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.

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

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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