16 January 2008

Hiring the next U.S. president

I've never been in a position to make hiring decisions. However, I've helped evaluate and make recommendations to the people who did make hiring decisions. Mostly this was in the form of faculty hires while I was a graduate student. Each candidate would visit the campus for two days, during which they would make several presentations and meet with all of the faculty, staff, and students - including an hour lunch with the graduate students as a group. Afterward, we would meet again to discuss our impressions in detail, rank them in order, and write an organized recommendation to the department director.

In that same spirit, here's my thoughts on the candidates for U.S. president, based mainly on the AtGoogleTalks Youtube videos.

By and large, all of the Democrats say the same things. The difference, therefore, is in how they say it and how they treat the people they're saying it to. So the following comments are mainly impressions of who they are as people.

4. John Edwards

He talks a lot without saying anything. Moreover, he has no respect for the audience - arrogant, dismissive, and pandering all at the same time. As far as he's concerned, they're there to watch him and Google's VP put on a show while they watch passively, and he underestimates their intelligence and interest in detailed facts - even after the VP specifically tells him otherwise.

The body language also bothered me throughout. I'm not great at interpreting it as a general rule, but one thing I've learned is that too much chin stroking and mouth covering is bad - it means BSing, hiding of things, and outright lies.

It's possible that he's accustomed to standard televised debates and just didn't adapt well to Google's informal interview approach. Nearly everything he said was a sound bite. Even so, an inability to adapt is also detracting.

3. Hillary Clinton

She has some good ideas on how to do things, and puts importance on a lot of the same concerns that I do. Has a good grasp on details and developed good rapport with the audience. However, she's a little too slick about saying all of the right things at the right times. It makes me wonder what's getting smoothed over.

I'd find her acceptable as a president, but she wouldn't be my first choice.

2. Barack Obama

He's a man with a vision and a lot of passion. He lacks the smooth polish that Clinton has, and is prone to stuttering when he's not giving a prepared speech - but that also makes him more real.

Overall he feels like a fresh change of pace after nearly a decade of USian decline to the world, and out of all the candidates he strikes me as the one that can actually reinvent us - not just fix us - and put us back to being a respectable nation.

1. Bill Richardson

He would've been my first choice if he hadn't dropped out of the race, as he's the most qualified candidate for the job. He has all of the experience and knowledge of running a state, including the whole conundrum with illegal immigrants. For foreign policy: hostile foreign governments ask to negotiate with him by name.

The two things that most impressed me about him:
a) He can say "I don't know" when he doesn't know.
b) When he wanted to collect the email address of the woman who'd asked the question he couldn't answer, he directed his aide to go to her, not make her go to them.

Little gestures of respect, done casually without great deliberation, say a whole lot about the kind of person someone is.

Overall, I wish we could combine Richardson and Obama. It would be totally awesome if Obama won the primaries and Richardson agreed to be the VP candidate - but as far as I'm aware, Richardson plans to go back to running his beloved state. Which also speaks highly of him, because that's where his attention really should be.

So far there have only been two Republican candidates to visit Google.

2. Ron Paul

I've talked about him before. He's a Libertarian. I'm very libertarian. When it comes to individual personal liberties, we agree. However, he thinks that those same liberties should be extended to businesses.

Businesses aren't people and aren't driven by the same motives. People are mainly interested in raising healthy, happy families. Businesses are mainly interested in making money - maximizing profits and minimizing expenses; given free rein, they will attempt to do so by any means available to them if they can get away with it, such as shafting their employees, shortcutting product and service quality, overcharging, backstabbing their competitors, etc. Successful lying, cheating, and stealing are considered good from a business standpoint. For that reason, I find his ideas about free markets rather frightening.

1. John McCain

I've talked about him before, too. The fundamental underpinnings of his political philosophy all derive from being a Christian who wants to advance the American Way to the unwashed masses. However, from those premises, what he actually wants to do is largely the same as how I would want to proceed.

Given those two choices, I'd have to go for McCain over Paul. But I'd rather have a Democrat.


Eric said...

The major problem with Ron Paul that's finally getting some coverage--though not enough--is that the man's an unrepentant racist. (See this TNR article for documentation; it's not the only place these claims have been made, but it's one of the most comprehensive). So far, the only defense his campaign has offered for the newsletters that Paul published under his name is that he didn't write some of the most offensive articles--he was some kind of absentee landlord. I've never understood this kind of "defense," frankly: "I'm not evil, I'm just incompetent." If you believe he knew what he was publishing, he's not qualified to be President. If you believe that he didn't control what went out under his own name, he's not qualified to be President.

I'm not faulting you: Paul puts on a good show, and his past hasn't gotten as much coverage as it should have, probably because he's never been a strong candidate or had any real likelihood of actually getting the Repubs' nomination.

The Republicans are presenting what may be the sorriest field in their history. McCain is an arrogant, sometimes hypocritical prima donna--and he's arguably the best man they're putting forward. The apparent second-best choice is Fred Thompson, a man who isn't actually a leader but plays one on television. I won't pull my hair out if McCain is elected: he does have some leadership qualities and competence. But I'd rather see any of the Dems get the seat, and not just because the Republicans have botched the last eight years or because I'm a bleeding-heart liberal: the fact is that none of the Democrats' candidates are great (and some are kind of awful), but at least they're not batshit crazy, panderers, lazy, racists, or despised by their own children (characterizations which all apply to one or more of the Republicans running).

Eric said...

Qualification, before someone jumps on it: Hilary Clinton is a panderer. And kind of awful. And still better than anyone the Republicans are running except possibly, maybe McCain. Sorry if I typed faster than I was thinking when I wrote that final sentence in my last comment....


MWT said...

I'm aware that there's a whole lot more info and scandals and brouhaha about all of the candidates out there - but I'm just focusing on how they presented themselves in the Google videos. It keeps me saner that way. ;)

So which candidate would you choose if you had to choose one today?

Janiece said...

MWT, your views align pretty closely with mine, except I would rank the Dems 1. Richardson (by far the most qualified in either race), 2. Obama, 3. Edwards, 4. Clinton.

Of the Republican field, McCain is the least offenisve, but he's just so old. His choice of running mate will be critical in my voting decision for the general election, providing he gets the nod.

If the final ballot is Democrat 2 or 3 vs. any Republican, I'm voting Democrat. If the final ballot is Clinton vs any Republic but McCain, I'm voting for Clinton. If the final ballot is Clinton vs McCain, I'm undecided.

Nathan said...

The chances of me voting for any Republican are vanishingly small. My only caveat is that under the scenario Janiece presents, I'd at least consider it.

The NY primaries are coming up and I'm seriously torn between Clinton and Obama. I don't care about the Clinton/Bush Dynasty continuing (unless it's Jeb at some future date). I think Clinton's tough as hell and she strikes me as utterly competent. Obama has a vision that I find very attractive, but I'd like to feel more confident that he'd be effective.

I guess I'm leaning toward Clinton, but I can certainly be convinced otherwise.

Eric said...

The Republicans have made a persuasive case over the past eight years that I should vote as if I were a yellow-dog Democrat (I'm a liberal independent), so I regret to say that at some level it doesn't matter who they nominate--they could put a trained bear up and he'd have my vote.

The candidate who is politically closest to my views is Kucinich, who has absolutely no chance of getting the nomination (or the Presidency) unless his opponents all get swept up by an alien spaceship. My favorite of the electable candidates is Obama, who at the very least is an inspiring candidate, and seems to be relatively forthright (I respect his acknowledging his mistakes, instead of ducking them). I'm not happy with Clinton--I used to admire her greatly, but she's turned into something awful over the past eight years; still, I'll hold my nose and vote for her if she's the candidate (and, thanks to the DNC's "superdelegate" system, she probably will be).

Of the Republicans, McCain is the most tolerable to me despite his faults: he's at least competent, which is more than you can say for the other Republicans in the race. Thompson probably isn't too bad as far as his views go, but we've seen where laziness in the Oval Office gets us. Huckabee's, Romney's and Paul's ideologies scare me.

Not that any of this really matters: I live in North Carolina, which will somehow vote red even if Canibal Hitler's Brain-In-A-Jar is the surprise winner at the Republican convention. Hell, maybe I'll vote for myself, just for kicks. I'm over the age of 35, a natural-born American citizen, and I can't possibly do as bad a job as the last guy. :-)

MWT said...

Well, I live in Georgia, so I'm in the same boat as Eric.

Interesting question though on what order I'd rank all of them together and not broken up by party. Of the six people above, mine would be: 1. Richardson, 2. Obama, 3. Clinton, 4. McCain, 5. Edwards, 6. Paul.

Dammit. I really wish Richardson hadn't dropped. I was looking forward to voting for him in February.

There were also videos for Biden and Dodd, but I didn't watch them as Dodd has also dropped and Biden seems unlikely to be anywhere near electable.

Anonymous said...

Interesting analysis.

Like Eric, I'm an independent - although I would call myself a small-l libertarian. I still find Ron Paul to be a nutjob and wouldn't vote for him if his opponent was Mao Tse Tung.

The republican party has been so thoroughly hijacked by the religious right that it's lost any other political purpose, and I typically can't support such candidates. (And there really aren't any worth supporting this year anyway)

I find Obama to be inspiring and sensible, and probably would vote for him, although his politics are further left than mine.

My views more closely align with Edwards, but I'm not sure whether I actually like or trust him. I am sure that I don't trust Clinton.

Jim Wright said...

Cannibal Hitler's Brain-In-A-Jar.

I swear to God, I laughed for ten minutes when I read that.

Good summation, MWT - and as things go I'm probably very close to Nathan on viewpoint here.

Personally I don't like any of them. I was a Republican most of my life, but the current batch of jackasses put an end to that - they're going to have to put a pretty damned spectacular candidate for me to vote for the GOP - and McCain ain't that guy, and he's the best they've got.

Clinton or Obama, six of one, half dozen of the other. Though Obama is free of the stench of scandal that surround the Clintons for so long, and frankly I'd like to see somebody new in office.

Like Eric said, and I've mentioned elsewhere - this conversation is probably moot, the democratic super delegates will decide. And on the Republican side it's got to McCain, he's the only real chance they have, anybody else and they're just going through the motions and they know it.

MWT said...

Yeah. The superdelegates.

Remember when I said before that it seemed like the only thing left for the average citizen to do was wait for the revolution to come? Because none of our votes ever matter? Well. I'm getting that sinking feeling again.