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Help Wanted: Must be at least 35 years old and ready from Day One to take on the most difficult job in the world. Must know everything about everything, but not be conceited about it. Must be a public minister and private assassin. Must make decisions on highly complicated economic, diplomatic, military and sociological issues without time or training to ensure positive results—yet will be held fully responsible for all outcomes, both direct and indirect. Must always be morally grounded, except when situations require immorality. Must be a vocal Protestant Christian, although strict adherence to basic Christian principles not necessarily required.

Minimum qualifications: Self-certainty. Photogenic. Willingness to accept advice from approved special interest groups. Ability to deliver pre-written remarks as if off the cuff.

Note: Prior political, governmental, educational, military, or work experience may or may not be helpful, depending on how well the previously-listed minimum job qualifications are met.

Every four years Americans go through the process of electing, or re-electing, a president. And more often than not, we do a fairly iffy job of it.

Part of the problem is we have no collective idea what we’re looking for in a president. We think we do, but our final choices are often at odds with our own stated beliefs.

Example #1: Gender. Either gender is fine, vs. either gender is fine, y’know, in theory, but let’s not get all carried away.

Example #2: Race. See gender.

Example #3: Sexual orientation. See gender.

Example #3: Experience. We need to have confidence that the guy with the nuclear codes knows what he’s doing, vs. how hard can it be to sign a bunch of papers, fire people, and read off a teleprompter?

Example 4: Personality. Steady and calm, vs. a good old-fashioned butt kicker.

Example #5: Political doctrinal purity. Compromise is weakness, vs. compromise is pretty much our only hope.

Example #6: Individual morality. We need a married, faithful, Christian who acts in accordance with his religious values, vs., we need someone who can do the immoral dirty work so we can keep living our moral lives without interruption.

Each election cycle we start with our own firm ideas of what we’re looking for in a president, and end up casting them aside like worn garments in the face of the larger issue that inevitably arises: the simple truth that whatever personal, philosophical, or experiential deficits my party’s candidate possesses are inconsequential in the face of the outright evil represented by the opposition.

And so it goes. We can make our own laundry list of what we’re looking for in a candidate, but by the time we get to the primary or the general election, we’ve thrown it all away in our search for the answer to only one blunt-force question—will my candidate beat the scum offered by the other side?

Just like you, when I was a young, I learned the phrase “My country, right or wrong.” As an adult, I still love my country, but I’m concerned about the new attitude that has risen in America. By changing a single word in that phrase, we’ve changed our relationship to our nation, and our fellow citizens. Today it’s not so much “My country, right or wrong,” as it is, “My party, right or wrong.” I could quickly come up with a dozen reasons why this change of focus is both wrong-headed and dangerous to the republic, but you can to, and I don’t want to waste your time. But it would still be a good mental exercise for this Sunday afternoon. What the heck. Let’s give it a try.

As for what makes a good president, we all have our lists, and your list won’t look exactly like mine. But as our quadrennial national bloodletting plays itself out in the gladiator coliseums of modern media, both in 2020 and beyond, I hope we’ll consider candidates based on how they measure up as an American, and not just a political operative, and recognize that whoever they are, the job they’re applying for might not be quite as easy at it appears.

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Chris Huston is an author and award-winning columnist living in the Magic Valley. Connect with Chris on Facebook and Instagram at Chris Huston-Finding My Way and at chrishustonauthor.com.

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