The Presidential Job Application: Seven even better questions we should ask anyone who wants to be president

>> Thursday, April 02, 2015

Al Gore said that a presidential campaign is like a job interview. If that’s true, then when these candidates announce, we should hand them a few preliminary questions at the start of the process. After all, that’s even required of the average Starbucks employee. Presumably this job is harder.

Fair enough, but unfortunately Dickerson's questions just... well, they aren't that good.  I like Dickerson alright: he's an entertaining regular on Slate's "Political Gabfest" and he recently started his own solo spinoff podcast about American political campaign history, "Whistlestop", that's a lot of fun to listen to.  But these questions....  "What's the biggest personal crisis you’ve faced and how did you handle it?" is a question all the candidates are going to answer even if we don't ask them, and will possibly be an entire chapter in each one's Obligatory Campaign Memoir (a chapter with a title along the lines of, "A Time of Crisis," natch, just in case you weren't sure where to find it).  Ditto, "What’s your greatest governing triumph?"  And the superficially best question, "Tell us a joke," is (1) actually an imperative sentence, not a question, and (2) can probably be answered by most of the candidates' fiscal policies.  Indeed, in some cases, the candidate themselves can be regarded as a kind of conceptual performance art joke following in the footsteps of Andy Kaufman's Tony Clifton... unless... oh gods, some of them are serious, aren't they?

Which segues quite naturally into Standing On The Shoulders of Giant Midgets' "The Presidential Job Application: Seven even better questions we should ask anyone who wants to be president," starting with:

1)  Are you serious?

Because, honestly, a lot of the people who we can expect to run for President--including all of the people who have officially announced they're running as of this date--really have to be joking, don't they?  Surely.  Surely they must be.  In fact-- 

2)  No, really, are you serious?

Because we're really hoping you're kidding.    We're hoping you're pulling our legs, or at least-- 

3)  This is just a ploy to sell books or promote a reality show, right?

Remember when Newt Gingrich was on that book tour in 2012 and accidentally won the South Carolina Republican primary and Sheldon Adelson bought, like, a million billion copies of The Battle of the Crater but for some reason never came by Gingrich's table to pick up any of them (which was probably pretty good for Newt, actually: he was not looking forward to signing that many copies because he only brought five or six Flair pens along and maaaaan his wrist was going to be hurting after a bit)?  Yeah.  That was pretty fucked up.

4)  Are you trolling?

You know, I already mentioned Tony Clifton, and I would just like to point out that I don't think I've ever seen Bob Zmuda and Rick Santorum in the same room together at the same time.  I mean, maybe I'm wrong and you can find a picture and show me, but I'm just saying.  I have not seen any evidence, myself. 

5)  How do we know this isn't just a mad scheme to get access to the nuclear access codes so that you can get back at the French for that time you went to Paris when you were in college and went into this lovely little bistro and were having a great time until you tried to order an off-menu item and they relentlessly mocked your accent and pronunciation even though you took, like, three whole semesters of college French and thought you were "parlaying lah Franssaissse" like a native, or at least better than Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther movies?

That's too specific.  Sorry.  Let me edit that: 

5)  This is about the nuclear launch codes, right?  C'mon.  'Fess up.

There we go.  Let's just leave Rick Perry's humiliating junior-year summer-break European trip out of it and ask a question we can ask any of the prospective likely candidates, especially Hillary Clinton who still occasionally gives off that evil supervillain vibe when she thinks no one is looking.  And this really gets to the heart of one of the things we most want to know about our possible future overlords: are they going to nuke somebody?  Matter-of-fact-- 

6)  Alright, let's just say this is not not about getting access to nuclear launch codes: who gets it in the ass and why?

Do we expect an honest answer to this question?  Probably not.  But it's still a good one, albeit maybe with some tweaking.  The way I figure it, what we do is we change the subject after question #5, make idle chitchat with the candidate, and then abruptly, while they're on a rambling tear about Friedrich Hayek, someone shouts, "Who ya' gonna nuke?" and when the candidate unthinkingly blurts out, "Australia," we know how Senator Paul really feels about Iggy Azalea. 

7)  I know we already asked you this... but seriously?  I mean, really?

The ultimate truth is that there's one thing Republicans, Democrats and independents will agree on in 2016: that other guy (or gal) who I'm not voting for?  Really doesn't need to be President, yeah.  Christ on a unicycle doing the highwire act while juggling baby penguins, I really can't stand the candidate I'm voting for, but mercy and forgiveness upon us if ______ wins this goon show.

Okay, so that's not completely true: there will be some subset of the Democrat/Republican (circle one) party faithful who will have somehow managed to be excited by somebody's nomination.  But a huuuuge chunk of the electorate is voting against the other party, which is why a lot of the punditry (even that of relatively reasonable pundistas like John Dickerson) is worth less than an investment in a Bitcoin-style cryptocurrency based on Confederate dollars.  "Will Democrats be able to get over the Clinton State Department e-mail controversy?"  Yes.  Yes, they will, because as soon as they see whatever shambling parody of a candidate survives the shearing forces of the Republican primaries, they will vote for Hillary Clinton even if she shows up in an ISIL decapitation video.  "Will [insert name of shambling parody of a candidate who survived the shearing forces of the Republican primaries here] be able to bring Republican voters to the polls?"  No, but Clinton is going to bring them out in droves so it won't matter.

You know, we shouldn't be asking the candidates anything, when you get right down to it, because it's a waste of time, breath, energy, ink, pixels; it's just a way to kill time and measurably increase net entropy in this small corner of the universe by unleashing more chaos and irrelevance into the junkyards of our foolish minds.  If we want to ask somebody something meaningful about American politics, perhaps we ought to be asking ourselves why we allow ourselves to remain saddled with a screwy, Eighteenth Century, late-Enlightenment, pseudo-democratic, crypto-oligarchical, dysfunctional, better-on-paper-than-in-practice, everybody-gets-represented-by-nobody, lowest-common-denominator-is-zero-which-is-indivisible system of governance?  Why do we stick with a system that was state-of-the-art around-about the same time as the discovery of electricity when everyone else in the world ever sense who has admired our Republican values has elected to not actually model their system of government after ours?  ("Great idea for a democracy!  Let's set up a multi-party coalition parliamentary system!")  Why do we cling to a system where every four years we go symbolically vote for the least-offensive choice of evils so that the Electoral College can actually choose a President who may or may not have a majority of the American people behind him (or her) and certainly doesn't have anything like a mandate, and so that this newly-elected President can then be paralyzed by a Congress created by gerrymandering and bribery?

Seven questions or seven hundred: there's no conceivable universe in which I vote for a candidate who survives a process in which he promises to discriminate against immigrants, subvert a living wage, denies science, and swears he'll do everything in his power to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (unless he's going to replace it with a proper single-payer system, which he isn't).  Nor am I going to repeat my campaign 2000 ill-fated experiment in third-party politics; been there, done that, no thanks.  And on the other side, there's a few million Americans who aren't going to vote for a Democrat no matter what kind of raving and drooling lunatic their own party proffers--as long as he's older than thirty-five and a natural born citizen and not to the left of Richard Nixon, he's their guy even if he has an IQ of 38 and the bathroom habits of a feces-flinging resident of the local zoo's Primate House.  So tell us a joke; I know, here's one:

You're running for President.


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