The Qualities a President Wants

The Qualities a President Needs

20th October 2020

When Obama stepped down, I posted this list of talents and qualities I would like to see in a president. This is especially true without considering any particular policy.

With people now flooding the polls almost four years later, I’m posting again.

And are you wondering which of the two main candidates has the qualities that are needed?


  1. I want a wonk policy. Fundamental to any leader is the ability to understand that the choice is not between good and bad, but between bad and terrible. And you want a president with a deep understanding of politics to figure out which is which.
  2. I want someone to appoint qualified employees. The vast majority of America has no idea who the head of EPA, FEMA, the Department of Energy, or the HUD is. You know why? Because they did not become part of a major failure. There is something to be said if you don’t know who they are as it means they are most likely doing their job without conflict.
  3. I want someone who doesn’t make rash decisions. And that’s because politics is full of nuances. Slow and deliberate is the way for a president to absorb as much information and opinions as possible.
  4. I want someone who stays cool under pressure. Every president will face pressure, be it from foreign conflicts, hostage-taking / kidnapping / terrorism or domestic political problems. It is a quality to admire when one is able to hold onto the long run rather than romp and rave about right away.
  5. I want a scandal-free administration. When was the last time a president left the oval office after 8 years without a major scandal?
  6. I don’t want drama. If there is some kind of drama about the White House, it’s never good.
  7. I want someone who doesn’t blanch at the prospect of admitting mistakes and turning course. Any president will make mistakes, and the ego often gets in the way of admitting mistakes. But it’s far better than making the situation worse by moving on. In desperate hope, the bad decision magically becomes good.
  8. I want someone with a fundamental appreciation for the fact that ignorance and arrogance in a president are both terrible and together can be fatal. And the wisdom to recognize it in yourself.

I am putting these traits in place of problems because there are thousands of problems that will pass through a president’s desk. Cherry picking, which I liked (or didn’t like) would miss the point about the human qualities that someone should be an effective president.

Historians will remember Obama well.

I wish we had a choice between Joe Biden and John Kasich. It would have been between two basically decent people regardless of what you thought of their politics, and no doubt focused on political issues. It would probably have been boring. When it comes to politics, I usually like boring. (And the press would have hated it, which is why the most outrageous candidates are given so much free press.)

The nation is worse off when the presidents do not have these qualities.

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