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August 12, 2007


Imagine if the only thing Republicans were able to say about Clinton, post-presidency, was to confirm that he worked here.

I really have to disagree here with regard to Family. Remember, the Presidency is not only the Chief Executive Officer with a 4 year term, but that person is also Head of State, and to some degree I suspect people want a picture of how they will be represented in the world through that role. The big mistake the Clinton's made in 1992 was by not being authentic -- they were both interested in Policy details, and to some extent their relationship included their wonkieness. They could have taken the Soap Opera frame away from their enemies if they had detailed the modern difficulty of keeping a marriage together when two fairly strong minded policy wonks are the partners. Likewise, I think Kerry could have done something in 04 with the challenge of building a blended family. These are totally modern matters huge numbers of Americans deal with personally -- and a little honesty and authentic narrative along the way would help.

I likewise think that Giuliani should be examined on why he was unable to hold his first two marriages together. I think it is interesting that his kids have gone rather public with support of candidates other than their father. What do they see that others can't?

On Religion -- one wishes it didn't matter, but I do want to know if someone is committed to a particular doctrine sufficently strongly that it would limit their range in the policy arena. Stem Cell research as a fairly current example is a question that needs answering, as does general attitude toward Science that might conflict with strict Biblical interpretations. I don't particularly care how one prays, or if one does or not -- but I am interested in religiously centered beliefs that determine, enhance or limit, world view.

Anyone remember the old Tom Leher line from the early 1960's about not exactly wanting ideas about health care in the hands of a Christian Scientist with appendicitis? I think there is great wisdom there.

Kagro, imagine if we could get even that much regarding Bush's military career...

Sara, I was hoping someone like you would disagree with me because I am of two minds on this. I purposely posted only one side here hoping someone would come by to help me work through the rest. So I see your points, but couldn't I make the same arguments of any potential employee? Surely if one's personal life is a mess, one's work suffers. And an inability to hold multiple marriages together may suggest someone who doesn't work well with others. On religion, too, I'd be interested in what kind of views a potential employee holds, how it speaks to their critical thinking and how they reconcile faith and empiricism; and, on a more mundane level, whether they can work weekends. But these are not acceptable job interview questions. Why are they more acceptable in interviewing potential presidents?

Now, the Head of State issue may be different -- maybe a president's job qualifications DO require having a family, being of a certain faith, in order to fulfill diplomatic duties or simply to relate to Americans, which one might argue is a big part of the job. After all, it's illegal to ask about a potential employee's citizenship unless it's directly relevant to the job, e.g. for security clearances, and obviously citizenship is part of the Constitutional requirements for the presidency (as is age). Maybe there's an argument to be made that religion and marital status (and sexual orientation) are all relevant to the presidency in a way that goes beyond "the voters would just like to know," because after all an employer would like to know too -- but isn't allowed to ask.

oh, and fortunately the web has filled in where my memorization of the complete recordings of Tom Lehrer has just begun to fail me -- I remembered that line but couldn't call up its beginning. It goes "What with President Johnson practicing escalatio on the Vietnamese and then the Dominican crisis on top of that it has been a nervous year and people have begun to feel like a Christian scientist with appendicitis" and is the intro patter for "Send the Marines!" For whatever it's worth, my primary text in political science for years was Tom Lehrer songs and old Doonesbury strips. Which probably explains a lot.

You forgot one thing. A smart job interviewer will ask all those questions that you said were illegal, they just rephrase the question.

we can feel "lucky" that none of this matters with those candidates that appear sane. I continue to be amused (easily) as the gop'ers just say the silliest things thinking that they can emulate the idiot and be accepted. I hope they succeed, the morphing will be amusing to chronicle. the party faithful like Ron Paul, he tells the truth, and isn't upset about being a bigot and wanting to end all social programs, and let pollution fix itself. He tells the truth and half their crowd likes him?
what does this say about the middle ground of this country who bought the same crap from the original idiot? the pretend war on terra is like the pretend war on drugs. one must conclude that better than 51% of this country are functionally retarded. the information was well documented before the 2004, and still they allowed him to rig the election, and run over the government.

what can a candidate do when the only reason the issue of race, religion and these other illegal question isn't a campaign issue? is it because your predecessor has done so much crap that nothing the demo candidate can do will prevent them from being the next president? and what does this do for the 51%? help? another example of no expectations, no delivery, no wheat, no sandwich

it is incredible that we negotiate and settle for a net loss.

Emptypockets, I should also have remembered the orgin of the Tom Lehrer lines. There are lots of Danes who know these songs, even if they don't comprehend them all. Back in the 1960's as a first year grad student, I sought to deal with my third language requirement by attending a Goethe Institut for part of the summer, but the charter got me to Europe 2 weeks early, so I took a short vacation in Denmark, but had a little job teaching English in the Social Democratic Party Museum to the life style of the Danish Working Class (Highly recommended if you are in Kobenhavn) and I taught two Lehrer songs, "Send the Marines" and "Vatican Rag" otherwise known by my students as Religious Gymnastics. I had them marching around the classroom with Danish working class banners singing "Send the Marines" -- and at the end of class we all marched to the basement beer hall to the same tune. The accordian/polka orchestra then took over and repeated the tune. They took the record and made a tape, and now the whole thing is in the repitore of the Social Democratic Beer Hall Orchestra. On the nights they have "sing along" they put song sheets on the tables, and my contribution is noted as one of the Few Americans they ever encountered who could sing both the Communist and the Socialist version of the International in Danish. All verses. (more lusty with Beer) Shows you what 6 months in a Social Democratic Hojskole as an exchange student will do for you. (We Antiochians got to do some really interesting things.)

Actually, I agree with the framing of the early debates and forums as Job Interview, but the questions ought to be more about problem solving and not about assertions of positions or strong convictions. For instance, How would you deal with the disagreement between science oriented folk and religious/morally centered folk on the issue of Stem Cell Research? I realize that Hillary declares she will not deal in hypotheticals, but some of the good questions must. We need to know how they would deal with strongly felt conflicting interests. And some of that is religion -- some is not.

I disagree too. Not so much because of the head of state issue, but because so many things the President can do with his bully pulpit involve matters that affect us and our families. If a President can call for an Amendment banning gay marriage, then we ought to be able to talk about whether he--or his puppet master--has a gay child.

Sara, I'm sure many Antiochians did interesting things but I get the impression you really brought a personal flair to them! do you often get people asking you to publish your autobiography?

Sara and emptywheel, I can see all the arguments you're putting forth. Let me just take the other side. First, there is precedent for discriminatory hiring based on, for example, religious belief -- religious groups in particular are exempted from the civil rights act and are allowed to hire based on religion. So if we're going to say that religion should be a factor in presidential "hiring," it seems we'd need to make the case that a primary function of the presidency is as a religious official, or at least as an arbiter of disagreements between religious groups. I'm sure there are many people who do see it that way, but frankly it sounds unconstitutional and unAmerican to me.

On the family side, emptywheel's point is well taken, but again we can look to comparable jobs -- for example, someone working in a social services office or as a judge in a juvenile court. Surely how someone like that deals with children, and their experience with children and families, is relevant. Should a single childless adult be allowed to have that job? If so, then why is having a family more relevant to the president's job than it is to either of those, whose primary purpose is to deal with family issues?

The approach mentioned by Joe Klein's conscience, and summed up by Sara, is a workable compromise: don't ask candidates about their faith or families directly, but ask how they would approach certain problem-solving matters of the presidency that do relate to faith and family. But I think all of this skirts the real issue. One of the most famous, latched-onto questions in any presidential interview, surely, was "boxers or briefs?," and I don't think any of you will argue that that is relevant to the office or can imagine that that would be acceptable in a traditional job interview (except possibly as a Calvin Klein model). I also was set off somewhat by the question for Obama about whether he would have invited Bonds to the White House after breaking Aaron's home run record. To me, these kinds of questions make clear that the "interview" for the presidency is a lot about getting to know someone personally, outside the office -- all the things that are strictly forbidden in a job interview. For that reason, I think the campaigns better fit the metaphor of a first date then a job application. But I think American interests would be better served if we did take the job interview metaphor seriously, and didn't care about "getting to know you" issues, instead focusing solely on qualifications and policy plans.

And after that, I'd like a pony.

"We are using B20 biodiesel, a cleaner fuel, to run our bus—and clean money to fuel our campaign."
-- John Edwards

Now is the time for some great speeches about a great vision for America's future. It's no time for equivocating or 'keeping your powder dry'.

Leadership for America!

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