Frank J. Fleming offers A Modest Proposal for Training Future Presidents:
If God got fed up with us — and who would blame Him — and stepped down, would we want an extensive, well-thought-out process for picking a successor? Would we want to make sure whomever we elected to rule the universe was someone we know to be responsible with the power over life and death and who wouldn’t just smite people because he’s bored?
And would we want to make sure he has a good understanding of physics so we know he won’t mess with Planck’s constant and destroy all matter? Or would we just pick someone off the street and say, “Hey. He seems nice. Let’s give him ultimate power over us all”?
Well, the American presidency is the next most powerful job after God, what with running the world’s most powerful nation and the ability to kill billions. You’d think we’d have a very solid process for figuring out the best person to fill the position, but we have been completely clueless on this for more than two hundred and thirty years. And the Founding Fathers weren’t much help on the task of picking a president, only listing two qualifications: he or she has to be thirty-five years old and has to have been born in this country. Nowadays, that limits the pool of potential applicants to about two hundred million people. Luckily we have a two-party system which somehow uses New Hampshire and Iowa to whittle down all the choices to two. . . .
In the current election, for example, people say they think Barack Obama would be a good president because he’s inspirational, but if you want inspiration, can’t you buy books or tape sets for that? Others say John McCain has the experience to be president, but experience at what? He’s been in the Senate a long time, but what do they do there? Vote on stuff? You could get the same experience just clicking on a lot of internet polls.
We even debate over which candidate will better improve the economy, which is kind of like trying to choose from a litter of kittens based on which one is best at controlling the weather (hint: it’s usually the calico). It’s like we don’t even know what a president does. No huge corporation is going to hire a CEO just because they just like the cut of his jib; they’re going to want a solid resume showing that the applicant is already experienced doing similar work.
Fleming, tongue firmly in cheek, offers one idea for doing it better. But might there be better ways to get better candidates? For example, how about choosing our president by taking the constitution literally? Just elect members to the Electoral College, none of whom are publicly committed to a candidate. We would be electing individuals known in each particular state whose judgment we trust. They would then select the president, arriving at a consensus by give-and-take and negotiation, possibly selecting someone most of us have never heard of.
Do you have any better ideas?