Ah, if only this were not true. But it is. Or at least the seems to be what we are being told.
Stephen Richards asks:
I seek your enlightenment on the question of how much knowledge a true citizen should need before an election. In particular I am curious to whether the candidates - if deemed elected - would invade Iran to protect us all from the forces of evil. ...
However I am unsure if the press should even ask such a question. How much truth is too much truth for the American voter in a war for truth in the world? Should America be allowed to know where both candidates stand on this issue - before November? ...
Ah, Stephen. The larger issue - should America invade Iran? - is a serious one, and will surely be addressed by the Medium Lobster in the days to follow. But your question - should the press ask George Bush and John Kerry if they support an invasion of Iran? - is even more crucial, for it goes to the very heart of the nature of the Presidency itself.
No, Stephen, the media should not press a candidate - or an elected President, for that matter - on his wartime plans. Not because the public does not have a right to know - although this is questionable indeed - but because it is not the job of the President to invade Iran, or conduct a war, or decide matters of policy in general. No, Stephen, the President does not exist to make petty decisions such as these, to muddy his hands in the tedious affairs of state. He exists not to guide the nation to where it should be. He exists to project an image of what it wants to be.
America doesn't need a President to lead them; America needs a President who projects leadership. America doesn't need a President who's honest with his country; America needs a President who's honest with his wife. America doesn't need a President with a firm grasp of policy and a commitment to serving his country; America needs a President with the appearance of irrepressible optimism and Wholesome Heartland Values. America doesn't need a capable wartime President; America needs a President who makes himself look like war.
And President Bush has done a magnificent job of that. Indeed, he's even started a couple of them. Remember, it's not the President's job to finish or win wars - that falls into the lower realm of policy. But within the realm of Strength - or the appearance of Strength - it is the Strong Leader who charges boldly into wars, undaunted by the humdrum webs of "post-war planning" and laborious "coalition-building" called for by "sensitive" policy-makers.
The job of the President of the United States is to forcefully emote the conscious and unconscious will of the American People. He is not the commander-in-chief. He is the Happy Warrior. He is the Priest-Avatar of the State.
As Colorado Governor Bill Owens said when defending President Bush's supposedly-infamous seven minutes sitting before schoolchildren on September 11th, "A lot of what governors and presidents have to do is project a level of confidence and a level of calmness." Indeed, and that is exactly what the President did on that terrible day: when America needed to be protected, George Bush was projecting an aura of protectedness; when America needed to be safe, George Bush was looking like safety; when America needed to be strong, George Bush was exuding something like strength. When you watch that clip again, in Michael Moore's detestable piece of propaganda or elsewhere, remind yourself, This is what a President is for: projecting, smiling, posing, waving, doing nothing.
Fair enough. Specifics can cripple you. We do vote for the general approach of one guy or the other.
I was beginning to get annoyed with all that Republican sniping in Boston that Kerry was not giving us much by way of specific policy proposals. Yes, it's nice to hear some examples here and there, mostly because it gives us an idea of the big picture of what the guy wants to do. But that's really about it. Otherwise, we just get a long list of campaign promises that later we can accuse the candidate of breaking once he gets into office. I personally would rather give him more leeway to deal with real situations when he gets to the White House.
After all, I'm not voting for a policy, I'm voting for a person who will put together a team to do the sorts of things that I would like to see get done.