For a long time, my personal criteria for evaluating a president was to ask the question: could I do the job better than this schmuck is doing it?
With every president I can remember -- Republican and Democrat, going all the way back to Reagan -- I always (bombastically) answered that question in the affirmative.
That's right! I could easily have been a better president than Reagan. You could have too! Intellectually, the bar was set pretty low (it would of course be set much lower at a later date). It was persistence, timing, money, marketing, and ideology -- not excellence -- that got the Gipper into the oval office.
Nowadays, my question just doesn't seem relevant anymore. Could I do a better job than Obama is doing? Hell, I have no idea. I still know what I believe, politically, and I know where I disagree with the man. But personally, I would never want to experience what it's like to be president in 2009 -- and I bet you wouldn't either. The job now seems like a special flavor of hell.
Consider this comment from "Cat Lady" over at Balloon Juice (in a discussion about the Afghanistan speech):
All I know is that I’m glad I don’t have to be Obama for even one minute. On top of the ever increasing complexity of the problems he’s facing, the constant barrage of attacks from all sides, the shifting information, the ridiculous demands on his attention and time, he’s trying to be a good father and husband.
Just typing that makes me want to hide.
Honestly, what's the payoff? You've got access to the button and a personal plane. Big deal. Where does the job satisfaction come in?
Do you remember how American parents used to posit "being president someday" as the ultimate aspiration for their kids? "You're smart enough to be president someday, kid," they'd say. It was held out as the ultimate achievement.
Nowadays "you could be president someday" seems more like an insult or a threat than anything else. It's like saying "you could grow a goiter someday," or "someday you'll end up in jail." And that's just sad.