Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

A 2016 checklist from a man who knows what it takes

Robert Gates, who served the last two presidents as secretary of defense, is not known for pulling punches. And he leaves no jabs or hooks left unthrown in an op-ed in the Washington Post describing "The kind of president we need."

Reading through Gates' list, it strikes me that a shorter way to put it would be: the opposite of Barack Obama and near-opposite of George W. Bush. If that sounds like a contradiction, given the differences between those two men, consider that both men concentrated power in the executive branch, worsened our position internationally due to misguided foreign policies, and left problems unsolved because of their inability to work with Congress, to name a few examples.

Excerpted below are the qualities Gates lists. I'll let y'all comment on which qualities apply to the various candidates running for president now. But be forewarned, if you say all of them -- even the one about being honest with the public -- apply to Hillary Clinton, I'm just going to laugh at you.

1) "We need a president who understands the system of government bequeathed to us by the Founders -- and grasps the reality that with power divided among three branches of government, building coalitions and making compromises are the only ways anything lasting can get done. ... The next president needs to have a core philosophy and set of principles, but he or she also needs to be a pragmatic and skilled political leader -- like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan."

2) "Our next leader needs to speak truthfully to the American people. 'Spinning' has been a part of the political process since ancient Greece, but as mistrustful as most Americans are today of political leaders, the new president must speak candidly and honestly to the people. ... We have a lot of problems, and the next president has to be honest with Americans about their seriousness and complexity -- and how to tackle them effectively."

3) "The next president must be resolute. He or she must be very cautious about drawing red lines in foreign policy, but other leaders must know that crossing a red line drawn by the president of the United States will have serious -- even fatal -- consequences."

4) "Our new leader must be a problem-solver. Recently, we have elected presidents with a conservative agenda or a liberal agenda. This election, how about we look for one whose agenda is just making things work? ... We need a president who understands that (our) problems are so complex and so big that overcoming them will require bipartisan support through multiple Congresses and presidencies."

5) "We need a president who is restrained. Restrained to respect the prerogatives of the other branches of government. Restrained in rhetoric, avoiding unrealistic promises, exaggerated claims of success and dire consequences if his or her initiatives are not adopted exactly as proposed. Restrained in expanding government when so much of what we have works so poorly. Restrained from foreign adventures and from using military force as a first option rather than a last resort. Restrained from questioning the motives of those who disagree and treating them as enemies with no redeeming qualities."

6) "Finally, the most important quality for our next leader at this juncture in our history: The new president must be a true unifier of Americans. The nation is divided over how to deal with challenges such as immigration, the quality of public education, economic inequality, our role abroad and more. ... We must hope that the president we elect next year will again and again remind all Americans of our common destiny, and that our fate as a nation and as a people is bound up with one another. Our new leader should appeal, in President Abraham Lincoln's words, to 'the better angels of our nature.'"

Tell us which candidates tick the most of these boxes -- or maybe who best exemplifies one particular quality -- below.

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.