Interesting piece on US presidents from Achenbach, with this reminder:
Experts on the presidency repeatedly returned to a central premise: A president needs to be good at making decisions, lots of them, on complicated matters. This may seem screamingly obvious -- but consider how little most of us know about the decision-making skills of the three people still running for president. We know more about the way they dress than the way they decide.Instead of, or in addition to debates, I wonder there could be a kind of Model Executive Branch or mock-government game for candidates. Perhaps stick them in a nuclear crisis simulator, see how they fare.
It would be important, for the public's interests, to get candidates in a situation where they couldn't resort to words, to waffling, or coming up with yet another memorable sound bite. Put them in a hypothetical ethical dilemma -- at what point do they rob the pharmacy?
Even if we could just confront them with a chess puzzle (in the actual game of chess), that could speak volumes. (Candidates would have the choice of go besides chess.)
Unfortunately, despite increased fascination in and power of the office, the cynical view is growing that presidents as individuals don't even get to decide, that they're just figureheads. Remember the confusion and 20 different versions about when Dubya learned about 9/11 and how he was told. Fact remains that he didn't even express emotion or basic reassurance to Americans independently; or perhaps he was instructed to wait for a cue.
And that sadly makes efforts by pocket historians like Achenbach quaint.