A Brainstorming Blog: Scoring the President

I’ve been working on a way to counter the arguments of the 100 percenters, the people who believe that if you support President Aquino on one thing, you are a “yellow-tard” who follows the President around singing his praises. Or, the opposite. If you criticize him you are disloyal to the Philippines. I’ve found that this black and white positioning, “you are for me or against me”, is common in the Philippines. It is an outcome of the notion of “face” which overlays fact and reason with a quality of personal engagement that is highly defensive and often irrational.
So you have clans and families fighting one another to the death and bloggers running around as little totalitarians.
A technique that seems to work in countering the “100 percenters” is one that uses a numerical scale to evaluate the President. For example, I respond to the “yellow-tard” accusation with the simple statement:
  • “I rate President Aquino 6.5 on job performance on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being high. The rating is down from last year’s 7.5.”
Why does it work? Because if they apply the same thinking numerically that they use in their slanderous “yellow-tard” accusations, they would have to score the President a “0”. Now, they might be inclined to do that for the sake of making a bold statement, but it is absolute nonsense. And doing so paints them as emotional, irrational and disingenuous.
Invariably, they skip right past the statement without response. They don’t want to get onto the slippery slope of having to defend their extremist positioning with reason.
But if you asked me how I came up with 6.5, I’d have to admit it is loosey goosey. It is the artilleryman’s technique of bracketing the target. 7.0 seems too high and 6.0 seems too low. So I peg it at 6.5. Last year it was better because the President had not gone “political” in attacking the Chief Justice, and he had not let the HR Bill languish unattended.
I need to come up with a better system or risk being cut to shreds for sloppy rating standards.
So I need some components I can score and maybe weight. The components have to be comprehensive enough to represent the whole of the President’s job performance. But not be so detailed that people go numb trying to absorb them all. In other words, I couldn’t do a rating of each of the 19 cabinet positions as a part of some technical evaluation. Eyes would glaze over.
Let me start a little brainstorming right here. I’ll type some ideas and start to compile a list of job qualification skills for the presidency. It will be innovative. Completely new. Maybe a tad outlandish, or brilliant, I don’t know. We can withhold judgment until the end, in proper brainstorming fashion.
First of all, I eliminate from consideration the President’s personal life. He is entitled to one, so I don’t care what car he drives, who he dates, or whether or not he plays computer games. I do care if he oversleeps and is not on the job a decent number of hours. I also do care about the pubic persona he presents, for he represents the Philippines and Filipinos. If he swears like a sailor or goes to the back wall of the UN to take a leak, that would be bad. If he projects calm, decisive strength, maturity, intelligence and thoughtfulness, that would be good. Perception is reality, in a way.
  • “Presentation”will be the first quality on which he is scored. How “presidential” is Mr. Aquino?
One significant area that engages several cabinet secretaries has to do with how the Philippines and Filipinos engage with other nations. Immigration, OFW’s, imports and exports, tourism, customs, territorial rights. It is more than foreign affairs. I’ve concocted a broader name for it.
  • “Global engagement” captures the disparate elements nicely. That will be the second quality on which the President is scored. How well is he shepherding the various elements of Philippine global affairs?
The island structure of the Philippines is a real headache. Great for beaches. Bad for getting electricity and gas and foodstuffs distributed. Or to get a car from point A to point B. Hell, it is hard to get a car from Pasay City to Kaloocan. We need an evaluation that absorbs several cabinet posts dealing with how we move people and goods and power around. Infrastructure is a fine word. As used here, it means more than trains and roads. It means internet service and gasoline and rice stocks and roads and air service and ferries that don’t sink. It is the physical process of moving stuff and communicating.  Phones and mass media are included here. They form the framework for exchanging information effectively.
  • “Infrastructure” is fundamentally important.
China is flexing its naval muscles right over there a couple of hundred miles. Defense of Philippine interests is critically important. But why do we defend against anything? Well, basically for security. The same reason we have police. Or a court system that lets us remedy damages against us. Or hospitals that keep us healthy.  Is it bizarre to put defense in the same bucket as health care and the courts? I think not. The fundamental goal is to make sure Filipinos are well cared for and protected, and if the method is guns or courtrooms or hospitals, it matters not. It matters whether we are healthy and secure. Protections against global warming should also go in this bucket. Bonding as a collective is why nations exist.
  • “Health and security” is therefore our fourth subordinate measure.
I’m going to suggest a different concept than “the economy” as an element of presidential success. It is not a striking enough term for what I believe the President should be doing. He should be leading the Philippines to greater wealth. That is the whole purpose of managing economic performance. But wealth-building overlaps with social prerogatives, too, one of the most pronounced being out-of-control population growth and another being management of scarce resources.  It is important to see the world as capable of generating a limited amount of wealth from shrinking resources, and to judge whether or not the Philippines is acquiring its proper share. Today it is not. Functions such as tourism and trade fit in this bucket. Credit ratings. Investor interest in the Philippines. And also we must distinguish between short-term wealth building and long term gains.  Not sacrifice one for the other.
  • “Wealth building” is the fifth component upon which we will measure the President.
We have the same situation with regard to corruption. It is not profound enough to form a rating on its own. Corruption exists because Filipinos accept cheating as an appropriate value. When resources are limited, you bend the rules to get a bigger share. So corruption is related to poverty, and it is related to social values, the notions of right and wrong. How, exactly, does the Philippines fit together, socially? Are its social institutions constructive? Are values? It would be wrong to assign the president “blame” for values long in the making, but it would not be wrong to assign to him the expectation that he would recognize the deficiencies that exist, and have ideas about correcting them. Going on a drive to jail corrupt people is not enough to score high on this element. Awareness of dysfunctional Philippine values and behaviors is important. Education goes into this box, too, for it is in the schools that good values and behaviors are taught. Or not taught.
  • “Social cohesion” is the term we will assign for now to this element of the President’s mandate.
That’s a pretty powerful list, I think. And about the right length. Is it comprehensive? If we had an issue, could we rightfully place it in one of these buckets? I’m thinking that we could. But we do need a timeline on this. A given president can only do so much during his six-year stint. Global warming, for instance, or getting rid of poverty, or improving education. These have a long timeline to them. But a president can move incrementally toward a goal. So the President would remiss if he did not have a plan that fit his actions into goals that construct history in a strong and progressive way, from the front end.
  • “Timeline architecture” is the final element, the glue, the set of priorities.
So that is our starting point. We have seven elements on which to score the President. Each is substantial.
It’s time for a breather. All this thinking is exhausting. We must next confirm that this set of job performance criteria is comprehensive. Look for important areas that have not been addressed and try to plug them in. Also consider if some elements deserve a heavier weighting that others. And noodle with some scoring.
Here they are again, the things we would expect the President to take care of on his job:
  1. Presentation
  2. Global Engagement
  3. Infrastructure
  4. Health and security
  5. Wealth building
  6. Social cohesion
  7. Timeline architecture
If the Philippines could get significant advances in each area within a president’s six year term, the nation would be doing better than it has done in the past. Social cohesion, for example, has not moved much in 100 years.
Next up: (1) designing the overall rating scale, (2) rating “Presentation”, and (3) rating “Global Engagement”.

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