All the next president needs is …



Kerns, Bryan

Here we are, 14 months from the next presidential election in this country. Already, candidates have positioned themselves for the long haul of primaries and ultimately for the general election.

In a time when the main issue facing this country is how to get out of a war that has failed so comprehensively, there is no one with a legitimate withdrawal plan. Of course, President Bush’s stubbornness does not help matters. The collective faith of the nation was placed in General David Petraeus who offered testimony that was neither positive nor negative.

Right now, this country is rudderless. Bush is essentially a lame duck who had lost his political apparatus. His capital is spent. His inner circle is gone. He has no answers for the pressing problems of this nation.

The candidates offer broad statements of relative truth that attempt to coerce large numbers of partisans to vote for them. At the same time, they have to maintain some degree of moderation in order to remain viable for a general election. It amounts to navigating a divide that will cause problems down the line as people begin to challenge the candidates’ statements and ask them to make good on their promises.

There is a wide range of crucial topics these candidates will have to navigate as the election grows closer.

The credit market issues that have affected the broader economy in recent months have led to major uncertainty. Financial markets remain highly volatile and investors are tentative.

The misnamed “War on Terror” is aimless and lacks clear objectives. Ultimately, a war must be waged against an enemy, not the broad target of “terrorism.”

Foreign policy issues have largely overshadowed domestic problems. Educational reform was attempted with the No Child Left Behind Act. Students are taught to do well on tests but at the expense of learning. The effects of this massive piece of legislation will be felt in the decades to come.

All of these issues and more call for Americans to select an exceptional person when Election Day 2008 comes around. The new president must be a visionary who possesses a clear plan of reform for the nation. That person has not yet emerged. He or she will need to find a way to stabilize Iraq or withdraw altogether; combat Islamic fundamentalism, both militarily and diplomatically; hinder nuclear proliferation; deal with the numerous social issues confronting the country; and much more.

A tall order of business? Indeed. However, the job seekers who want the Oval Office all know that there are challenges and trials that come with the presidency. Historian Fred Greenstein proposes six criteria that make a good president: effectiveness as a public communicator, organizational capacity, political skill, vision, cognitive style and emotional intelligence.

Greenstein contends that emotional intelligence was paramount among these: “Beware the presidential contender who lacks emotional intelligence. In its absence, all else may turn to ashes.” Ideally, the next president should possess all six of these criteria.

The myriad of issues confronting the next president demand someone who is intelligent, can effectively manage an organization, can communicate and persuade the people he or she serves and possesses the political skills and overall vision to bring all of this to fruition. All of these pivot on emotional intelligence. A president with serious emotional flaws can be imperious, uncompromising and impulsive.

In 2008, this country will elect a leader for a four-year term. Much of what the candidate presents during the campaign could be different than what occurs during that presidency. Unfortunately, the future can not be predicted with certainty, so we will have to take their word for it.

Despite this, the United States is resilent. The country simply rebounds. Leaders come together, vision develops and eventually problems are solved. The risks are higher this time because of Iraq, the economy and social issues. Americans must pay attention to this process. The national conversation must be fierce and thoughtful. It is then that the most qualified and best-suited candidate can clearly emerge. He or she is out there, and it’s up to the country to find that person.


Bryan Kerns is a freshman from Drexel Hill, P.A. He can be reached at [email protected].