Like most of you, I’ve been forced to feign interest in the Republican presidential primaries because a.) it might matter; and b.) you can’t turn on a TV, visit a news website or pass a playground where it isn’t being discussed—in fact, I saw a toddler stagger off a roundabout and start to puke, clearly a scathing response to Gingrich’s “Environmental Solutions Agency.”
I know how he feels. (The kid, not Newt.) All this political spinning is enough to make anybody sick.
Unlike most of you, however, rather than be content to accept that one of these fellas may be fairly elected by their fellow citizens to become the next President of the United States of America by the system we’ve had in place for the last two centuries plus, I think we’re going about it all wrong. President of the United States has become THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB ON THE PLANET. As such, why should a simple vote by the American people decide it, like we were picking a winner on “American Idol?” I mean, haven’t the Taylor Hicks and Warren Harding elections taught us anything?
It’s time for change, all right, but not of the candidates, but of how we pick them!
We can all still vote at the end (yay democracy!), but what I am proposing is that rather than all these caucuses and primaries and polls, we replace the current presidential vetting process with a more sensible screening system, one that is a bit more … rigorous. Consider this: Would any major corporation in the world—be it Apple, Google, Wal-Mart, General Electric or even the Wiffle Ball Company—just hire “the most popular” job applicant as its CEO? I think not.
Also consider this: The requirements to become an American astronaut—a job, while important, doesn’t necessarily impact the rest of the Free World with every decision—are more rigorous than becoming president. To be an astronaut, you need years of training and education, a sterling personal history free of alcohol-induced indiscretions, and a dedication where you put the needs of the program and the nation before your own, including a willingness to sacrifice your own life, if necessary.
To be president, all you need is money.
And ambition. I’ve often said that the first thing that should eliminate someone from running for president is if they want to run for president.
Well, rather than complain about “the way it is,” I have built a better mouse trap, as it were, to snag us a candidate truly worthy of the mantle “President of the United States of America.”
Here is the abridged version my OFFICIAL PLAN TO GET MORE BETTER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
(pat pending, although suggestions for a snazzier name are welcome)
First off, I would call for a remarkably official-sounding National Presidential Recruitment Committee (NPRC). I’d say it should be bi-partisan, but my plan would probably eliminate the party aspect of the presidency, which might have trickle-down consequences. Which probably would not be a bad thing.
Every four years, the NPRC would do a national search of the top leaders from across the country, scouring board rooms, legal organizations, all the branches of the military, local communities, universities, sports and media organizations, blogs—okay, maybe not blogs—for the best and brightest. The NPRC would gather about 100 of the highest-quality leaders the country has to offer, each of whom will be extended a formal invitation to participate in the formal Presidential Application Process (informally, the “PAP”—a gold mine of headlines in itself: “Romney Doesn’t Make PAP Squad,” “Newt Claims PAP Smears Chances,” etc.)
The PAP itself would comprise of three phases, each one of which would help winnow the field:
Phase 1: Physical Fitness Test
I know that there isn’t a major physical component to being P. of the U.S., but after seeing how much the stress of the gig ages everyone who comes through the office, we should be looking for someone who is fairly vigorous. A healthy body = A healthy mind (or so says my cereal box).
As such, there are a few existing challenges that could be employed in the search for a president (and in the process would make for entertaining television). I might even suggest each candidate goes through all three events!
- American Gladiators: Anyone who can run The Gauntlet, survive The Eliminator and best my girl Crush with the pugil sticks would show the resolve and toughness we want in a leader. Warning: Gratuitous Gina Carano embed!
- Wipeout: While not as combative as “American Gladiators,” if someone can win this chaos-drenched obstacle course with all their vertebrae intact, I would say they probably would have a strong enough backbone to stand up to foreign adversaries.
- The Warrior Dash: I have run this and will be running it again this June—and if for the “fun” of it, I can run 3.2 miles, climb walls, duck tires, crawl through mud, avoid barbed wire and hurtle over fire, then I don’t think it’s out of the question for a candidate to have to do it to show that they have the mettle to take the slot as the most powerful person on the planet. If you want substitute in Tough Mudder (which is three times longer), I wouldn’t stop you, but I certainly wouldn’t run it, either.
By the same token, if the American electorate called for some sort of elaborate Thunder Dome battle royale scenario where a number of candidates are put in a steel cage and the one who is left standing moves on to the next round, I wouldn’t vote against it.
Those who survive the physical tests can then move on to the next phase—
Phase 2: Intelligence Test
We make high school seniors take the SATs to get in the college. We make lawyers take the bar before practicing law, and doctors have to pass the boards before cutting someone open. The NFL makes draft picks take the Wonderlic test before investing tens of millions of dollars in them. Thus, why shouldn’t we at least have some sort of general knowledge test to see if someone is intellectually capable enough to be The Decider?
The presidential test should be a combination of opened-ended questions, essays and problem-solving exercises. (No multiple choice! Something about having the right answer already on the page that even a trained chicken can randomly pick sort of takes away from the ability to truly measure someone’s intelligence.)
The test should also check the basic knowledge of the job—name the 50 states, 9 supreme court justices, main cast of “Seinfeld,” etc.—as well as some more random current international trivia, such as whether President of Finland Tarja Halonen is a man or woman. (Hint: It’s one or the other.)
If the candidate can get a passing grade, then it’s on to the final phase—
Phase 3: Simulators
Okay, just because someone is physically able and mentally fit, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will react properly under stressful situations. Thus, the final section should include some simulated challenges to see how the future Commander-in-Chief reacts in a crisis—do they stand up and take charge, or maybe just sit back and read a good book? When faced with actual moral and character challenges, do they take the high road, or do they just light up a cigar?
Again, there’s all sorts of precedents, from flight simulators for pilots and astronauts to combat simulators for soldiers. Police and fire fighting cadets use simulators, as do miners and all sorts of other professionals. Heck, there are even simulators for pig farmers!
So what would be in the presidential simulation sequence? I think all sorts of possible crisis scenarios, from foreign attacks to kidnap situations—you want to make sure the prez doesn’t go Karl Pilkington when things get crazy. (NSFW language in clip.) I also like the idea of something along the lines involving a recreation of the Oval Room and a drunk Salma Hayek trying to seduce the simulatee into passing her the Nuclear Football to obliterate Iceland. (And don’t act like there are no nukes pointed at Iceland—you know whoever controls the cod controls the planet!) Bombs away!
In short, if the Kobayashi Maru is a good enough standard for Star Fleet cadets, then a similar exercise should be good enough for American presidents.
Once a candidate passes all three tests, then they are welcome to run for the presidency in a general election. You know, if they have enough money.