All American citizens are basically hiring managers for the role of president of the United States, so we ought to be pretty familiar with what the position entails. But most of us stopped paying attention to the details after junior high, when we learned something like this, from the Scholastic website:
As chief executive, he enforces laws, treaties, and court rulings; develops federal policies; prepares the national budget; and appoints federal officials. He also approves or vetoes acts of Congress and grants pardons.
But here's a less official, more adult rundown courtesy of the Washington Post's Joel Achenbach:
The Reagan Library faxed me three days in Ronald Reagan's "daily diary" from 1982 and 1983. I asked for typical days. What jumps out is how tightly structured they were, how jammed with meetings, almost all with senior staff by his side. On one day, Reagan went from the residence to the Oval Office at 9:03 a.m.; on another day at 9:02 a.m.; on the third at 9 a.m. He punched out at 5:41 p.m., 5:07 p.m. and 5:04 p.m., respectively.
Never known for long hours, so detached from details that he didn't recognize one of his own Cabinet secretaries, Reagan somehow succeeded in advancing his agenda.
The current president wanted to be like Reagan. He is similarly a creature of habit. He's an early starter, usually arriving at the Oval Office at 6:45 a.m., according to his press secretary, Dana Perino. His chief of staff, Joshua Bolten, will be nearby, but will give him a few minutes to sip his coffee in peace.
This past Wednesday was a typical day. The record shows that Bush had breakfast at 7:15 a.m. with the king of Jordan. He had his usual 8 a.m. intelligence briefing. He held meetings with senior staff and the secretary of defense. At 10:40, he motorcaded to the Capitol, where, at 11:05, he participated in a ceremony honoring heart surgeon Michael DeBakey. Back at the White House, his schedule included a photo op with organ donors, Perino said. At 2:10 p.m., he had a meeting with some business leaders, and at 2:30, he met with Republicans from Congress. At 3:35, he briefly addressed the media about National Small Business Week.
When you step back and take a hard look at the position, you realize just how unusual it would be to find someone very good at press briefings, photo ops, and official breakfasts, as well as treaty enforcement, federal policy development, and national budget preparations. That's probably why Achenbach says that "the last century is littered with failed or mediocre presidencies."
Still, one hopes there are kids sitting in their middle-school classrooms, reading the job description in their 10-pound textbooks and thinking: That sounds pretty good to me. I'd like to do that. After all, as my older sister once said, "If you're going to play house, somebody's got to be the mom."