The recent news about Rick Perry not knowing about the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling on Texas’s anti-sodomy law brings this to mind. Let’s make a list of things a person should already be aware of before running for president of the United States–things which, if you discover a candidate to be ignorant of, will sharply reduce your opinion of him or her.
But first a little housekeeping. Let’s restrict ourselves to facts (such as the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment) rather than opinions (such as the proposition that gays should have the right to marry). Second, 144 is an arbitrary number, chosen because it’s 12 squared and Rhymers are obsessed with dozens. If we get that far, fine; if we don’t fine; if we want to keep going past that point, fine. Lastly, feel free to critique prior posters’ proposals.
You should know that, in the Republican party, some primary/caucus states are winner take all states and some use proportional appointment of delegates, and that in the Democratic party, all use proportional appointment.
Hmm. I’m going to reply to this by saying that it’s really only important for a given candidate to know half of that. That is, if you’re a Democratic candidate, you need to know your own party’s rules for the primary elections, but it’s not all that important that you know the Republicans’ rules, and vice versa.
You should know how many members we have in the armed forces, how many are in each branch, how they’re divided up into units and commands, where they are stationed, and what their capabilities and vulnerabilities are.
You should know the basics of how the American legal system works: how legislative and court powers are divided between the states and federal government, how far police powers extend, how laws get passed, the powers of the courts to influence laws, and how the court system is divided up by regions and know who the judges are in each major court.
You should know the basics of the American economy: how much we import and export and what the products are, who our major trading partners are and what our trade balances are with them, what percentages of the economy are in various sectors like agriculture, natural resources, manufacturing, creative works, and financial services.
I’m not sure I’d expect all presidential candidates to be cognizant of the legal status of Texas’ anti-sodomy laws; it’s relevant to Perry because of his current status, not his aspirational one. I suppose we could add a requirement to have an adequate level of knowledge pertinent to one’s current and prior governmental posts but that runs the risk of being turtles all the way down.
This may be covered by Little Nemo’s post but a candidate should have a full understanding of the three main branches of federal government, the powers and responsibilities of each branch and the limits of each. You should have a thorough knowledge of the Constitution with all its amendments and should be able to differentiate it from the Declaration of Independence. You should have at least a high school-level understanding of American history.
You should know that this is the age of technology. Anything in your past is very likely to be in print or image and found and brought up at the worst possible moment. Also, anything you do on the internet now is going to be found.
That the money he or she spends isn’t his or her personal money. That’s actually something everyone with control over other people’s money should know, and believe.
Real Life Example: Some years ago, it was discovered that the local Board of Education was spending $5,000 to have the portrait of the superintendent of schools painted, to be displayed in the Board of Education office. When people protested, the Board said essentially, “It’s only $5,000, that’s a tiny fraction of the budget.” True, but that’s $5,000 that could be spent on things that would directly improve things for students and or teachers. If they’d wanted to spend their own money on that, then it would be their business.