Saturday Column: U.S. needs more quality candidates for public office

The United States is a great country, a world leader in most every category. Critics can point to specific areas where some country may challenge the excellence or leadership of Uncle Sam, but, overall, the U.S. is the best.

Americans have more freedoms, more opportunities, excellent health care and great universities and research centers. The nation enjoys tremendous generosity by its private citizens and can offer fiscal and technical assistance to other countries in times of need. It has a superb military and is a force for freedom throughout the world.

Sure, the U.S. has problems, challenges and strong differences of opinion among its citizens, but it is, indeed, the shining star in the eyes of millions of people living in other parts of the world.

With such a history of leadership and excellence, why is it, in this country of more than 300 million, it seems to be increasingly difficult to encourage good, honest, talented, properly motivated and knowledgeable individuals to be candidates for public office at the local, state or national levels?

These days, this question seems to be raised relative to the four top individuals seeking the U.S. presidency, the world’s most powerful elective office. However, the same question can be asked relative to city commissioners, county commissions, boards of education, mayors, state legislators and governors and members of the U.S. House and Senate.

Are today’s candidates for the presidency the best this country can offer?

• A flawed former U.S. senator and secretary of state, a political insider for 30 years, a very wealthy individual who is identified in public polls as being a liar and untrustworthy.

• A U.S. senator from Vermont, a long-time political insider running for the presidency on a socialist platform.

• A first-term U.S. senator from Texas, a legal scholar with few friends or supporters among his Senate colleagues, a super conservative and a gifted debater.

• A business entrepreneur who has had many successes, as well as failures, who is untested in public office, is self-funding his primary election efforts and has a style and manner that generates strong support, as well as strong dislike.

Are these four candidates the best this country has to offer for the world’s most powerful elected leader? Are they the most qualified, the most respected, most honest, most knowledgeable and best leaders this country has to offer?

A fifth candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a former U.S. House member, who once was considered a long shot, might end up as the GOP’s nominee. So far, he has been able to dodge personal attacks on his character or record as an officeholder.

This writer recently asked a highly respected and successful news executive why more talented and able individuals do not seek public office, specifically the presidency and congressional seats.

His answer:

“Technology, which has transformed our lives, made government people less relevant because they no longer have more information than average citizens who now can get all the information they need or want on their iPhones.

“The result is that fewer people of stature see politics now as a worthwhile profession, which leads to superficial people and debates with mainly name calling, and our two major political parties with little or no influence. And, there is an underlying tide for change in America that our media and most politicians have missed. Establishment and elites talk mainly with people like themselves, while the public moves elsewhere.

“The present day media has now built its business almost entirely on personalities, especially show business people to sell their products in print, on TV and to attract notice on Facebook and the Internet, etc., etc.

“The problem is, none of these media people and politicians know anything about the thoughts and desires of ordinary Americans, and none of them have access to or a desire to pay for the expensive, time-consuming research required to understand American politics today.

“Even the media conveyors of political news themselves are now nothing more than show business-type personalities talking from a script they are handed and who are without any idea of what they are talking about.”

Closing his analysis of the current political scene and why so few talented individuals, men and women who could add so much to government and the betterment of our country, choose to enter politics, he said, “Our only hope is that our brilliant American political system is still, as usual, more important than the political players and that, in the end, ‘the Republic will stand.'”

This thoughtful response should merit the attention of those in the media. There also is the matter of why a talented and able individual would decide to run for a high public office when the media will expose every facet of the person’s life, good and bad, and the family loses any vestige of privacy. Can the desire to be a good citizen and offer public service override the negatives of a highly publicized and costly campaign?

Something needs to be done to encourage more properly motivated and honest men and women to make the sacrifice of serving in public office. The future of our country, to a large degree, depends on the quality of those serving in public offices.