Would you hire any of the candidates?

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Memo to: U.S. Business Community

From: Human Resources Department

Re: Hiring a U.S. President

In response to your request to assess the candidates for the position opening in January 2013, we have put together a job description, and offer key points on the five major candidates seeking the position.

Job description: While this position requires varied abilities to address an incredibly wide range of topics and issues, we have decided to focus on three top tasks and skills. First, given that our economy has suffered through a severe recession and a grossly under-performing recovery over the past four-plus years, the next U.S. president will need a strong understanding of the economy and the impact of economic policies on entrepreneurship, business and investment.

Second, as we were reminded with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the world can be dangerous and unpredictable. At the same time, international markets present tremendous opportunities for businesses and workers. The next U.S. president will need to understand and balance these foreign policy realities.

Third, and finally, the position ideally calls for a person that is trustworthy and principled, while possessing the abilities to communicate, to work well with others and compromise when needed, and to lead the entire nation.

President Barack Obama. Mr. Obama has made clear that he would like to keep this position for another four years. Unfortunately, he has chosen a leftist ideology over sound economics and policy. That’s manifest in his unrelenting pursuit of higher taxes on entrepreneurs and investors, as well as his health care and energy policies that explicitly work to raise costs and hurt U.S. competitiveness.

On foreign policy, his performance has been mixed. His willingness to generally continue the war against terrorists has been a pleasant surprise. At the same time, though, he has yet to show real leadership in the face of an Iran on the brink of going nuclear. For good measure, beyond his decision to finally send to Congress and sign three trade deals originally negotiated by his predecessor, his administration has done nothing to advance free trade.

Finally, while possessing excellent communication skills, Mr. Obama has failed to work and compromise with a Congress of the opposite party (unlike the last Democratic president), and he has done more to divide rather than lead the nation.

Newt Gingrich. The former speaker of the House of Representatives seems to largely understand the economic and foreign policy challenges that face the nation. And his ideas on tax, regulatory, trade and foreign policies clearly would point the nation in a far more positive direction.

But while Gingrich is a very smart guy, his intelligence and policy acumen seem to be packaged with a lack of discipline, humility and judgment. His communication skills are excellent, until they give way to saying whatever pops into his head. Also, his work for Freddie Mac raises questions regarding his principles, while his personal life raises doubts about trustworthiness.

Ron Paul. The Texas congressman grasps the ills of big government, high taxes and loose monetary policy. But his judgment is in serious doubt on various issues, but most glaringly on foreign policy and national security. Paul tends to blame America first when it comes to international conflicts, and his isolationist foreign policy would leave the U.S. and much of the world at risk of terrorists and rogue nations.

Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor certainly is a polished communicator, and seems able to work with people across the spectrum. The problem is that if Romney is hired, it’s unclear who would be filling the position.

Would it be the liberal who ran for senator and became governor in Massachusetts, or would it be the conservative who has been running for president for more than four years? For example, would it be the current Mitt Romney who favors lower capital gains taxes, or the earlier Romney who was in opposition? Would it be the Romney who wants to repeal ObamaCare, or the creator of Massachusetts’ RomneyCare, upon which key aspects of ObamaCare rests?

Hiring Romney amounts to a bet that could have a huge payoff or be a major disappointment, depending on which Romney shows up for the job.

Rick Santorum. The former senator from Pennsylvania has shown perseverance during the campaign, and his principles appear solid. For good measure, his agenda of regulatory and tax relief (including, for example, eliminating the death tax, and reducing personal income, corporate income, capital gains and dividends tax rates), coupled with an emphasis on reining in government spending, would be a vast improvement over current policy.

On trade, though, Santorum has a mixed record, voting for numerous free trade accords, but also voting against NAFTA and for some protectionist measures. Santorum also looks willing to work with Israel in doing what is necessary to eliminate Iran’s nuclear threat.

Obviously, this is a very limited assessment of each candidate for the job. We urge leaders in the business community to visit each candidate’s website for further research, and to turn to trusted advisers for additional assessments. Here’s hoping that the person eventually chosen fits the job description listed above.

Raymond J. Keating is the chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. His new book is “Chuck” vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV.