Why Would Anyone Want to be President of the United States?
“Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job” The Onion November 5, 2008
I was surfing the internet the other night when I came upon this web article. It was a humorous piece that was published the day after Barack Obama was first elected President. In typical Onion fashion it described what a thankless, stressful and unrewarding job President of the US is. Although the piece was only mildly funny, the idea stayed in my head causing me to ask the question: Why would anybody want this job? There never seems to be a shortage of men (and women) who line up every four years to run for the job. The person who is elected has to be thick skinned. Because no matter what they do, and how earnest they are, half the country will vilify them for their actions.
This job comes with intense scrutiny and criticism, often by people with competing agendas. Many times, the opposition is successful in establishing the reputation of the current officeholder. This has been the case since George Washington was elected to his first term but it has seemed to have gotten more viscous in the last 20 years. Bill Clinton was said to be a philandering liar with a dangerous left wing wife and George W Bush was looked upon as dumb, incompetent and evil. Many in the opposition think Barack Obama is an inexperienced leader who wants to change America into a Socialist, debt ridden country. It can also be tough when the president is unable to deliver on promises to his base he made while running. The current occupant of the White House received criticism from the far Left when he was unable (or unwilling) to deliver on campaign promises in his first term.
People run for a few different reasons. Some truly care about the direction the country is headed, some are passionate about a particular set of issues and some run for the power it offers. But no matter what the reason, all the candidates for POTUS share a few common traits.
For a person to run for President, he (or she) must have an enormous ego and it can only be fed by being President. Candidates feel that they, and only they, have the answers and ability to deal with and solve the nations problems. The best Presidents have had the biggest egos. Lincoln ran for office just as the country was boiling over to Civil War, Franklin Roosevelt was elected during the nations worst Depression. Washington, Adams and Jefferson took the job when the nation was in it’s infancy and there was no blueprint on how to govern this new type of nation (or how the President should act). All thought they had the answers. However, sometimes ego gets in the way. Richard Nixon’s ego led to his resignation from Office in 1974.
The President is the most recognized person in the world. To citizens of the US, he is our leader. To the rest of the world, he is a symbol of our country. Wherever he goes, people cheer.
Ego is the main reason people will run for the nation’s highest office, and had a lot to do with the two reasons I have listed below.
THEY ARE NOT IN IT FOR THE MONEY
The President of the US has a salary of $400,000 annually. In addition he has expense accounts for entertainment and travel for an additional $169,000. The perks of being the President are enormous. He and his family live rent free in the most famous house in the world. They are attended to 24/7 by a highly skilled staff. His rides in a heavily armored Cadillac and is surrounded by Secret Service bodyguards constantly. He travels in the Presidential aircraft, a highly modified Boeing 747 with the call sign Air Force One. Even when his term is over, he is entitled to a pension of $191,300 a year.
But this is peanuts to what CEOs in the private sector can make. The website Executive Paywatch reports the head of Apple, Timothy Cook, was paid $377 million in 2011. This is well ahead of the person in 2nd place, David Simon of Simon Property Management. (He made a paltry $137 million last year). The average CEO in the top 100 made about $20 million last year. I’m certain that anyone who is elected President has the ability get one of these sweet paying jobs if he had chosen to go into the private sector.
In the 236 years since this nation was established, only 43 men have become POTUS. The Presidency of the United States is a very exclusive club. Even the most obscure Presidents like John Tyler, Gerald Ford or Rutherford B. Hayes will always be on the list of Presidents, while the memory of other great men fade into obscurity. Long after he is dead, a President will live on in the history books that tell the story of this great nation.