So what do we need to know about what presidential and vice presidential candidates need to know? The best a voter can do is attempt to discern - amid the kabuki theater that is the modern presidential campaign -- a candidate's values, temperament and, yes, ideology - which is to say his political philosophy.
To perceive where a candidate really intends to take the country requires some probing. Reporters could help - if, instead of playing "gotcha," they'd ask the candidates how they will decide such pivotal questions as these:
- Should we go along with our West European friends who are surrendering their sovereignty to the United Nations, to "world courts" and to various non-governmental organizations? Or should we zealously guard America's independence?
- Should the United States continue to make the sacrifices required to remain a superpower? Or would we be better off relinquishing such burdens and embracing what Fareed Zakaria and other left-leaning foreign policy experts call a "post-American" world?
- Is it imperative to reverse America's increasing dependence on foreign oil as quickly as possible? If so, we'll have to drill just about everywhere while also aggressively developing alternative energy sources. And if that means not cutting carbon dioxide emissions for the next few years (causing the eco-left to scream), and authorizing some government intervention (which will drive the libertarian right crazy) in order to break oil's monopoly as a transportation fuel, is it worth it?
- Are we fighting a real war against Islamist terrorist regimes and movements - one that requires some tough and even unconventional weapons? Or is terrorism just a criminal justice problem that police, lawyers and courts are competent to handle?
- Should America invest in a comprehensive missile defense system? Or is it safe to assume that our contemporary enemies can be deterred, as were the Soviets, by the prospect of "mutually assured destruction"?
If you know where the candidates stand on these issues - and where you stand - deciding for whom to vote should not be too difficult.