A simple and deceptively tricky question: What does a president do?
If you had to put together the Help Wanted ad for the position of chief executive, what would you write? Something like: "CEO needed to supervise 3 million employees. Must be at least 35, native-born, willing to work at home. Spectacular public failures likely."
The presidency is the most famous job in America (with all due respect to Oprah), and probably the hardest. The country is currently trying to fill the position. We have three applicants still in the running. What we don't tend to do, despite obsessive attention to this contest, is talk much about what the job entails. We talk instead about hot-button issues, the latest gaffe, the new sound bite, the polls, the electoral map. Presidential campaigns glancingly deal with the institution of the presidency while focusing on the more urgent issue of winning.
The closest thing we've seen to a job description on the campaign trail has been the 3 a.m. phone call ad, a caricature of the president as the national guardian, and one that still doesn't quite tell you what a president does during working hours.