Likability or leadership?

Voters should decide which is most important in their next president

When Hillary Clinton was asked at a 2008 presidential primary debate about Barack Obama being more likable, she gave a diplomatic answer: sweet, and every bit as chewable as meringue.

Too bad. As we noted at the time, she had the opportunity to help change how Americans view presidential candidates – if only she would’ve taken the chance.

Here are a couple of things we wished she’d said:

“You think the president who straightens out the entitlement mess and tells the American people that they’re stealing from their children is going to be given parades? As if!

“Hey, you want Sally Field, get Sally Field. I don’t care whether you like me, and you shouldn’t (care) either. You don’t need likable, you need tough and determined and courageous and principled.

“This isn’t a popularity contest. It’s a test of leadership. More than ever, we need a leader.”

It’s even truer today.

In their never-ending quest to trivialize the presidential election, pundits and pollsters are talking again about “the likability question.” In this case, Obama beats Mitt Romney 2-1.

Sadly enough, likability probably does matter in presidential elections. And Mr. Obama has ridden his easy-going, hip, joke-cracking, big-smile persona like a champion. Yet, again, likability is one of the least-important characteristics we need in a president.

Twenty-somethings, for instance, can be all agog at this president’s savoir-faire – but the fact is, his unprecedented spending is shackling them and
future generations with unbearable debt.

Professed empathy is a vastly overrated quality in politicians, too – and they use it to great effect. But ask yourself: Do you want a leader who makes you feel good or who creates the kind of economic, business and political climate in which you can flourish?

If we were electing the student council president, likability might jump to the head of the class. We’re not. We’re looking for a leader. Whether he is square, stiff or even gruff, the main thing is: What will he do to improve and strengthen America?

As we wish Mrs. Clinton had said in 2008:

“Likability? Good grief! That’s the last thing you’ll need in your next president!”

It’s even truer today.

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