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Who Can be the Next President?

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When I was in elementary school I remember being told (probably in jest) that I could grow up to become president. That makes me wonder what it takes to be the ultimate American leader; things like charisma and a desire to be raked over the coals by the media are obvious. What other qualities do former presidents have in common? And are any in common with me?

Well to begin with, your best chance is if you are a white male between the ages of 52 and 58. The youngest was Teddy Roosevelt at 42 and the oldest, Ronald Reagan at nearly 70. As far as occupation goes, you should probably study law (over 61 percent practiced law at some point in their careers). The military comes in second, followed by a variety of occupations, including politician and planter/farmer. An actor has a small chance, as does an engineer.

If you could arrange to be born in Virginia (8) or Ohio (7), you would be doing well, but New York and Massachusetts residents have done well too. On the other hand, Louisiana, my home state, has had none. Surprisingly, being wealthy is not a prerequisite, although it didn’t hurt Kennedy, as most presidents come from middle to upper-middle class families. Republicans slightly outweigh the Democrats (although there were some weird parties before Buchanan), more than 93 percent were involved in politics prior to the presidential campaign, and military service seems to help, with a little over 61 percent having served.

How do the current GOP candidates stack up against these metrics? Are Bachmann and Cain automatically out of the running? Of course not. Is Romney out because of his non-mainstream religion? No, after all, Nixon was a Quaker!

So, based on the data I collected and a weighing system I devised, my predictions for the nomination are Rick Santorum likeliest, with Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry in a tie for second.

Do any of these characteristics mean anything as pertains to performing the job; would you think that profession is important? Some argument can be made that law is a good starting point; being able to understand past and present precedents. But how much understanding of law is really necessary for the leader of the free world?

So, what profession should we have? How about giving historians a try? Didn’t Santayana say that those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it? We might try an economist in the seat, since our biggest troubles in the last century have revolved around how to recover from recessions and keeping the economy running. I also see some merit in having a businessman in power, even though there are counter arguments. Wouldn’t it be great if the president could fire a member of congress for not showing up for voting?

We have been voting for lawyers for 225 years with extremely mixed results. Remember Einstein’s definition of insanity, “Doing the same thing over, and over, and expecting different results.”

Oh, I came in fourth, tied with Romney.

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About One Americans Rant

  • Nice debut, OAR. I presume your rankings are tongue in cheek and that you don’t really think Santorum would make the best president. If he does somehow manage to get himself elected, I’m afraid I am going to have to emigrate to Alpha Centauri.

    It used to be the unwritten rule that in order to be seriously considered for the presidency you had to be a veteran, preferably of an actual war. But the only president in the last 30 years with any significant military service was Bush the Elder. (Clinton and Obama had none at all, Reagan made training films and Bush the Younger was occasionally seen in the vicinity of an airfield. The one candidate who did make a big deal out of his service, John Kerry, looked preposterous doing it and was practically laughed off the hustings.)

    What this means on a slightly more serious note is that the presidential paradigm is changing. The current crop of Republican hopefuls is a pretty diverse lot, and as you note, only two of them have a military background (three if we count your good self). As your table shows, I don’t think we can use past presidents as a reliable guide any more.

    A good fun read though!

  • Dr D,

    Certainly my tongue was near my cheek, but I say that my methodology was as reasonable as most professional pundits – I stopped short of using chicken bones.

    I really wish that military, or perhaps civil, service was mandatory. The Commander-in-Chief should have a solid understanding of what he is sending his troops into, and an appreciation of what their lives are like.

    Hmm, perhaps the next article…

  • There is something to be said for that, certainly, but really it’s just one avenue of policy among many.

    It would also be useful for a president to have first-hand knowledge of diplomacy, intelligence, economics, business, law, pensions, the welfare system etc. But you can’t reasonably expect the poor sod to have experience of all these things. He or she is going to have to undergo some on-the-job training, no matter what his or her background is.

    I have some further thoughts on the matter, but I’ll save them for now in case you do write that article!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    OA –

    Good, thought-provoking article. What kind of person should be a president? What kind of prerequisites should there be?

    In my opinion, none. Zero, zip, nada.

    I’m retired Navy, remember. I clearly remember thinking during the 1992 presidential campaign that Clinton as Commander-in-Chief was a Really Bad Idea since he’d never been in the military. I’ve since changed my mind (and my political leanings, since I was Republican at the time).

    As the years went by, I came to understand that while there are certainly advantages to having a C-in-C who has been in the military, there’s also two distinct advantages to having a C-in-C who has NOT been in the military:

    1) He is less likely to think that he knows more than he really does and is thus less likely to micromanage our military, and

    2) He is less likely to favor one service over another.

    When it comes to prerequisites, no, I really don’t think there should be any. It should be left up to the people to use their votes to choose him or her.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    If it’s Santorum, I’ll be on the interstellar lifeboat with you.

  • Cannonshop

    Doc, if there were a way to Emigrate to Alpha Centauri, I’d take it, NOW, thank you. (or anywhere else that isn’t an overcrowded, hive-minded, sheeple infested pit of despair like good ol’ mother erf.)

  • Cannonshop

    Point of order, though…

    IIRC, JFK took Teddy’s “Youngest President” title in 1960.

  • Cannonshop

    It might be interesting to see a Historian in the White House, at least, but they’d have to be something of an original thinker-that is, not tied to any dogmas. Same for an Economist-which puts both Chicago and Austrian schools right out-both are infested with dogmatic academics.
    We’ve HAD Lawyers, but IIRC, the last successful one was named “Lincoln” (going into politics and actually winning election seems mostly a sport for those that fail everywhere else, though Teddy Roosevelt breaks THAT mold.)

    What we don’t need, are activists-which puts Rick Santorum firmly in the “Do not elect” spot-divisive figures even when they win, are rarely good for the country.

    I’ve said it before, and I think we’d see a lot more variety (and less incompetence) in the Presidency if, since we’re effectively stuck with the Electoral College, it were mandated to follow Maine’s precedent which goes by DELEGATE rather than the “Winner takes the state” model used in most of the country. At very bare minimum, it would give third-parties a fighting chance over the current bipolar situation, and it would make it far more difficult to lose the popular vote while winning the Electoral vote.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    I know this may come as a shock, but I find it difficult to disagree with anything you said in #8.

    Idealists are rarely good for the nation, and I’d really, really like to see the election made by popular vote than by the electoral college.

    BUT you should bear in mind that the popular vote skews things towards the liberal, whereas the electoral vote skews things towards the conservative. Careful what you wish for – because it might be the same thing that liberals like myself are wishing for….

  • Baronius

    We’ve had two presidents with degrees in economics: Reagan and his immediate successor.

    One trait shared by every president I can think of is that they read histories constantly. A couple of them have written histories.

  • Cannonshop,

    I thought it was Kennedy as well, but I came across this Wiki article with a lower age for Teddy. [List of Presidents] I think they are counting when he became VP since he took over after McKinley’s assassination. I will look into it further.

  • Igor

    I don’t have to pick the candidates profession, but I’d sure like to see his school grades and CV.

  • Cannonshop

    #9 Glenn, I’m not really a conservative-I don’t favour security-theatre “Crime bills” or “Antiterrorism bills”, I oppose the Drug War on both pragmatic and philosophical ground, I’d probably ignite if I were to walk into a church, (or at least, get a bad rash), and I don’t think we need “Internet Police”, “Sex Habits Police” or that anyone (of adult status and otherwise sane mind) should be prevented from marrying anyone else, so long as both sides are agreeable to the arrangement, and I think kids going to stable homes is more important in adoption policy, than whether or not those homes contain both genders as parents.

    Thus, I’m pretty much “Liberal” on most of the hot-button issues of the Lib/Con divide.

    That said, I also don’t think Government can pay my mortgage, fix my car, fix my life, save my job (thoug I think it CAN, through the right/wrong policies, destroy those things), I like guns, and I don’t want to keep creating new classes of criminals when the real problems are basically lack of opportunity to advance legitimately in life and a popular culture that worships criminal attitudes and preaches that the President can solve all woes.

    I’m not a “Progressive” because “Progressives” have helped to atrophy our culture and society by pushing “one size fits all Solutions” for problems that aren’t, selling tribalism and fear as if they were virtues through make-believe multiculturalism as opposed to mutual assimilation that made us stronger, divisive class-warfare rhetoric while indulging in the ossification of class divides and eagerly helping to export (in collaboration with big-business ‘Conservatives’) our industrial base to the third world.

    I don’t believe one should make laws, based on fear, especially fear of the unknown or fear that someone “Might” do something, “maybe”. I don’t believe mandating people WEAR seat-belts is right, but I do believe they should be standard equipment on automobiles, I don’t think it’s right to MAKE motorcyclists wear helmets, but I’m in favour of helmet-use being rewarded-both with the rider still having his marbles, and the rider’s insurance being quite a bit lower for the use of a brain-bucket.

    I believe totally in “DO as thou wilt, if it harms no-one”, and a strict definition of “harm” limited to the body, which we can reasonably expect to prove. Bodies are tangible things that can be inspected, feelings are NOT-so I don’t believe you should be able to criminalize someone for being a jerk-so long as they stay ‘hands off’ while doing so.

    I don’t think the Government has a place in the Abortion Debate, right up to the time that the tumor/potential future voter is viable outside the womb without more life-support than a biker who’s been in a bad wreck, and that beyond that point, I DO think it might be good to provide funding to keep those little future voters/crooks alive to be adopted, rather than ramming a wire in their skulls and scrambling the brain matter prior to vaccuming the remains out-but ti’s not a FEderal issue in any case-that’s a STATE issue, to be decided piecemeal, kind of like letting the President be decided piecemeal, and let the results just…be the results, even if it’s repellent.

    And, Glenn, you might find this rather surprising….but if the people want to vote a Liberal Democrat Progressive Marxist-Leninist-Fascist-socialist for Jesus in, well…

    we get what we deserve, we just have to endure it until they decide they don’t. I don’t have a real problem with that, because there’s no real option in column “B” other than casting my (worthless) vote, and eduring the outcome. I can live with that. Can You?

  • Cannonshop,

    I have not really “come out” so to speak, about my political leanings, but it eventually would have been seen in my writing anyway.

    I feel much like you do, except perhaps on the seatbelt/helmet issue. If I could be assured that MY insurance and other associated healthcare costs won’t go up because of having to keep (near) brain-dead people alive, then I’m generally for letting everyone do whatever they want. Also, it seems that kids, moving into young adulthood, frequently do what they see not what they are told, and don’t really start to think rationally until their late twenties (OK, this is really just boys, not girls). I worry a lot that they want to be seen as cool (phat, epic, blah, blah) more than they want to stay alive, or anyway that is what I get from my 22YO. So I would like to see helmet use mandatory until about 25 or so.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    To back up what OA said about seat belts and motorcycle helmets, if you pay taxes, you DO pay for people who don’t wear seat belts or don’t wear helmets. Why? Because who do you think pays for the greatly-increased cost of such injuries after the accident if the injured person can’t pay for it and doesn’t have insurance?

    We the taxpayers do. Think about that every time you see a Life Flight helicopter flying overhead on its way to Harborview, because if it was an auto accident, chances are the victim wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

    So let me ask you this, Cannonshop – since we can’t turn the injured away from a hospital, the choice we have is:

    1) Preserve the “freedom” of people to not wear seat belts and motorcycle helmets…and continue to subsidize their greatly-increased medical costs with our taxpayer dollars (and with our increased insurance premiums), or

    2) Preserve the FREEDOM of taxpayers to not have to pay those increased costs by requiring people to do that which will result in significantly lower cost to the taxpayer.

    So…what’s your choice now?

  • Glenn,

    I’m about half way through The Shia Revival”. I should be done in a day or so.

  • Cannonshop

    #15 I see no problem in letting a driver sign a waiver at the licensing place, assuming all responsibility for his or her own oversights-“If you want to go without it, great, nobody’s obligated to save your sorry ass” works just fine for me with regards to adults.

    Children, on the other hand, aren’t mature enough to be allowed that level of risk.

    So, I bounce the ball back to your side of the court- are we dealing with adults, or children here?

  • Cannonshop

    Pushing it further, Glenn-the Helmet debate’s all about beliefs, if someone is an adult, they’re adult enough to die or be maimed in the process of upholding their beliefs, and to take accountability for the cost it takes to save them. I don’t hold the same standard for kids, the mentally infirm, or those with ‘special needs’ that require constant supervision and/or assistance in day-to-day life.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    OAR –

    Thanks – I’m really looking forward to hearing your opinion on it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop #17 –

    Sorry, guy, but our doctors don’t have a choice in the matter. They WILL treat the injured, and when the injured can’t pay, they WILL bill the government. Your ‘waivers’ idea, while making for wonderful rhetoric, has absolutely zero chance of seeing the light of day.

    The choice I gave you, on the other hand, is about the REAL choice we have – to either require them to wear seat belts and helmets and save the taxpayers a bucket of money…or let them have their ‘freedom’, which winds up costing taxpayers and insurance customers that same bucket of money.

    THAT, Cannonshop, is the only real choice we have. Don’t try to present a “new idea” that we all know has precisely zero chance of becomign reality. Instead, deal with the choices that we DO have…

    …and answer my question.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop #18 –

    No, it’s not about beliefs – it’s about taxpayer dollars and insurance customer dollars. Check your idealism at the door on this issue, because while you insist that people should be free to choose whether to wear a seat belt or helmet, I insist that we, the taxpayers, should not be forced to pay for their irresponsibility.

    And again, anything you say about “personal accountability” and “waivers” means absolutely squat in the real world – your points are an idealistic fantasy. When they are seriously injured, they WILL be treated – that’s part of the Hippocratic Oath, if you’ll recall – and SOMEbody is going to pay. If the injured can’t pay, then the taxpayers will.

    All your idealistic posturing to the contrary matters not one whit…and you know it.

    So tell me, Cannonshop – as a taxpayer and (I assume) an owner of an auto insurance policy, are you willing to pay more in taxes and premiums just so people can have their “freedom” to not wear seat belts or helmets?

    Because if they have that “freedom”, you WILL pay more whether you like it or not. Your choice – let’s hear it!

  • Clavos

    Helmets are optional in Florida. My auto insurance premiums are comparable to those of my sister, who lives in Minnesota, where helmets are not optional (after accounting for limits — mine are much higher than hers because of greater net worth, but on an apples to apples basis, there’s no difference).

  • Clavos,

    I suspect that this is because the insurance companies are national, not run at a state level. I would have to do some research, or you could, to see if there is a big difference between say California and Nebraska on policy costs. I would guess that if there was a huge difference you would see people moving just to take advantage of the savings.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    I’ll give you that there’s not as much difference in premiums when it comes to states with or without helmet laws…

    …but I have to ask – with the insurance policies in Florida, is there a clause that says “we don’t have to pay if you weren’t wearing a helmet”?

    And in any case, insurance policies and taxpayer dollars are two different things – if someone’s not wearing a helmet and he or she isn’t covered by insurance (and I’m quite sure you know this happens often), then who pays for it?

    The taxpayers. So AGAIN, Clavos – are you willing to pay more taxes just so motorcyclists can choose not to wear helmets?

    AND when it comes to seat belt, the difference is even more stark – the difference between the frequency and severity of major injuries between those who do and do not wear seat belts is very significant (disclaimer – I used to teach this stuff).

    Are you willing to pay more federal, state, and local taxes just so people can choose not to wear their seat belts?

    You’ve been very careful not to address these questions on taxes versus freedom, Clavos…because you know the answers as well as I do.

  • Cannonshop

    #24 Glenn, you forget, I live in Washington State, I’m going ot pay more taxes REGARDLESS.

  • Clavos

    The taxpayers. So AGAIN, Clavos – are you willing to pay more taxes just so motorcyclists can choose not to wear helmets?

    No. I’m with whomever said upthread that, in order to be able to ride helmetless, they should be made to sign a waiver absolving the government and/or anyone else from treating them in the event of an accident. Most will wear the helmet; those who don’t, die.

  • Clavos,

    I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I have watched every medical show since “Emergency” in the ’70’s. I’ve got to agree with Glenn – there is NO WAY that when you get to the hospital that the doctor is going to look for your waiver. He is going to jump in with both scalpels flying and try and save your life. I have heard that people with DNRs are starting to have it tattooed onto their chests so that emergency folks can’t miss it.

    I think the only possible way to solve this is to have the helmet, under a certain amount of impact force, simply blow up. Then you don’t have to suffer and there is no question about trying to save you.

  • Cannonshop

    #27 Amusing idea, but impractical. I rather suspect the Waiver system would work something like this:

    Dumbass gets injured because he wasnt wearing a helmet (we’ll assume Dumbass is over eighteen) and has a waiver allowing him/her/it to do so.

    Gets Treated.

    Bills time. Instead of charging it to SSI, Medicare, Medicaid, whatever, Dumbass is completely, PERSONALLY responsible for the cost of his/her/its treatment, no-social-safety-net, nobody else is obligated (including taxpayers) to foot his bill.

    JUST him…and maybe the ‘cager’ in the car that hit him.

    If not-wearing-a-helmet voided your insurance, AND you ended up having to arrange payment somehow or your family will suffer, that’s a LOT stronger incentive to wear the brain-bucket, than “a cop will fine you if you don’t.”