How the candidates rate on the 8 major criteria that I use to pick a President

You probably have a different criteria for picking who to vote for than I do. Here's mine...

Voting for a President is a lot like hiring a CEO for a company. You look at 8 major criteria:

  • leadership ability and passion
  • decision-making ability
  • position on the issues
  • experience
  • intelligence and ability
  • trust
  • judgment
  • accomplishments

As far as leadership ability, Gore is way ahead. A leader has a vision and can enlist others in that vision. Gore's vision is to make this country stronger and achieving some real reform. He's passionate about his vision for the future. And he's got a credible plan to get there. A plan which Bush has been unable to attack on its merits. Bush is passionate about tax cuts for everyone and passionate about getting elected and passionate about getting rid of government, i.e., doing less. Tax cuts isn't a vision. It's a temporary program we'll all pay for later. Letting businesses do what they want without government interference isn't a vision. And Bush's social security plan when independently analyzed turns out to be robbing Peter to pay Paul...just moving funds around. That's not a vision. That's a shell game. A vision is an real outcome you want. Bush comes across as insincere and not believable. As in the 3rd debate when he pretended to be compassionate about the executions in Texas. It's well documented about his lack of compassion in Texas. Elliott Naishtat who chairs the the Texas house committee on human services says that when given a choice, bush “invariably chooses the non-compassionate path. Punishing the kids to get the mom to cooperate is not acceptable and not compassionate. You don’t have to do it that way.” He had a vision for the welfare system: get fewer people on welfare. But rather than doing that with assistance so fewer people would need to go on welfare, Bush instead did it by making fewer people eligible! Are these the kind of solutions you'd want to see to the problems facing us? And he's more of a follower than a leader. Time magazine was right when they said, "Bush's record ... is also a window on what kind of President he would be: a nimble leader who bonds with the players, exploits his charm and energy, but also takes what he can get, sees what he wants to see and has no problem getting along with entrenched power." That's not leadership. Bush is a good follower and knows how to get along with people who have more power than he does. 

Here's a simple example:
Bush's environmental leadership in Texas. Texas has the worst air and water pollution in the country. Bush's new plan: make clean up voluntary instead of mandatory.

Excuse me, but how the hell does he come up with crap like that? That's not leadership. It's letting business run right over you and letting them do what they want!

So no surprise: has no environmental group that supports him. Zero.  Is that the person you want as president who let's all the special interests do whatever they want? That's leadership????

As far as decision-making ability, Gore is way ahead. He has a command of the fact that is so awesome that it often exceeds his own advisors. Bush pales by comparison. He ducked questions in the 3rd debate. He doesn't know what affirmative action is. How can he make a decision on something he doesn't understand. By relying on experts? Bad idea. Colin Powell, a key Bush advisor, is well known for advising people not to trust experts. Don't be buffaloed by experts and elites.  Experts often possess more data than judgment. (Lesson #3 from Powell's "A leadership primer" presentation.

As far as position on the issues, that's a matter of personal taste. For me, I agree with all of Gore's positions on every single issue, bar none. I've never been in such alignment with any candidate ever.

As far as experience, Gore is way ahead. Bush has no Washington experience whatsoever. Zero. He has no foreign policy expertise (other than patrolling the Mexican border). And only about 200 people report to the Texas governor, so not much management experience there. And the Texas legislature only meets every other year, and even then only for 140 days.

As far as overall ability, it's not even close. Gore is so much smarter and more capable. I could tell that on my first question to both candidates. Bush spewed out the Republican party line on my first question to him. On my first question to Gore, he talked for 10 minutes about his vision and clearly demonstrated to me his deep understanding of the most complex issues. I don't think you'll find anyone who thinks Bush is smarter than Gore. 

As far as trust, Gore has been caught in making statements that are not true such as details on anecdotes. Bush's exaggerations are more material. In the 3rd debate, Bush claimed he had brought Republicans and Democrats together to enact the Texas version of a patients bill of rights. Not true. The first year the Texas Legislature passed a patients bill of rights, Bush vetoed it. The next year, he did nothing to support the bill, even opposed several provisions -- and finally let the bill become law without his signature. His belated claim of fathership for the measure is just another Texan tall tale. And Bush has a tax cut as the primary issue of his campaign. Yet his operatives were urging Congress not to pass the legislation until after Bush gets elected. Bush is more interested in getting your vote than in achieving his agenda. And as governor of Texas, he ran on only 4 issues and did a mediocre to poor job on 3 of them, and a decent job on education where he inherited a vibrant reform movement and built on it, but still left it underfunded. Education is the jewel in his crown yet Texas ranks dead last of all 50 states in spending for teacher's salaries. And as Intel CEO Craig Barrett will tell you, teacher salaries are critical to meaningful education reform. So, no, I don't trust him to get things done. Not at all.

And finally I should mention likeability since a lot of people think Bush is more likeable than Gore. Likeability is not a leadership trait. In fact, in general it's a bad sign. As Colin Powell teaches us in Lesson 1:

Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which
means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions.  It's
inevitable, if you're honorable.  Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign
of mediocrity: you'll avoid the tough decisions, you'll avoid confronting the
people who need to be confronted, and you'll avoid offering differential
rewards based on differential performance because some people might
get upset.  Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying
not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally "nicely" regardless
of their contributions, you'll simply ensure that the only people you'll wind
up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization.

What's important is that a leader commands respect. Bush doesn't command my respect. Gore has my respect.

Steve Kirsch Political Home Page