So, you want to serve your country

Written two years ago, but as relevant today as it was in July 2010.

What qualities should an elected official possess and what qualifies them to run?

Should a senator be an attorney?

Should a congress member be proficient in science, math, business or the arts?

Is age a factor? Or is it experience? At what age or what form of experience should a candidate be judged or taken seriously?

Should a candidate's success be determined by how much money they raise, whether they have an intact family or are photogenic and/or telegenic?

Is there a purity test for Democrats that match the aspirant test for Republicans?

What about temperament, religion or education?

Looking back on Presidents, it appears FDR was a State Senator, a cabinet member, a Governor, with family money and connections. When he died in office, his Vice President, Harry Truman took up the baton, with 10 year's of Senatorial service under his belt and many years as a business man. He was also a farmer and served in the military.

Ike, as he was most affectionately called, was a general, led battalions and governed a major university before he was elected.

It was probably fitting in American voters' eyes to elect a man who fought in WW2 after having two presidents that navigated the US into war.

A change of guard by temperament, and party, Ike a Republican, held office for two terms.

I was ten years ago when Eisenhower came to office, and all I can remember is he played golf, had a wife named Mamie, and won the race against a man considered an intellectual. But the divorced Adlai Stevenson, a former Illinois Governor and Ambassador, did not pass the then purity test.

When JFK, a former US Senator and Congressman won the 1960 election against Richard Nixon, I was ineligible to vote, but old enough to remember the ins and outs of the campaigns.

When Kennedy was assassinated, like most Americans I wept.
LBJ quickly filled the void, and was elected in his own right in 1964, the first Presidential election where I was able to vote.

Johnson was a seasoned official having served in the Congress, Senate and White House as Vice President.

I've heard Johnson's taped recordings with his advisers (via Bill Moyers Journal) and know now what I didn't know then: LBJ was a reluctant war President, but an active participant. He did not run for re-election in 1968, although he could, and left a legacy of "social reform" or what is called, "the great society" that nearly eclipsed his role in one of our country's most divided issues: The Vietnam war.

Two Vice Presidents took each other on in 1968, Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon. Nixon won. Richard Nixon had good credentials; he had served in the Senate, the Congress, had been Ike's Vice President and served in the US Navy.

But the very things that drove President Nixon also undid him, and he left office in disgrace, succeeded by his Vice President, Gerald Ford.

President Ford had a long career in politics, was the Minority Whip in Congress and served in the House for more than two decades.

However, the wind did not favour President Ford when he run for election. Instead Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1976.

Carter came to Washington after having been both a Governor and State Senator of Georgia. He was also a farmer and served in the US Navy.

A one term president, Carter was succeeded by Ronald Reagan. Reagan served in the military, was elected Governor of California and had a career as an actor. He served two terms in office.

George H. W. Bush, Reagan's Vice President won one term in 1988. Bush had a long career in politics, ranging from CIA Director, UN Ambassador, Liaison to China, and a seat in Congress.

After 12 years of Republican representation in the White House, Bill Clinton took the Oval Office in 1992. Clinton had been a Governor and an Attorney General in his home State of Arkansas.

After serving two terms in office Clinton was succeeded by George W. Bush, who was the Governor of Texas, the son of the 41st President and a business man.

In 2009, Barack Obama took office and is our 44th President. President Obama served in Illinois' Senate, and in the United States Senate. He had been a community organiser and a constitutional attorney.

What have I learned from this civics's review?

Two of these Presidents, FDR and LBJ, made essential changes in the legislature, remarkable for their backgrounds--one privileged, the other fiscally conservative--and altered the landscape of social change.

Two Presidents, Carter & Bush, Sr. were not re-elected for a second term.

One President, George W. Bush was essentially favoured by a Supreme Court Per Curiam decision that curtailed a recount of delegates from Florida, and disqualified former Vice President Gore's popular majority vote. Bush went on to win a second term in 2004.

In the sixty years I looked at it appears we vote as if we were on a see-saw, alternately between Republicans and Democrats. We rarely permit continuity of leadership but rather favour, or hope, for rapid national changes.

Blame or honour is bestowed on Presidents rather than the three branch system of government and how they play out in any given 4-year term.

The 4th Estate--the press--is rarely blamed or extolled, and it is the rare Pulitzer that reveals government workings at their lowest or highest level.

Take headlines. Jon Stewart did a story on headlines of his show, and made some good points. Huffington Post often has some headers that in no way describe the content accurately using words like: mock, eviscerate et al.

In the same two years I've researched back stories, old stories and historical documents to learn why or how our country has reached this monumental impasse, a bifurcation in the political road that could take this country into spiralling destruction--economically and socially.

Neither the Right or the Left, elected or self appointed appear able to resolve some fundamental issues that could promote government efficacy.

What is blocking the road to health care reform, the closure and cessation of the hell we call Guantanamo Bay Prison.

What is driving the Media to bark out slogans, misinformation and gossip faster than a speeding bullet?

What propels the debate on abortion or homosexuality to the point of murder?

Is Christmas a thing of the past as Fox proclaims when, in fact, 90% of the population celebrate it today as it did 20 years ago?

Are pundits replacing journalists for monetary gain?

Are corporate lobbyists more powerful than elected officials? Or are they one and the same?

And where do our elected officials stand on both small and large issues facing the country?

Paul Krugman outlines some of the problem by emphasising the stalemates in how the Senate votes or doesn't in his New York Times article here.

But how did we go from affable, camaraderie across party lines to intractable obstructionism?

Who leads and who follows?

It is difficult to impossible to answer with any certainty why our government is now inert.

Are there some simplistic answers like Obama is lead by his Chicago advisers, or that the Republicans are behaving like a 5 year old (or it is a 2 year old) and blocking anything and everything in an effort to reclaim their majority?

Is Reaganomics to blame? Deregulation? Outsourcing? Globalisation? Racism? Capitalism? Overpopulation? Poverty? Greed?

Again, I have no simple answer or a series of answers. I come up short, leaving myself frustrated by the probing questions that only reveal more fertile ground for blame and finger pointing. Take a look at Colorado Springs here.

But I don't want to blame or finger point, I'd like to see a clear path to resolution. I would like to see health care reform enacted, an end to two wars, a reclamation of civility in public and private lives, growth in the economy, a hunger free worldwide population, acceptance of our human responsibility for climate change, and a peace treaty that works in the Middle East.

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