The key to success in politics these days is something called the "likability quotient," according to many pundits. Simply put, it means voters tend to favor candidates they like, people they can relate to.
President George Bush's elections to office were both traced to his "likability quotient." He seemed like a guy many other guys would be comfortable sharing a beer with.
And it's not limited to Republicans - or even men. Days before the Pennsylvania Democratic primary this spring Hillary Clinton downed a beer and a shot in a bar with a group of factory workers. She won the election.
The "likability quotient" explains why Barack Obama likes to be photographed playing basketball and Sarah Palin relates stories about moose hunting. It's the reason John McCain visits factories and Joe Biden eats at church suppers.
Political candidates want to be viewed as regular folks, friends and neighbors.
It must be good political strategy, but it frightens me.
I don't get to many bars, but I was out with friends recently. As we discussed the merits of the various presidential candidates I looked around the room. All of them were good friends; wonderful and bright people. I don't want any of them to be the next president.
Do people go to a tavern for a drink and suddenly think, "Gee, Joe over there would make a great President of the United States - as soon as he sobers up." Let's hope not.
Our next president should be the best of the best, not a regular "Joe." The leader of the free world should be the smartest, wisest and bravest of us all.
It doesn't matter that McCain is old; that Obama is young; that Palin is a hockey mom; that Biden is a devoted father.
Only one thing matters - who is the best person for the most important job on the planet.
The stakes are high this presidential election. Our country is struggling with a weak economy, war, terrorism, a failing health care system, a huge national debt, partisan politics and so much more.
We need a president who can earn our respect with his wisdom and courage, someone who can make the tough and unpopular decisions that have been put off far too long.
Our next president shouldn't be a friend. He should be a leader.
Fred Herbst is Times of Ti editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org