Friday, August 12, 2005

Vetting Leadership

For most of us, applying for a job means that we are expected to fill out an application stating our personal information and the history of our educational and job experiences. Then we are often subjected to an interview during which we elaborate on our understanding of the job we seek and how we will meet that need. In some cases applicants are required to undergo a background check into criminal and/or financial activities.

Why then do we accept candidates for leadership who do none of the above?

Instead of following a logical sequence of "vetting" to insure that the candidate is qualified and meets the requirements to serve the interests of our society, we allow them to set the agenda and are presented with circus-like campaigns which give us little or no real information about them or their intended use of the office they seek. Candidates slide into office on illusions created by PR people with the voters having little information about their positions on important issues. They are not held accountable to act in accordance with the campaign promises and philosophies they had stated before the elections. Once elected, they seem able to do as they please. We can't allow that any longer.

The office of the President of the United States is one of the most important and powerful positions in the world. The President has within his/her control, the US military, the power to sign law into being, our foreign policy, our trade agreements and the care of our domestic tranquility and well being. You would think, that given the huge power and responsibility a President has, that we would demand a thorough examination of our "CEO." If any job cries out for qualification, it is the job of President. Yet, through the current campaign process, we get to know very little of the person who takes up the power and influence we bestow upon that office.

Since every aspect of our lives is affected by that leadership, we should demand candidates meet certain criteria. From the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, to the work we do, the quality of life and the health and wellbeing of our nation, our supreme leader, the President, influences the condition of the nation and the direction it goes in. In a nation such as ours, there are many who are qualified to lead in a beneficent way, if they were given the opportunity. Why limit ourselves to a narrow field of candidates, some who desire to use our power for interests that go against the good of the society at large?

The following is a list of qualifications a candidate, (especially President and Vice President) should meet to satisfy "we the people." This list is open to additions, refinement and suggestions. I present it to open a forum on the subject of choosing and identifying qualified leadership.

  1. Each candidate should fill out an application which includes their vital information, job history, educational history, legal history, political experience and financial connections.
  2. An independent search of their history to verify their claims on all counts should be made and published. (While lack of education or criminal record would not disqualify them, the record should be made available to the public for them to evaluate.)
  3. Candidates should present a written position paper on all issues that are relevant to current events as well as political philosophy. This they should sign on to and those papers be considered the legally binding contract between the candidate and the people. (These papers would become their "contract" with the voters and should they fail to conform to those declarations if voted into office, that violation would be grounds for impeachment as a high crime against the people.)
  4. All candidates should participate in debates. These could be presented over a year in a similar context to Jeopardy with winners going on to finals and the three finalists winning a place on the ballot for the election. The winners could be chosen by audience selection or better yet, by the participation of the viewing audience through computer vote. This is not foolproof and perhaps others could come up with a better form of consensus, but even this would allow more direct participation of the public at large. These debates would be required to be shown on national TV in prime time as part of the networks' contract for "public access" to the airwaves.
  5. No TV commercials would be allowed.
  6. All campaign money would come from public money and funds donated and dispersed without party, group or individual identification. Each qualifying candidate would get the same amount. The cost of campaigning would be reduced since campaigns would follow proscribed formats that reflect a job interview process. Each would have a web page that would contain all their information including their position and philosophy papers. Each would have a staff the help them answer specific questions from voters. Each would be allowed personal appearances once in each state. Each would be given equal air time to speak to the nation.
  7. The time for each step would be set. Two years for initial application and testing. One year for debate "playoffs." One year for three finalists to debate, discuss and present themselves to the voters.
  8. Each final candidate should be given a physical and psychological evaluation which is made public.

Does this sound far fetched? Well imagine us going after a job in the post office for example, and attempting to win a position there using campaigning, TV ads, mailers and rallies. We wouldn't get to square one because they want to hire someone who has gone through the qualification process that indicates they can do the job. Should we be satisfied with less when choosing leadership?

Not only the President and Vice President but Congress, governors and state legislature candidates should be vetted using some qualification methods.

Run off voting in state and national elections should become the method of insuring the most desired candidate wins. This would allow third parties, which may reflect the views of a large segment of the people, to come to power.

Here's an ironic fact: Everyone who works in the Whitehouse from aides to the cleaning people, have to pass an FBI background check except the President and Vice President of the United States!

The future of our lives and our society are strongly influenced by our leaders. We should demand that there is an opportunity for the best leadership to emerge and that those leaders meet the needs of our nation. The current system does not work for us!

Susan Dyer, Guest Bloggist