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Thank you for visiting my website and enjoying my books. While my next thriller is being readied for publication, with controversy surrounding the presidency, I thought you might be interested in an op ed I wrote concerning evaluation of presidential candidates.

OPINION The Star-Ledger. Affiliated with Sunday, February 16, 2020  D3







Alan L. Moss  Guest Columnist


In spite of the time, effort, and resources dedicated to selecting U.S. presidents, the results have been inconsistent and often deficient. 


Of the last eight elected U.S. Presidents, half have brought shame on the office.  Two have been impeached (Clinton and Trump) and one (Nixon) resigned rather than go through the impeachment process.  Another (George W Bush) blundered into Iraq costing over a trillion dollars, 4,500 U.S. casualties, and hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, while giving birth to ISIS and the destruction it has reaped. 


Notwithstanding our leadership failures, there has been some progress over the last half century. Trade was opened with China, the Departments of Energy and Education were born, a treaty was signed between Israel and Egypt, pressure from U.S. defense budgets broke-up the Soviet Union, the Medicare drug benefit was established, and the Affordable Care Act greatly expanded health care to those who had no insurance.  At the same time, effective steps were taken to counter adverse developments, such as the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the Great Recession.


One has to wonder, however, what if sustained, exemplary leadership allowed the nation to avoid quagmires that took lives, burned resources, and blocked steps forward.  What if better communications between intelligence agencies blocked the September 11 attacks, or if retaliation was directed only at those responsible?  What if foolish deregulation was prohibited maintaining sound financial institutions and sustained economic growth in 2007 and beyond?  Certainly, the resources saved in these two areas alone could have sponsored such initiatives as modernization of our infrastructure, a major reduction in student debt, accelerated research to find cures for deadly diseases, and training and education programs to improve the futures of inner city residents while reducing crime and gun violence.


Perhaps, it's time to hold presidential candidates to more precise standards, ones that promise enlightened decision making and steps forward for most  Americans.  An examination of prominent works on executive and political leadership yields ten suggested traits/competencies:


1.    Through ethical behavior and integrity is able to establish good will and trust. 

2.    Is true to American values, the rule of law and the Constitution.  Understands executive, judicial, and legislative responsibilities.

3.    Has a clear vision for the future, understanding complex issues and situations while developing effective strategies for positive change.

4.    Has an impressive record of accomplishments.

5.    Communicates clearly, is decisive, and inspires support, sacrifice, noble deeds, and patriotism. 

6.    Stays calm under pressure; doesn't act without knowing the likely impact of results.

7.    Maintains positive communications with members of the opposite party, those holding different views; encourages debate.

8.    Works to find common ground.  Is open to compromise that doesn't defeat the purpose of proposed policies and legislation. 

9.    Hires the best and the brightest, staff who are both ethical and qualified.  Seeks expert advice, adapting objectives and initiatives accordingly.  Encourages teamwork.   

10. Recognizes and rewards accomplishments, admits failures, identifies problems and seeks solutions.   Employs formal planning and evaluation systems.


The world is a dangerous place in which missteps can result in untold death and destruction.  On the other hand, well-reasoned, intelligent leadership can greatly enrich and extend life.  Trusting leaders based upon thirty-second soundbites and rehearsed responses to debate inquiries have not served us well. 


Before one buys an automobile, you can pick-up Consumer Reports and review objective ratings both overall and for a number of meaningful criteria.  When it comes to presidential candidates, too often we only see what managers and public relations experts want us to see. 


It's time to more carefully assess candidate leadership qualities, regardless of party platforms.  The Founding Fathers believed that the first responsibility of an enlightened citizenry is to be virtuous enough and wise enough to select the right kind of representatives. 


One way to accomplish this would be to evaluate candidates relative to the leadership traits and competencies described above.  Perhaps, a joint effort by The International Leadership Association and the American Political Science Association might verify the most relevant competencies, design interview and related tools, collect the required information, and publish candidate ratings for specific criteria and overall.


Evaluating presidential candidates based upon their leadership skills would provide voters with an objective basis on which their choices may be shaped.  Furthermore, those in the race or considering candidacy who lack key competencies may drop out of contention while those not running who would be deemed highly qualified might determine to compete and expand the lineup of capable candidates.


It's time to bring the dispassionate measurement of key leadership abilities into the forefront of selecting future presidents. 


Alan L Moss, Ph. D., the author of "Selling Out America's Democracy," was chief economist of the U.S. Wage and Hour Division, and congressional fellow to the late U.S. Sen. Frank R Lautenberg.  Currently he serves as an expert witness concerning issues of employment and wages.