The Presidential Debate – selecting the right candidate

DebateThe Republican Presidential debate concluded recently – the questions were specific, but the response from the candidates was by and large – vague. Each candidate seemed to come to the podium with “We need to make American great again and only I know how to do it.”

In an era where fact checks happen in an instant and a bluff is called in real time, Presidential candidates need to have specific resolution plans for key issues being discussed. Debates need to be centered around specifics, not pie-in-the sky solutions.

So can the moderators guide debates in a direction where candidates are forced to talk specifics. Besides knowing their positions on key issues, we need to know if they have concrete resolution plans for these issues.

The final Presidential nominee should be a good blend of leadership, management and operational efficiency.

Leadership: The President must have a vision of where the country and the world needs to be at the end of their tenure. This would entail newer laws and agreements on the domestic and international front. On the domestic legislative front, the President has 5 frontline managers – the majority and minority leaders in the House and Senate and the Speaker of the House. A strong leader will work very closely with these frontline managers to realize his/her vision for the country. This means he/she must be open to feedback from diverse viewpoints and not mind tweaking the implementation towards realization of the vision. Same scenario plays out in the international arena as well – the ability to get divergent viewpoints and personalities to come to an agreement.

So one of the key questions to the presidential candidate must be:

What is your past record with getting legislation passed when the opposition is in majority?

Management: The executive arm essentially entails management – management and maintenance of peace at home and abroad. And management of the local and global economy. Here, a strong candidate will have full awareness of the current issues and constraints coming in the way of resolution. Presidential candidates need to realize that once elected, they will face experts in various fields and any quick fixes they may have promised the electorate will need to withstand the intense scrutiny of ground reality. President Obama’s PRISM program is a great example of a promise that failed to withstand the onslaught of ground reality.

So another key question to be asked of a Presidential candidate with respect to a current domestic or foreign policy issue can be –

What do you think are the key constraints facing the current administration towards resolving <this> issue and how would you overcome these constraints?”

Operational Efficiency: The President is the CEO of the Federal government. So every President must target leaving the government more efficient (less expensive and more nimble), than when they assumed office. So the President must have an operation efficiency goal. This could entail consolidating departments that have a similar charter, to obtain economies of scale OR systems integration between the DHS and DMV to drastically reduce cost of information sharing.

So a key question here could be:

“Do you have any plans to make government more efficient? If yes, what’s the plan?”


Based on these characteristics, one would expect Governors to better suited than their Senate counterparts to be the Head of State. But thinking outside the box, CEOs would be great Presidents. HP’s Carly Fiorina is one such candidate in the Republican fray and if Starbucks’ Howard Schultz joins on the Democratic side, a Schultz-Fiorina contest could be very interesting. Hopefully then, the focus would be on specifics!


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