Sizing up the Field

We should, any day now, learn whether Mitt Romney will seek the presidency. We are also patiently awaiting word—this group does not deserve our impatience—from Speaker Gingrich, Gov. Huckabee, Gov. Pawlenty, Gov. Palin, Gov. Barbour, Gov. Christie, Gov. Daniels, Ambassador Huntsman, Rep. Paul, Sen. Santorum, and Donald Trump, who despite his billions, still wants a suitable capstone to his career, something worthy—if anything can be worthy—of the Donald.  When a powerful man wants to show his power, he keeps the supplicants outside his office door waiting, or, in Trump’s case, he fires them on The Apprentice. In elections, however, the candidate is the supplicant, and so before announcing his candidacy his exploratory committee must ascertain whether the electorate will have him.

I wish, however, prospective candidates did a little less polling and a little more introspection. The question should not be will we have them, but rather should we have them. (The problem with our politics is, after all, that we’ll have anybody). There’s something commendable about a politician who does not run a race he knows he can (and probably will) win; he is a much superior being to the king who abdicates his throne only after he has wrought his destruction. Wouldn’t it be considerate if just a few of the hopefuls named above excused themselves from 2012—and ideally all future campaigns—not because they can’t win, but rather because they might? As a rule, I don’t recommend that job seekers only apply for jobs they are qualified for, the jobs one is unqualified for typically being higher paying than the ones one is. It’s one thing, however, for a fool to inflict himself on a company; it’s entirely another for him to inflict himself on a country.

I have no definite proposal as to how to prevent fools from running, nor do I have any practical one as to how to prevent them from winning. As a start, however, Congress might amend the Constitution and make the qualifications for the presidency a bit more stringent. There would be a requirement that candidates know something about the world they propose to play a principal part in. (Granted, it is unlikely Congress would pass such an amendment, being prejudicial to the aspirations of most of its members).  Their knowledge, moreover, would have to be historical as well as contemporaneous, so as to disqualify those charlatans—Palin and Huckabee—who, in training for debates or interviews, learn the names of foreign—and yes, domestic—leaders over night. Where are the candidates who can dispense with these last second primers, in which one learns how to pronounce Ahmadinejad between applications of makeup? Of course, every candidate must be allowed a few mispronunciations, especially now that Middle Eastern dictators are those they must, linguistically speaking—hopefully it amounts to no more than that—do battle with. In fact, I’m especially indulgent in this regard, for our political humor depends on always having a full stable of bunglers of the English language and otherwise.