A President, Not a Date

Here are some things Americans should consider before deciding whom they will vote for in November. You are not going to sleep with the president, become his best buddy or be his favorite pen pal. Therefore, you do not have to vote for someone you think is likable or handsome or charming.

Statesmen, in fact, are often not likable, as they often have to make unpopular decisions. And America needs a statesman in the White House, because the years ahead are full of dangers, both from human sources and from environment stresses. It is also impossible to think seriously and smile at the same time. I have always distrusted people who smile perpetually.

America, like any other nation or empire, has the potential to self-destruct. Nations and empires self-destruct when their leaders make a series of bad decisions. If you visit Great Britain, France or Spain today, you would never know from their present state that they were once world powers. There is not one single example in world history where any empire ever sustained itself indefinitely.

Leaders make wrong decisions when they are shallow-minded, uninterested in the affairs of state and ignorant of the world outside their borders. They make wrong decisions when they depend on advisers who are driven by ideology. An ideologue is by definition a person out of touch with reality. Reality is always fluid, complex and changing from moment to moment. The rigid thinking of an ideologue inevitably loses a clash with reality. Its own internal ideologues drove the once-mighty Soviet Union into the ground.

So remember, when it comes to choosing a president, you’re not choosing a date, a fishing buddy or someone to spend your vacation with. You will be choosing someone who hopefully will have the brains to keep this country from joining so many others in the ash heap of history.

Now, let’s look at how people can make a mockery of democracy.

You make a mockery of self-government when you choose your candidate strictly on the basis of the party label. Political parties in our country are not based on philosophy. They are merely machines for electing candidates and distributing patronage. The truth is that sometimes the best choice is a Republican; sometimes, a Democrat. It all depends on the human beings, not on the party label.

You make a mockery of self-government when you cast your vote based on the candidate’s personality. I’ve already covered that point.

You make a mockery of self-government when you vote purely on the basis of your selfish interests. Many Americans make a religion of selfishness, but for self-government to work and to endure, we must all think of the common interests when it comes to choosing the people who will run the government.

You make a mockery of self-government if you allow demagogues to influence your vote on the basis of phony issues. The real threats facing the United States are not homosexual marriages or even legal abortions. If you allow people to persuade you to cast your vote based on those two issues, you are wasting your vote, because I guarantee that the politicians, regardless of what they say now, will not do anything about either one of them. These are scarlet fish.

Finally, you are making a mockery of self-government if you allow your vote to be influenced by concerns for a foreign country. And yes, I’m directing this to the Israel-first crowd, both Jew and Christian. The election in November is for the president of the United States, not the deputy prime minister of Israel. If you love Israel more than America, then by all means emigrate, join the Israeli Defense Forces and do your part. We need a president who will make his decisions based on the best interests of the United States, not those of Israel (or France, or Japan, or any other country).

When one of our Revolutionary forefathers said the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, he meant that liberty is always at risk. It can only be preserved if a sufficient number of Americans care about it enough to take a serious approach to choosing their leaders.

This column was inspired in part by some comic quips by Bill Maher. He deserves credit for lighting the spark.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.