|The price of great expectations|
|Friday, 16 March 2012 10:28|
American history has its list of iconic past presidents. One name is enough to conjure admiration – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy.
All flawed in one way or the other, these presidents made deep-seated contributions to the nation. Before becoming president, they were also able to prove their worth through their charisma, their strong political or military backgrounds, and their appealing political messages. But they also shared something in common – none were subjected to the relentless judgment endured by modern presidential candidates.
If the aggressively competitive 24-hour cable TV networks, radio talk shows, Internet websites, blogs and social media existed in the past, some of these former great presidents may not have been elected.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) would have likely lost his candidacy, due to a childhood bout of polio that disabled him during his adulthood, from his presidential campaign right through his three terms in office. Meanwhile Thomas Jefferson's fathering of children with his slave mistress and the infamous extramarital exploits of John F. Kennedy would have destroyed any personal aspirations for political office.
No doubt, modern media has become more thorough than ever before. But, while media has an important responsibility to ensure people of character lead the nation, the relentless vetting that presidential candidates must endure could eliminate qualified individuals with great potential. Several strong candidates have been derailed by the media for past mistakes. Fear of being judged by this unwavering and unforgiving gaze has made Americans with real leadership potential wary to step forward.
And for those courageous few willing to seek the presidency, they must fight the media constantly casting doubt on their leadership potential and character. Many critics of the 2012 Republican nomination race persistently argue that there is a deep dissatisfaction among Republican voters regarding their candidates. According to these political experts, there is a persistent yearning for an alternative candidate to rush in and save the day.
In reality, this staunch media vetting process won't relent in this world of competitive "breaking-news." This new, aggressive media is here to stay. But, even as potential candidates shrink from the limelight, are such great expectations a bad thing? The process, though brutal, successfully discourages individuals of flawed character from seeking the presidency. Although anyone can be president, not everyone should be.
Ultimately, the strongest quality needed to survive today's political process is a strong character. Arguably, all these legendary American presidents possessed a pioneering character reflective of their time. And it is the memory of their strong characters that preserve their presidential legend.
Such a rigorous process may prove to be costly. But, for the chance to find a president that meets the challenges of our time, it is well worth the wait.