Are these really the best America has to offer? (Campaign 2012)

Summary:Seriously? This is it? This is the best of America? These are the best possible leaders we can field when America so critically needs leadership?

One candidate not showing up for the caucuses is Herman Cain.

Wow. Romney, Gingrich, Paul, Bachmann, Perry, Huntsman, Santorum -- and Obama. Are these really the best America has to offer?

Seriously? This is it? This is the best of America? These are the best possible leaders we can field when America so critically needs leadership?

Look, don't get me wrong. When one of these people walks into the White House on January 20, 2013, I will support him or her. I believe Americans need to stand behind their President. But wow. How demoralizing is this bunch?

What got me thinking about this, beyond today's Iowa caucuses, was a deeply depressing editorial out of the UK's Mail Online. In it, Dominic Sandbrook writes:

Today, American voters looking for alternatives are confronted only with a bizarre gaggle of has-beens, inadequates and weirdos, otherwise known as the Republican presidential field. And to anybody who cares about the future of the Western world, the prospect of President Ron Paul or President Newt Gingrich is frankly spine-chilling.

Has-beens. Inadequates. Weirdos. Wow. What's sad is it's hard to refute his biting words.

Mitt Romney

Take Mitt Romney, for example. Romney may seem the most sane of the bunch, and he certainly looks like someone in Hollywood pulled him out of central casting for the role of president. But Romney has changed his position on everything he possibly could, in order to appeal to certain groups of GOP voters.

After just two years as governor of Massachusetts, and after failing to be elected for anything else, Romney decided he wanted to become President. He's been wanting to become President ever since -- and that, apparently, is his greatest qualification.

Newt Gingrich

Or, take Newt Gingrich. I like Newt. He and I both appeared on the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, and he's undoubtedly a very smart man. But shortly after becoming the first Republican Speaker of the House in decades and architecting the Contract With America, Newt got drummed out of Congress on ethics charges. And this was after screwing around on his wife, while making political hay out of investigating a President who was also screwing around on his wife.

Newt's a visionary, but if you listen to him for too long, you'll start to think he's just a little out there. And I don't mean left-wing wacko out there, or right-wing religious out there. I mean little green men out there. I have a lot of affection for Newt, but I'm not sure America really wants to hand him the world's largest nuclear arsenal.

Ron Paul

Then there's Ron Paul. I want to give Ron Paul a bear hug. I do. I often want to stand up and applaud what he says. I agree with his non-interventionist stance, I agree with his belief in the Constitution.

But... once you start reading what he's written in the past, you start to get the shudders. Now, to be fair, if I were running for office and all my writing had to represent me, you probably wouldn't give me the keys to the nukes.

The difference is, I commit my writing sins wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt on a couch in Florida (and I mock Apple fanbois on alternate Tuesdays), and Ron Paul wants to be the leader of the free world and has published blatantly racist statements in his newsletters.

Michelle Bachmann

Most of the time, Michelle Bachmann sounds completely loopy. The weird thing is that there's also something there, there. For example, back after President Obama's State of the Union address, Michelle Bachmann was the only person of either party to mention how important it was for America to rebuild its manufacturing prowess.

But then she starts going on about something weird here or something strange there. I honestly think she's sincere (unlike Romney, who does not appear to have a single sincere bone in his body), but I can't see Michelle Bachmann as Commander-in-Chief.

Speaking of someone no one should want to see as Commander-in-Chief, there's ...

Rick Perry

Seriously? Have you listened to this guy for more than five minutes? The reason he fails the debates is he can't even seem to remember his own talking points. Then there's the campground he leases, named something so racially charged I won't even repeat it.

Rick Santorum

Proving you can't have enough Ricks in a presidential campaign, there's Rick Santorum. Yeah, I keep forgetting he's running, too.

The most interesting thing about the former senator is the friends he made while senator. All you have to do is Google the word "Santorum" to see just how much certain members of the population like him. In 2002, he equated Democrats debating in Congress to Nazis (proving that Godwin's law applies to Congress-critters as much as to bloggers).

Jon Huntsman

It's a shame that the most qualified man in the current crop is the guy we never talk about. Jon Huntsman may actually be qualified to be president, is a centrist, has served two successful terms as a governor, and has been ambassador to China -- arguably the most important nation we'll be dealing with this century.

He's also a successful businessman, and understands making payroll, making compromises, and doing deals. The only problem with Huntsman is that this dog won't hunt. He's managed to inspire absolutely nobody, and it's unlikely he'll make it past February.

Barack Obama

While everyone else on the list aspires to the GOP nomination, President Obama has a lock on being the 2012 Democratic nominee. As a sitting president, the election is his to lose.

Sadly President Obama is no great statesman. He was an incredibly inspiring candidate, but is an equally uninspiring leader. The nation, while not in worse condition than it was when he took office, isn't much better. Our national malaise is ongoing, unemployment is still too high, we're far deeper in debt, and we still don't appear to have either a workable plan or a clue.

While it could be argued that the Republicans got in his way at every turn, that's not what you want to hear from your President. What you want is for the job to get done (without the "Mission Accomplished" sign, hopefully). With Obama, the job is far from done, and it's questionable whether he is capable of the heavy lifting necessary to pull us away from the brink.

The best of America

Sure, we've had our fair share of disappointments, from old Zachary Taylor to Herbert Hoover to Millard Fillmore. But we've also had George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and FDR. We've had towering heroes as President, men who embodied all that America was, all that we could be, and all that we dreamed of.

As we begin the election season in earnest, I'd like you to engage in a little exercise. You know how it is with President Obama. If you're thinking of hiring his replacement, say the following names out loud: President Romney, President Gingrich, President Paul, President Bachmann, President Perry, President Huntsman, or President Santorum.

Now, ask yourself these questions. Do I trust this person with America's nuclear (or "nucular") arsenal? Can this person go face-to-face with Vladimir Putin or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or even Angela Merkel? Will this person put Americans before politics or political gain? Does this person truly understand all the interconnections and implications of governance and policy?

The fact is, we're stuck with one of these completely unimpressive figures for 2013 through 2016. That's pretty much a done deal, despite whatever fuss Donald Trump is making this week.

But let's start thinking towards 2016 and let's remember the presidency isn't a prize, and it isn't something that should be given to the person we all would most like to have a beer with. The presidency is the single most important job on the planet.

It should be a job held by the single most capable person in America. It should be held by someone who can be compared with Lincoln and Washington and Jefferson and Roosevelt, and be someone who would clearly be able to stand in their company.

Let's start now, looking for someone who doesn't just look presidential, but someone who is presidential. Maybe, if we make it successfully to 2016, then we'll be able to choose from the best of the best, and not simply the least worst of the what's left.

Maybe then, we'll be able to ask "Are these really the best America has to offer?" and have an answer that doesn't make us feel sad or embarrassed for our nation.

When the primary comes to your state, vote. It's all you can do now, so go fulfill your civic duty.

In the meantime, be all you can be.

Topics: CXO, IT Employment

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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