In 1960, the Republican candidate for U.S. President was Richard M. Nixon, a young but distinguished legislator in the U.S. Congress and Senate, who had served two full terms as the Vice-President of the United States under President Eisenhower. When asked for an endorsement and to attest to any examples of Nixon's independent ideas that were adopted into law or policy, Eisenhower had a famous response that resonates with contempt and dismissal.
"If you give me a week, I might think of one. I don't remember"
Eisenhower, who himself had been a protege of such eminent generals as Pershing, MacArthur, and Marshall, would have been fully aware of the power that a mentor has to vouch and confirm the attributes of his Republican successor. This non-endorsement was very damaging and may have contributed to the 1960 defeat as President, and subsequent 1962 defeat as Governor of California.
55 years later, that same Republican party is in the process of selecting its current presidential candidate. However as political campaigning is now a multi-billion dollar industry of event planning, communications, and lobbying, the attributes of the prospective candidates are much different. Because of the constant television and internet coverage, the entertainment value of the prospective candidates is assessed as a priority.
Consider the current front runners; a celebrity businessman, a prominent past Fortune 500 CEO, a distinguished neurosurgeon, and a collection of past and present governors and senators. The presidency is the senior executive officer of the public sector, operating as the head of not only the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, but also the military Commander In Chief.
As the candidate is the standard bearer for the Republican Party, it is the responsibility of the party to properly qualify its candidates. Using simple diagnostic questions, the party should be able to quickly refine its pool of candidates to those with a reasonable background.
Describe and elaborate upon your most successful accomplishments:
- As an executive officer in the public sector (i.e. governor, cabinet secretary, military leader)
- As a legislator in a national body (senate, congress)
- As a policymaker or regulator
- Building consensus among those with differing positions to accomplish a new law, regulation, or government initiative
- As a leader or influencer with respect to justice and/or law enforcement
- In specific areas of federal government oversight (i.e. health and human services, foreign policy, trade and commerce, environment, energy, agriculture, etc.)
- Of a personal or professional nature in the private or academic sector
What does this have to do with Quality? In order to have the best leader, there should be a vetting process to attract and select the best practitioners, while eliminating those who are not qualified nor capable of serving in high public office.
Aside from the aforementioned President Nixon, the political parties in the US are hesitant to recycle prior presidential candidates who were unsuccessful in their initial attempts. Qualified and proven leaders like Al Gore, John Kerry, Joe Biden, John McCain, and Mitt Romney, who have executive experience, are not running for the 2016 presidency, despite their qualifications and positive national profile. Elder statesmen like Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Walter Mondale, and Dick Cheney no longer have youth and vitality on their side, but are technically still qualified to serve as President.
If politics is now entertainment, then the natural progression is to select the candidates who appear most frequently on the gossip tabloids for their unsavory lifestyles and rumors. One wonders how Eisenhower, a decent and principled patriot, would evaluate this cadre of presidential candidates. Ultimately he would look past their demographic makeup and base his assessment on their actual performance. It is no coincidence that quality gurus like Deming and Juran arose from the Eisenhower era, as their emphasis on facts and data reflected the "show me" mentality of midwestern USA.
Inspiration and the ability to incite passion and devotion are certainly admirable campaign credentials, but governance is based on experience and past performance. I have read a few books by Bob Woodward and through his writings, have personally formed my own opinion of the most impressive public servant over the last 15 years, who would undoubtedly rise to the challenges of being Commander In Chief more effectively than any civilian or politician. Unfortunately this individual is not a political candidate, and should he decide to enter, he would undoubtedly restore the ethic and prestige of the office not seen since the Eisenhower era.