Thanks to Scott’s post on Presidential Qualifications I really got thinking about the difference between what we should look for in a president and what we often do look for in a candidate. Scott quoted three questions that Dr. Lawrence Lindsey suggested we should be asking to choose a good president:
- “Has the candidate faced a crisis or overcome a major setback in his or her life?”
- “Has has the candidate had a variety of life experiences?”
- “Can the candidate tell the difference between a foreign enemy and a political opponent?”
To those questions, Scott then listed the three questions that we seem to ask about the candidates that we choose to support:
- Is this candidate most likely to win?
- How closely do I agree with this candidate?
- Do I like this candidate’s personality?
Now Scott leaves me asking myself, are these two sets of questions complimentary to each other, contradictory to each other, or independent of each other?
I tend to think that the two sets of questions are complimentary. The first set (for selecting a president) should be asked first because there is nothing to gain by choosing a candidate who can win if they can’t pass the test of whether they are likely to be a good president. I think that set of questions is what I was crudely trying to answer through my candidate endorsement series earlier last year. If we could ask those questions generally we might be better at retaining the good candidates who sometimes drop out early when they can’t capture our attention with the second set of questions. On the other hand, there is a lot of value to be had by applying the second set of questions to the available candidates after they have been passed through the sieve of the first question set.
Once the primaries are over, if your favored candidates are no longer in the race it can be useful to return to the first set of questions and see which of the remaining candidates (if any) qualify. (The only time the second set of questions should apply is when there are multiple candidates available that pass that first critical standard.)
Now I ask myself if my positions on the candidates would have been any different if I had followed this process more exactly for the 2008 field.