In Part 1, I explored the premise that when the pendulum swings from one party to the other, Americans prefer to elect a President whose personal strengths offset the greatest deficiencies of the last President.
The theory breaks down a bit when you get to the transition from Clinton to Bush II, primarily because Bush wasn’t really elected over Al Gore by a majority of Americans. In this case, the pendulum was arguably shoved to the other side by a ruling of the Supreme Court. However, I think it can be argued that, along with electoral shenanigans, one of the main reasons Bush got close to enough votes to become President is that his born-again, “regular guy” persona was a sharp contrast to Clinton’s notable discipline problem and slick manner of talking his way out of it. Never mind that Bush was a phony, who hasn’t live up to any of the carefully cultivated perceptions that voters had of him. He was, in many ways, the Anti-Clinton.
As for Bush’s deficiencies, well - short of running out to buy a larger hard drive, I’ll have to pare them down to just the most prominent ones. First of all, he is dishonest. From calling himself a “compassionate conservative” to saying he has never met Jack Abramoff, and nearly everything in between, he is, plainly put, a liar! He also lacks a certain mental capacity that one would expect from a President - or even a dog catcher for that matter! Without the benefit of his family’s wealth and connections, it’s easy to imagine young George riding to school in the small bus! Lastly, he has an embarrassing lack of poise, frequently saying the most ridiculous things at the wrong times, with a petulant, irritable tone that often makes it difficult to tolerate hearing his voice.
With the direction America seems to be heading lately, given the right candidate on the Democratic side, the pendulum could be swinging with the power of a wrecking ball! So which Democratic candidate possesses the qualities that would best help Americans recover from the second Bush Presidency?
He or she would have to be someone with a sterling record of integrity and courage, who follows conscience rather than shifting with the political winds. After Bush, America will need a period that is free from political deception and opportunism from either party.
He or she would have to be someone who is highly intelligent, who can synthesize information, and who projects superior competence. After Bush, Americans will be desperately in need of a president who they perceive as being capable of coming up with better ideas than they can imagine – someone who will be too busy doing the job of President to sit down and have a beer with them.
And he or she would have to be someone who is eloquent and judicious in the use of language, who can adapt to different situations and communicate effectively without risk of embarrassing gaffes. After Bush, Americans will want someone they trust to improve our reputation in the world – someone who will generate respect instead of being frequent fodder for late night comedians.
At this point, nearly three years away from the next presidential election, I’m not going to speculate on which of the Democratic hopefuls seem to best display these qualities (though I have my current favorite in mind as I write). I will say that John Kerry isn’t the guy, and neither is Howard Dean, who I supported over Kerry in the 2002 Democratic primary.
For now, I will just say that these are the qualities that will be at the forefront of my thoughts, forming the yardstick by which I measure any potential Democratic presidential candidate.