I’m thinking doesn’t come out on the page when I type it and has lead to some invigorating conversations online ’till we realized we were actually agreeing with each other.

  
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