An undecided voter on the essential greatness of the American presidency

An undecided voter on the essential greatness of the American presidency

Summary: Every person who assumes the office of President deserves our support as Americans, simply because it's impossible to preserve, protect, and defend America without that support.

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After three presidential debates and one VP debate, after 20 Republican party debates going back to May of 2011, after nasty commercial after nasty commercial, after reading each party's platform (and the platform of individual candidates), and after receiving 862 Obama-related emails and 320 Romney-related emails (yes, I counted), I have finally made my decision about who to vote for.

And no, I'm not going to tell you.

I've shared with you quite a lot. I've told you my views that neither candidate seems fully up to the job. I've told you about my disdain for both major American political parties. And I've told you that America and the needs of all Americans must come before the agendas of political machines.

But I'm not going to tell you who I'm voting for. That's not fair. I'm not here to make an endorsement or influence your vote. I'm here to influence how you think about your vote.

The men and women who want to be leaders of the free world bicker and complain and whine like kindergarten school children.

You see, in America, we fight amongst ourselves. We call each other stupid names. The men and women who want to be leaders of the free world bicker and complain and whine like kindergarten school children. They and their representatives lie, mislead, and revise history so the candidates seem somewhat less scummy and their opponents somewhat more.

Those of you who are not American may not understand the essential greatness of the American presidency, but rest assured, despite (and, perhaps, because of all this) it is one of the greatest, most amazing, and most humbling of mankind's innovations.

By the end of an American presidential campaign, billions of dollars will have been spent (some would say squandered), and nearly all Americans reach over-saturation. We tire of the candidates, we tire of their claims, we tire of the lies. We even tire of the truth.

Concentration of military power

America has almost 3 million active and reserve military personnel. We spend almost $550 billion dollars each year on defense. According to the Federation of American Scientists, America has just about 5,000 nuclear warheads.

The United States Navy has about 300 ships, almost 4,000 aircraft, 71 submarines, and 11 aircraft carriers -- each with more firepower than most nations. The United States has close to 9,000 battle-ready tanks. The United States Air Force has nearly 6,000 aircraft, 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles, and 32 satellites orbiting Earth under its direct control.

In other words, the United States has the most powerful military in the history of mankind.

And yet, every four to eight years, ultimate control of that incredible firepower changes hands -- without a single shot being fired.

The peaceful transfer of power

There is nothing I have ever seen that's more awe-inspiring than watching one president step down and another (often a bitter rival) take over the reigns of American power. It's an amazing sequence of events.

Just as soon as the outgoing president passes through the White House doors on his way to the inauguration ceremony, teams of experienced movers swarm the White House and move everything from the outgoing first family into waiting trucks and vans. Additional teams of movers bring in the belongings of the incoming first family.

While this is going on, one American -- the outgoing president -- looks on, while another American takes the oath of office. He or she says these simple words, mandated by Article II, Clause 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

These simple words signify the transfer of power from one American to another, often from one party to another, and very often, from one set of values to another.

These simple words transfer control of 5,000 nuclear warheads, millions of military personnel, thousands of aircraft, hundreds of ships, thousands of tanks, hundreds of missiles, and a network of satellites.

Throughout this election season, I've told you that none of the candidates seems up to the job. Here's the secret: no candidate is ever up to the job. The job of President of the United States is one that is beyond the ability of any human.

And yet, every four years, America holds an election and one American assumes the most awesome and challenging responsibility of any person on Planet Earth, and accepts, to the best of his or her ability, the responsibility of preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution of the United States, and -- by extension -- every American, anywhere in the world.

No president does everything right. Many presidents don't even act from the best motives. But every person who assumes the office of President deserves our support as Americans, simply because it's impossible to preserve, protect, and defend America without that support.

At the end of this article are two incredibly dull pieces of video. In the first, President Bill Clinton welcomes President-elect George W. Bush, and they travel together to transfer the single greatest concentration of power bestowed on an individual, in the history of the world. In the second video, eight years later, just-former President George W. Bush simply gets in a helicopter and leaves, turning over the protection and operation of the United States to President Barack Obama.

Over the next four years, regardless of whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney wins the election, I (and many like me) will mock, complain, and take to task the President of the United States. America allows this. America encourages this. America thrives on this. We Americans can speak our minds and even though our leaders hold ultimate power in their hands, our ultimate power is the ability to speak out without restriction and certainly without threat of harm from our government.

The simple words of the oath, the peaceful transfer of power, and every American's right to speak his or her mind without fear are, together, the essential greatness of the American presidency.

I've chosen one person to vote for, and he may or may not win. No matter who wins though, I will support (and, at the same time, mock, complain, and argue with) the person who assumes the office of President. America has enormous challenges ahead, and no matter which of the two candidates win, the man who sits behind the Resolute desk on the afternoon of January 20, 2013 will need all our support.

Until, you know, right around 2016, when we do it all over again.

ZDNet Government's coverage of Election 2012:

Bill Clinton leaving the White House with George W. Bush:

George W. Bush leaving on what, until shortly before, was known as Marine One:

 

Topics: Government, Government US

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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19 comments
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  • Ummm.....

    ....I will vote for Obama and.....will get both a Nokia 920 and Nexus 4.
    nachjager
    • Granted neither is competent but

      ... under Obama it's 100% sure continuous depression while under Romney there's 1% of chance it could be salvaged.
      LBiege
  • What data are you using for military claim?

    It's cited, for those believes that wikipedia is garbage.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures

    In 2011, the US spent over 700 billion. I can't imagine, with all the grid lock (and two months to go), that we shaved 200 billion off that this year. I know we had all the emergency cuts and what not, but that's still a ton of money.

    But wait... there's more.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States#Budget_breakdown_for_2012

    Total spending for all the different programs that fall under the budget totals between 1 and 1.4 TRILLION. And that's for 2012. It also lists DOD spending at over 700 million. Thus, I'm not sure where you are getting your data...

    We account for almost half of all military spending for the world. Now I fully support any candidate that wants to reduce that spending by a lot. I also support any candidate that wants to actually make friends and not more war. I see no reason to have all these countries pushed up against a wall to agree with us. Let's talk and make fair agreements. So we have to pay more for certain goods? Guess what, we also won't be entering more wars or worrying about what "ally" is about to support any true enemy.

    If you want to talk about "smaller government", why are you talking about larger military? We've seen the graphs about how the average person thinks the wealth in America is broken down. Bill Gates (and other billion and hundreds of millions-aires) will only go broke by trying. The biggest complainers about paying more in taxes are the ones that spend money to get the word out about it being "unfair". Koch bros are spending millions and millions supporting Romney. Why not pay that in taxes and help the government? Or even create jobs paying $40,000-50,000/year? These people do realize that having a wealthier and larger middle class will still make their investments grow, right? I don't have enough money at the end of the month to tie up in non-liquid assets. The reality is more people will want to get in on investments when they have that option, which in turn drives up stock/fund prices.
    ikissfutebol
  • I cannot agree...

    I cannot agree on one point. You say...
    "No president does everything right. Many presidents don't even act from the best motives. But every person who assumes the office of President deserves our support as Americans, simply because it's impossible to preserve, protect, and defend America without that support."

    Thats entirely a bad policy. If a President is doing horrible things for the country or the world, they do NOT deserve our support. Thinking whoever wins deserves our support could lead to a lot of problems. I'll support the President when they are doing whats right, and oppose when they do wrong.
    doh123
  • I guy who remained undecided this long..

    isn't thoughtful enough to influence anyone. But of course you were never really undecided. That's just something people say they are because they think it makes them seem above the fray.
    AnalogJoystick
    • Not above the fray...

      Although I do not feel it's appropriate for me to endorse a side. I genuinely can't stand either party, and trying to pick through the pros and cons of each to come up with what I felt I could live with took seeing them at all three debates.

      I generally find the debates are what move the needle for me. Remember, not everyone has to be tied to a specific party or ideology -- and even if you are, the candidates themselves are a very mixed bag. There is no party or ideology that puts America's needs first and talking points and high-emotion/low-relevance policies second.

      So, I chose to vote for the person I think might have a better chance of leading the country through its challenges. But, to be fair, I think about these things a lot more than the average voter, since this is part of my job.
      David Gewirtz
  • it's simple folks

    America needs Mitt's 5 point plan and the military spending must be increased so nobody would ever try to test it. Obama is a weasel that got the Noble peace price, obviosly not good for America's strenght and respect in the world.
    Real Americans vote Romney-Ryan!
    LlNUX Geek
    • No... just no.

      We need less military spending. $1,000,000,000,000 is too much! We could fund any entire continent by what we spend on ourselves. That's too much.
      ikissfutebol
      • The damage from another world war would be far greater

        Our leaders have learned from the past. The American withdrawal after WWI lead to WWII. Strength=peace. Void of leadership=chaos
        zmudd
        • Funny...

          We have had how many decades without world wars now? You're forgetting, virtually every war we have entered since WWII was to help out someone else or protect an interest. Sure, that's being a good friend, but that also doesn't require that many billions. The lone exception is a war on people that hate us, although don't have a country of their own... funny how that works. Are we allies with any of the white supremacist groups in the US?

          http://greathistory.com/global-military-spending-are-we-crazy.htm

          Just three years ago, we were at 55% of the worlds military spending. We are way better funded than any organization or country that wants to go after us, even now. Why are we still in the Middle East fighting a poorly funded "enemy"? It's urban battle in often times still location populated by civilians. Is this a matter that we don't have the funding? No. Is it a matter of insane amounts of corruption coupled with people that have nothing, but hatred for us?

          Void of leadership doesn't necessarily translate into chaos. Corrupt governments do. If you want to really get down and dirty, eliminate special interests/lobbyists and throw all the corrupt American officials and politicians in jail. There... I just solved the budget crisis. Oh... all the "uprising" in the Middle East? That wouldn't have happened without all the corrupt dictators continuing to have power. Set term limits for American congressman. Make all the insider trading and bribery (aka special interest/lobbyists) illegal. Super PACs should have never been made legal. Ironic how Romney can't beat McCain before unlimited donors with similar financial hopes and dreams come along. Eliminate the capital gains tax, you're going to eliminate the unfathomably rich from working and simply investing. Want to see another bubble and more dependence on foreign aid when THAT bursts?
          ikissfutebol
  • 4 + 4 years

    I think it would be better with 6 + 4 years.
    The first 4 years are more or less wasted.
    lgmbackman
  • Saw this on TV the other day...

    Can't remember the name of the show, but it was an interview with pollster Peter Hart that I found interesting.

    He said a lot of the undecided voter demographic at this point were highly educated IT guys, who don't like CEOs, are anti Romney/Obama pro Ron Paul, and want a no BS politician. He said there will probably be a decent percentage of them who will decide not to even vote and this could cause Mitt Romney to lose the election.
    dtdono0
  • As a non-American... I have just one question.

    Is it possible for *any* American to say *anything* without engaging in hyperbole or 'needle-pinning'? Does *everything* have to go to 11?

    Maybe it's the constant barrage of advertising.

    Maybe it's the echo chamber of media.

    I don't know...

    But there are days when it feels like everything I read and hear out of the US is 10% fact and 90% bombastic rhetoric.
    The Werewolf!
    • Sad truth

      You're absolutely right. The truth is that us Americans (as a whole) seem to be willing to buy any kind of nonsense so long as it is repeated over and over again. History books list the assassins in the late 60s, but any level headed that actually has done some homework will tell you they were all patsies. We also believe anything the media tells us, which realistically should be taken with about as much truth as many tech sites.

      By the same token, the general public will believe other things. The sad reality is that people that actually believe in science fact account for a pretty pathetic minority. I'm not saying you have to shun religion to believe in science, but apparently those that have a strong faith shun many of the fundamentals of science. We have an elected official sitting on a committee at the national/federal level regarding science that not so long ago (last month I believe) made the claim that the universe is 3,000 years old. His justification was "that's what the bible says". Will anyone ever appeal to have him removed from that committee? Nope!

      The real kicker here is that, because there so much weight given to religion, the majority of people I know that vote conservative are voting that way based only on social issues. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but ideally you'd have four main parties- economic liberal/social liberal, economic liberal/social conservative, economic conservative/social liberal, economic conservative/social conservative. My honest feelings are that economic liberals/social conservatives would be at the top of the heap. Of course, there is too much money in keeping people believing priests and in a two party system. Thus, it will sadly never change... at least not for a long, long time.
      ikissfutebol
      • Apparently...

        ...I'm one of those voters you just loudly disparaged, though I usually call myself a "moral conservative", rather than a "social conservative", as I have little sympathy for hierarchies and see little value in cultural uniformity. I vote for Democrats more often than for Republicans (as I agree with them on more issues), but I've split my ticket in every election I've voted in, except for the first; and my biggest frustration as a voter is the fact that it's nearly impossible for someone with political opinions similar to my own to win the nomination of *any* party (major or minor); the Democrats have mostly written off religious conservatives for fear of alienating the base, while Republicans try to win them over on moral and social issues alone.

        So, I've felt politically homeless for most of my adult life, though I recently rejoined the Democratic Party after 22 years as an independent (reserving the right to vote my conscience with impunity, as I always have). It's clear that no party wants me, but I think it's time for swing voters to stop disenfranchising themselves. I hate partisan politics and probably always will, but parties are the established means of political participation in this country, for better or worse, and that's not likely to change any time soon.
        John L. Ries
  • What I will concede to the President

    This is also what I expect our elected officials to concede to him:

    1. I will allow him the to do his legally defined job without interference. He might get my opinion, which might well be critical, but he can take it for whatever he thinks it's worth.

    2. I will refer to the President of the U.S. in a respectful manner, even if I didn't vote for him and even if I don't like him or approve of the manner in which he does his job. I have for the past almost four years referred to the President as "President Obama", or "Mr. Obama", just as I referred to his predecessor as "President" or "Mister" Bush. I expect to refer to the next president in exactly the same way.

    3. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, meaning that if I will support the President's position on public policy matters (especially those directly related to the performance of his duties), unless I think there is a good reason not to.

    What I will not concede is any sort of duty to support the president's party or policies just because he's the President. Nor will I concede to him any sort of right to be free of criticism. Nor will I support him in doing things I believe to be illegal. Nor will I automatically support his re-election. To concede those things would be to subvert the system of representative government that I think has served this country very well over the past 236 years and that I hope will serve us for many years to come.

    I voted by absentee ballot today and I won't say how I voted either (except that yet again I split my ticket). All I'll say is that I voted for the candidates that I thought most likely to serve the public interest, regardless of party and I encourage my fellow citizens to do the same.

    Great article, David. I think you said exactly what needed to be said.

    BTW: The profanity filter is getting to be downright annoying.
    John L. Ries
  • What I will concede to the President

    This is also what I expect our elected officials to concede to him:

    1. I will allow him the to do his legally defined job without interference. He might get my opinion, which might well be critical, but he can take it for whatever he thinks it's worth.

    2. I will refer to the President of the U.S. in a respectful manner, even if I didn't vote for him and even if I don't like him or approve of the manner in which he does his job. I have for the past almost four years referred to the President as "President Obama", or "Mr. Obama", just as I referred to his predecessor as "President" or "Mister" Bush. I expect to refer to the next president in exactly the same way.

    3. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, meaning that if I will support the President's position on public policy matters (especially those directly related to the performance of his duties), unless I think there is a good reason not to.

    What I will not concede is any sort of duty to support the president's party or policies just because he's the President. Nor will I concede to him any sort of right to be free of criticism. Nor will I support him in doing things I believe to be illegal. Nor will I automatically support his re-election. To concede those things would be to subvert the system of representative government that I think has served this country very well over the past 236 years and that I hope will serve us for many years to come.

    I voted by absentee ballot today and I won't say how I voted either (except that yet again I split my ticket). All I'll say is that I voted for the candidates that I thought most likely to serve the public interest, regardless of party and I encourage my fellow citizens to do the same.

    Great article, David. I think you said exactly what needed to be said.

    BTW: The profanity filter is getting to be downright annoying.
    John L. Ries
  • Peaceful transfer of power is not that mysterious

    We are not governed by a two bit dictators the reason the transfer of power goes off without a hitch is becasue the entire government can and will be held accountable by the people of which its for and by; Thomas Jefferson saw to that.
    ammohunt
  • Let's Use The Comments On These Tedious Articles To Discuss Something Worth

    For example: wouldn't it be nice if you could get a list of all your recent comments? At the moment, it's so difficult to remember which articles you commented on, so you can go back to check for replies, votes etc. Sometimes I just forget.
    ldo17