Sunday, May 15, 2011

Egos Gone Wild

Apparently the only prerequisite for running for President of the United States, probably the single most important position in the world, is a massive ego. If you want to drive a car you must have a license, if you want to buy a gun you have to pass a background check (at least theoretically), if you want to apply for most jobs you have to show some form of preliminary experience, even if you want to buy something on credit you have to be approved. None of this applies to running for President. That is why we have had Presidents who were peanut farmers, haberdashers, second-rate movie actors, as well as Senators, ex-Generals, Governors and so on. This does seem strange to me, as I think there should be at least some conditions candidates should meet before they decide to run for President, but there aren’t any. As near as I can tell, aside from being an American citizen, at least 35 years of age, and having lived in the country for a certain amount of time, nothing else is formally required. Informally there seem to be two or three conditions, he/she has to believe in religion (only certain religions apply), has to have at least some modicum of support, and has to have an ego larger than life (notice that even sanity is not a necessary condition).

Thus it is that we have candidates for the Presidency that in some cases have no genuine qualifications other than ego. I have already commented on probably the most gigantic ego of all, Newt Gingrich, who has no realistic chance of ever being elected President but seems to be driven by nothing but his gargantuan ego. He seems to believe that he deserves an important place in history (that he has already achieved, being the most egregious hypocrite of all time). But really, what is it that motivates individuals to think they should run for President, or makes them believe they are even entitled to, if it is not just plain egotism? I guess t here are at least two different categories we might speak about, those individuals that might conceivably have a chance of becoming nominated, and those who almost certainly do not have any chance. Aside from Gingrich, in this latter category, are people like Santorum, Trump, Bachmann, Palin, Paul, and other lesser-knowns who are apparently so divorced from reality and egomaniacal they don't realize the obvious. In the first category are people like Pawlenty, Romney, Daniels, Huntsman, Barbour, and perhaps others who might conceivably have a chance, but probably not. This is why even the Republican Party is trying to find more suitable candidates (without much luck so far).

In either case, either with a chance for success or no chance at all, the individuals involved have to be driven primarily by ego. They have to believe they are somehow special enough, talented enough, clever enough, smart enough, or somehow gifted enough to lead the nation (or at least pretend to do so), and they have to be able to convince at least a few others of their superiority. You might think that for a position of such tremendous importance there would be some kind of training involved, or some provision for continuity, or at least some form of relevant experience other than, for example, having been a terrible governor, actor, or businessman. You might even expect, for example, that a Vice-President might be picked and groomed for the position, expecting to run after the President’s term is up. Even that possibility is not followed anymore (if ever it truly was). Joe Biden, for example, is not going to run for President, Sarah Palin was certainly not picked for that eventuality, nor was Harry Truman, Spiro Agnew, Dick Cheney, or others, so who the next President will be is no more certain than who will win big in the next crap game. This is not, I think, “any way to run a railroad.”

This in turn brings up the question of what, if anything, would or should disqualify someone. For years it was widely believed that no Catholic could become President, until John Kennedy managed to overcome that prejudice. It is still most probably the case that a Jewish President is not on the horizon. Of course no one ever dreamed of a Black President, so perhaps anything is possible. A Socialist President is almost certainly not possible, at least in the foreseeable future. But what about a Mormon President, both Romney and Huntsman I believe are both Mormons and are both considered possibly viable candidates. Many people believe Mormonism is little more than a “cult,” and most probably would not accept a Mormon President. This brings up the question of religious beliefs that for people like myself is a problem. I do not really have anything more against Mormons that any other organized religion, but I doubt I could bring myself to vote for someone who believes in magical underwear or other such things, or for some fundamentalist who was opposed to abortion and/or Gay marriage, or insisted on public prayer five times a day. In fact, I doubt I could bring myself to vote for a candidate who did not believe in evolution, or global warming, or science in general. As there is an unspoken or informal belief that no one could be elected President who did not profess some religion and attend church, this means I could probably not vote for anyone, unless I assumed their church attendance was mostly for show rather than serious. But how might one know this for sure?

It is pretty obvious that a massive ego is not enough to get you taken seriously, Gingrich and Trump are perfect cases of all ego and no “meat,” “cattle,” “honesty,” or even honest achievement. But as no one will ever achieve the Presidency with a genuinely weak ego, all we can hope for is someone with enough sense to at least pretend humility, or realize they are not truly fit for the office and stop wasting our time while they massage their egos.

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