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September 29, 2012

Slate: 4 crucial qualities a president needs

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WASHINGTON —

Alas, when candidates are asked questions that might shed some light on these abilities, they run or dodge. They're trained not to answer hypothetical questions and to tell only heroic tales about their past.

Well, nuts. That doesn't mean we can't try to ask these questions anyway. It's hard to say which attributes are most necessary for a president, if for no other reason than we don't know what he will face. It's also hard to put your finger on how to measure certain qualities that will be revealed only under the pressure of a presidency. There is no training for the Oval Office. Still, we've got to do something with all of these television hours, rallies and conversations with the neighbors, so consider four qualities to guide the way we evaluate candidates for the job:

Political skill: Campaigns give us a good idea of a candidate's priorities, but can they read the political landscape they'll face when they get to office? Are they honest enough to win voters' trust but ruthless enough cut a deal with their enemies when necessary? Are they comfortable with the schmoozing, backslapping and ego-massaging that comes with the job?

Management ability: Is the candidate focused enough to follow an overarching vision, but nimble enough to tweak that vision when real-world events intervene? Can they admit mistakes and learn from them? Can they sift through complex ideas? Can they recognize baloney when it comes from their staff or supporters? Do they know how to hire a good team?

Persuasiveness: Do they know how to deliver a good speech? Do they know when to stay quiet? Do they know how to read public opinion? Is it possible for a president to shortcircuit Congress by taking an issue directly to the people?

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