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The Defining Issue of the 2012 Presidential Race?
Illustration by Amanda Duffy

Wisdom

Amy E. Black is associate professor of political science and chair of the department of politics and international relations at Wheaton College in Illinois.

Forecasting election outcomes is dangerous business, but I can make one prediction with reasonable certainty: Whomever we elect President next year will face significant challenges on at least one political issue that affects millions of lives and costs billions of government dollars, yet no one will debate it in the course of the presidential campaign.

In the buildup to the 2000 election, who could have predicted that the person elected President would face three coordinated terrorist attacks on our own soil and lead the nation into its longest war? As we prepared to vote in 2008, few expected that uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East would topple autocratic regimes and threaten several others.

As we evaluate the 2012 presidential candidates, we should think first and foremost about choosing the person we trust most to make wise decisions on whatever broad range of issues will come his or her way. We should choose the candidate who demonstrates the best judgment.

Every official campaign publication, every public speech by the candidate and his or her representatives, every utterance, however scripted or off-the-cuff, is significant. All of these communications explicitly or implicitly receive the candidate's approval and reveal aspects of his or her character. We expect rhetoric will be hard-hitting and tough, but we should also expect it to be accurate and fair. Those who are quick to distort and skirt the edge of the truth publicly are even less likely to make wise choices when no one appears to be looking.

It is always a great ...

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The Defining Issue of the 2012 Presidential Race?
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November 2011

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