Campaigns Are a Terrible Way to Pick Our President

Why not treat election as a job interview, writes John Dickerson
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2012 12:19 PM CDT
Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally with his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, at Wright Brothers Aviation in Vandalia, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

(Newser) – Our founding fathers would have been horrified had we asked them to actually campaign for the office of the president, writes John Dickerson in Slate. Campaigning was seen—as Woodrow Wilson put it—as "a great interruption to the rational consideration of public questions." Not so anymore: Today's candidates are constantly campaigning, even once they're in office, but in truth this is a terrible way to select a president, Dickerson writes. People assume that good campaigners will be good presidents, but think about it—if that were true, all of our presidents would have knocked it out of the park. "Campaigns reward fighters," Dickerson writes, but "governing requires cooperation, compromise, and negotiation."

So what's a better way to pick a president? Dickerson suggests we tackle it the same way a large company finds a new CEO, and offers up four areas to assess:

  • Political ability: Can they actually work with their opponents to get a deal? "Are they comfortable with the schmoozing, backslapping, and ego-massaging that comes with the job?"
  • Management skill: Are they able to adapt and admit errors? Can they put together an effective team?
  • The power of persuasion: Can they give a good speech? Can they interpret public opinion and use it to their advantage?
  • Temperament: How have they reacted in the face of a real crisis?
"Rather than testing for leadership, we should recognize that leadership is actually the sum of these four attributes—and probably a few more," Dickerson writes. But unlike the vague "leadership," these attributes can—and should—be measured. Click for Dickerson's full column. (Read more Election 2012 stories.)

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