Making politicians and media accountable to ordinary citizens since 2000.

Home | Unconservative Listening | Links | Contribute | About

Join the Mailing List | Contact Caro



By Sheldon Drobny

photo: debates If I were to put an ad in the newspaper recruiting for the POTUS (President of the United States) it would read:  POSITION AVAILABLE – POTUS - NATURAL BORN CITIZEN OF US - MINIMUM AGE 35 - NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY.  Ignoring the fact that I would immediately be sued for age discrimination, that is how I would start, based upon the standards we have for this job.

What would I do as an executive recruiter as I reviewed the résumés of Al Gore and George Bush?

On first glance at Al Gore's résumé, I would immediately be completely annoyed at the sheer length of its content.  It would have a lot of boring stuff like all the books and articles he has written as well as all those long job descriptions of previous positions he has held and his accomplishments in those positions.  That CV (curriculum vitae, the elite acronym for résumé) would be 20 or more pages long.  On the other hand, George Bush would probably give me a nice one-page CV with an emphasis on hobbies and stressing how personable and likeable he is.

Based on my recruiting ad, who would I hire for the job? You guessed it.  George Bush.

I certainly would be respectful to Gore, and at least give him the courtesy of an interview.  After all, he is the former VP and, as he likes to say, the former next President of the United States.  However, after a nice chat, I would have to tell him that he is simply overqualified for the job.  Besides having this boring laundry list of accomplishments, he has a past that is not very flawed.  He is too much of a family man, with a wonderful marriage and great children and grandchildren.  I would tell him that he just doesn't have an interesting past.  We need someone who has personal flaws of a serious nature exhibited in his past.  We need a redeemed sinner, for God's sake.  That is so important to the job of POTUS.  I would regretfully reject his application and tell him he is simply overqualified, that he should seek a job worthy of his credentials.

On the other hand, I would have simply called Bush and told him that he has the job.  I would not even interview him.  He is perfect for the job of POTUS.  If you looked at file of CVs of previous Presidents, most of them would be one pagers.  You see, our party leaders and the media simply do not care about qualifications—and they are correct.  Why?  Because the POTUS is merely a figurehead.  Yes, a figurehead, like The Queen of England.  The POTUS is not, as many people believe, the most powerful person in the world.  Paradoxically, he is not powerful at all.  He is a prisoner in the Oval Office.  Let me tell you why.

If President Clinton had been powerful he would not have been impeached and almost indicted by the Special Prosecutor.  Do you think Stalin or for that matter even Saddam Hussein would have let happen to them what happened to Clinton?  Now, they are (or were) really powerful people.  But Bill Clinton was completely powerless to stop the impeachment.  Is that what you call the most powerful man in the world?  He cannot even control his own house, let alone the rest of the world.

The truth is, the job of POTUS is so complicated that no President could ever understand the complications and details of all the bureaucratic departments, agencies, and other branches of the government.  When he walks into the position, the new POTUS appoints aides who probably come from his campaign team.  They are often completely naïve about what the entrenched bureaucracy has in store for them.  So they just have to listen to the sacred truths given to them by the entrenched executive career people.  The new POTUS and his team of amateurs go into the job without having a chance to make any real changes.  Sure, they can appoint managers and reflect a sort of new philosophy of an incoming administration, but by and large, no matter who has the job, it is business as usual.

The new team also has to get the cooperation of Congress and the judicial branch of government.  For example, when President Eisenhower gave his farewell address, he stated that we should beware of the military industrial complex.  Everyone should read this speech (or listen to it).  It is one of the best farewell addresses ever delivered.  We are all waiting for one of his successors to take Ike’s warning seriously.  After all, he really was an expert on the military, and none of his successors was.  When a five-star general, the former Commander of Allied Forces in Europe in WW II, says something about the military, future presidents should listen.  Ike knew what was brewing—corruption and wasteful spending at the Pentagon.  He also knew that the marriage of industry and the military was really a license for government to subsidize corporations’ research and development costs.  It is an absolute certainty that the military budget is well beyond our needs.  Every contract has cost overruns, and by the time the weapons are finished, they are already obsolete.  The armaments makers are already working on a better system with more government money.

Each candidate from either party tries to outdo the other about defense spending.  It is not their fault.  Each new POTUS walks into a job as Commander in Chief of the military, for which he is completely unqualified.  He has no choice but to listen to the military leadership already in place.  After all, you cannot fire the entire Pentagon when each new President takes office.  So these military people tell the new POTUS the things they want him to hear to help them keep their jobs.  Isn't that the way any bureaucracy works?  The result is that we keep this corporate subsidy going because the POTUS is powerless to change it.  Consequently, it is virtually impossible to shift government spending to really important things like education and health.

As a progressive, I admire the Democrats’ idealism, but until they realize some realities and challenge some of these sacred truths as Eisenhower did, they really cannot help make the vital changes necessary for our country and the world.  When we advance certain philosophical causes, we must not leave our brains and logic behind.  If you really think dispassionately about this issue, you will conclude that I am right.  It is just pure observation with common sense.  It is why Americans are willing to accept the kind of leaders, let alone presidents, we have elected.

Let us stop living with the illusions that the POTUS is the most powerful man in the world and the most qualified man for the job.  Until we do, our government and the world will be in serious trouble.


Sheldon Drobny is co-founder of Air America Radio, providing talk radio for the majority of Americans.

Series Page


Last changed: December 13, 2009