Do Americans Expect Too Much from Politicians?

In case you haven't heard, Scott Brown won in a blue state. Let's celebrate the emergence of a little common sense, but let's also hold off on the "Brown 2012" bumper stickers.  

Are we so starved for a leader that we heap all our hopes on the back of a new guy who has not even been seated? One of Brown's first acts will be to campaign for part-of-the-problem McCain. Has he already succumbed to the power mystique? 

What does America want? Leadership, or looks and charisma? Take Obama. Anyone should have beaten him for president. No experience, no leadership, no accomplishments. Even McCain was closer to the majority of Americans on the issues.  

But the majority wanted charisma, looks, and speaking ability. If we continue to select charm over substance, we will continue to get folks like Edwards and Obama. If we select leaders based on "it's my turn," we will get candidates like McCain.

Why are folks who voted for hope and change surprised at what they got? They did not listen to what Obama said; they just liked the way he said it. They paid little heed to his history, his voting record, or the people who influenced him. He made promises that clearly were impossible to keep. Much of his past has been concealed, but we knew enough about his record and his ideology. He told us over and over that he was for wealth redistribution and that he did not like America as it was, but he said it so well that most missed the meaning. Even Warren Buffett succumbed.   

It has been a long time since I have voted "for" a candidate. Dumb and dumber usually run, and I vote against dumber. Of forty-four, how many presidents would you describe as great men? Only five fit that description for me, and three were founders. Maybe ten were really solid, but not great.

A brave few want to serve their country, but most politicians have a perverse need for power and adoration. That makes them subject to manipulation and corruption. Serving more than twelve years in Washington succumbs one to bad inclinations and an exaggerated view of importance. "Nobody can take my place." 

We dole out power in Congress based on longevity rather than ability. Twelve years inside the bubble divorces one from reality. Don't believe me? Pick a member of Congress and study him before and after a few terms.     

So why do we expect mediocre folks with huge egos to create jobs, turn the economy around, and provide for our medical care, housing, and energy? 

Most politicians could not succeed in the private sector, yet we want them to focus on the economy and jobs, to fix whatever is broken. They claim to create millions of jobs. Obama claims to have "saved" millions more. Bull. Every job they create forces some guy with a real job to pay for it. Jobs are created when free people find a need for a product or service and fill it. "Created" jobs can cause temporary stimulus, but they cost us all in the long run. 

So what should we look for in a president, or any politician? Let's have someone who loves his country more than himself -- who does not need the job to satisfy some internal craving -- who has demonstrated leadership and competence in the military and/or private sector -- who has a strong core belief system honed through at least two decades of mature thought, experiences, and study -- who has enough internal confidence to admit mistakes -- who recognizes personal limitations and delegates to wisely chosen people -- who compromises but never abandons core principles.

A president should stop campaigning and start working. A president has to travel and be visible, but trips and visibility owe their value to their scarcity. Keep your butt in the Oval Office chair. I don't want or need to see our president getting in the way at every natural catastrophe, pardoning turkeys, rolling Easter eggs, attending meaningless conferences, or bowing and scraping to despots.

A president should understand that government is not the solution; it is the problem. There is plenty of blame to go around on health care, the banking/housing crises, and energy dependence. But the government is the worm at the core of every one of these rotten apples.

I want a president who understands that his primary job is to keep us safe, and then get out of the way of great American ingenuity. One who understands that free people in a free market is the most powerful economic and military power in the world. I want a president who spends every waking moment finding and removing all the obstacles in our path and all the weight government has put on our shoulders, and then lets us fix things ourselves.

Jim H. Ainsworth's latest book, Home Light Burning, is now available. He is the author of many books and articles and is a former CPA, CFP, CLU, Registered Investment Advisor, and Licensed Securities Principal. He welcomes comments at