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The Expansionist
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
Best Ticket. In looking at the dismal choices afforded the American people by the two major parties, I am sad to see that the lead contenders are, to my mind, utterly unfit to become President of the United States. That is not to say that no one is qualified to serve, and of course the President doesn't do it all alone but heads a Federal Government of 12 million people. The issue is what one conceives a President to be, and how the various candidates qualify by that standard.
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Is a President a manager? policymaker? cheerleader? military commander? legislator-in-chief? moral leader? role model? paterfamilias? friend? movie star? social critic? pundit? intellectual leader? What?
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Each category has its own hierarchy of best choices. For quick reference, here is a list of the major-party candidates (alphabetical order) with their background in brief.
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Democrats:
Joe Biden – Senator
Hillary Clinton – Senator
Christopher Dodd – Senator
John Edwards – Senator
Mike Gravel – Senator
Dennis Kucinich – Major city mayor, Congressman
Barack Obama – Senator
Bill Richardson – Governor, Congressman, Ambassador, special envoy, hostage negotiator
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Republicans:
Rudolph Giuliani – Major city mayor, prosecutor
Mike Huckabee – Governor
Duncan Hunter – Congressman
John McCain – Senator
Ron Paul – Congressman
(Willard) Mitt Romney – Governor, corporate executive
Fred Thompson – Senator
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If the President is conceived to be first and foremost a manager overseeing the huge Federal bureaucracy, then experience in executive positions, such as governor, big-city mayor, or CEO of a major corporation, rises to the fore. Part of the function of an executive is to spot talent and select submanagers whom he can trust. That entails people skills and management intuition. BUT the President doesn't make such decisions alone. Rather, he is pressed to place in the highest management positions, people of his own party proffered by the top echelons of the groups responsible for his election, which means not just party functionaries but also fund-raisers and major contributors. Some contributors expect something for their investment, a quid pro quo.
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The most experienced managers are the mayors, governors, and corporate executives: Giuliani, Kucinich, Huckabee, Richardson, Romney. But remember that managing the federal bureaucracy is for the most part the job of the highest-level civil servants of those myriad government departments, semi-autonomous agencies, and public corporations that constitute the "permanent government", which goes on regardless of who is in the White House
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The basic role of the President and department heads (usually called "Secretary" of this or that) is to determine the direction and goals that the bureaucrats are to work toward.
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That brings us to the actual role of the President, which combines the roles of policymaker, legislator-in-chief, moral leader, social critic, pundit and, ultimately intellectual leader. A real President, unlike the current posterboy for a collective Presidency, the puppet Dumbya, must have smarts and insight, or at least the judgment to choose the right advisors and make nuanced choices among actually-available alternatives, all of which may sometimes be bad.
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Commander-in-Chief. There is only one candidate known for his military experience, John McCain, but he was never a general nor part of a high strategy-planning body. He is in fact known mainly for a military failure, having his plane shot down and being held captive by the Communist North Vietnamese. His long imprisonment under deplorable conditions may have broken his mind, because the man is just plain nuts. You don't like his stance on some major public policy question? Just wait. It will change. Or he'll adopt another stance on another policy issue that is absolutely inconsistent with his stances on the first.
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What if we conceive of the President as legislator-in-chief, who not only proposes the outlines of legislation but actually steers the drafting and passage of legislation? Lyndon Johnson is credited as the best President at getting his program thru Congress, and not just because of sentimental desires on the part of the people, impressed upon Congress, to enact programs that John F. Kennedy did not live to see thru to completion.
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Plainly, legislators have the edge at understanding how best to get measures thru Congress. All eight of the Democrats and four of the seven Republicans are now or have been legislators at the national level. Obama was a legislator at the state level before his rise to the national legislature.
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But it can't be just any legislator. It has to be an effective legislator, someone in the leadership who rallies the troops and leads the fite. None of the presidential candidates qualifies in that regard.
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A Question of Character. You don't want a person of detestable character setting the goals that the enormous, powerful, and intrusive Federal Government will pursue during his entire tenure. Morality counts, as does the source of a person's morality. If a person is intimidated into behaving only by fear of being found out or being punished by Divine Judgment, and his morality derives basically from superstition or fear of disapproval, that is very different from a person who is guided by the Golden Rule and who never wavers from considering the rights and interests of others, be they other individuals, other nations, or other species.
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Nor do you want someone who tolerates the intolerable. As far as I'm concerned, these double moral standards rule out Rudolph Giuliani, a brazen adulterer; Mike Huckabee, a devoted advocate of superstition-based morality; Mitt Romney, who has shown himself to be absolutely untrustworthy for "flipflopping" on basic issues like abortion and who is part of a bizarre religious cult; Hillary Clinton, who tolerated brazen adultery on the part of her disgusting husband and who has flipflopped on abortion, at once coyly suggesting that abortion on demand is just fine morally and that this thing that is just fine should be rare!
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Ron Paul is a radical Libertarian, devoted to a cult of selfishness that basically resolves to "every man for himself": 'If you can't make it on your own, that's your problem. The rich are rich because they deserve to be rich. The poor are poor because they deserve to be poor. And if that means that you can't afford healthcare, then you deserve to die from accident or disease that people with health insurance could recover from. If you can't find a job, you deserve to starve to death. It's all your fault, and it is not the obligation of society to help the underdog. Underdogs are where they are because they deserve to be.' Ron Paul is slime, an enemy of society.
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Judgment is a major consideration in evaluating candidates for any job or elective office. Barack Obama admits to having used cocaine. Cocaine! This isn't binge drinking we're talking about. This is a hugely dangerous drug that society became so concerned about that we outlawed it. Everyone in the leadership of society was telling everyone, including Barack Obama during his teens, that cocaine was dangerous, but Obama used it anyway. Today we are to believe that that was a youthful indiscretion and he knows better now. Some even suggest that his experience as a cokehead enables him to reach and warn kids away from hard drugs. No, absolutely not. The contrary: What his experience and that of all those other highly publicized individuals who used hard drugs but go on to recover and make a great life for themselves really says, extremely powerfully, is "You can use all the drugs you want and just give them up anytime you want, with no adverse consequences. Go, have fun. You're a kid. Nobody's going to hold you accountable." Barack Obama has ruled himself out of consideration as far as I'm concerned.
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Dennis Kucinich was attacked for saying he saw a UFO, even tho he said plainly that he saw something in the sky that he couldn't identify, which made it an "unidentified" flying object, so yes, technically, he did see a UFO. He didn't say he saw little green men step out of a flying saucer, or that he was abducted by aliens, taken into a spaceship and anally probed. He didn't say anything remotely like that. But people who want to make fun of him, for little more reason than that he is short and from Cleveland, one of the Nation's kneejerk laughingstocks, seized upon that UFO statement to make Kucinich out to be some kind of nut. His personal life has been filled with difficulties, and he has wavered over key issues like abortion, but he has a generally principled voting record, including sponsorship of a universal, single-payer healthcare system. Is he of presidential caliber? Perhaps not, if one conceives of the President as a giant, a star, a larger-than-life cheerleader to take us into a new "Camelot".
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That brings us to the issue of star quality. Dennis Kucinich is a little man physically, and, tho certainly not ugly, he is generally regarded as a little funnylooking. Looks matter to the electorate. We want a President who is handsome, strong, a role model for our kids, the equal of anyone on the world stage, who can go toe-to-toe with Putin or the Butchers of Beijing and come out on top. We want a hero.
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So who has matinee-idol star quality, that combination of good looks and rugged charisma that would win him the role of President in a Hollywood movie? Mitt Romney is plainly the best choice to act the part. He is thoroly handsome, in a rugged sort of way. The only other 'actor' who comes close in physical beauty is John Edwards, who is a little too much the prettyboy. His notoriously expensive haircuts and excessive attention to his appearance in a video, now on YouTube, in which he is shown primping for some public appearance to the tune "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story, may have prompted the loathsome Radical Rightwinger Ann Coulter to call him a "faggot" — tho I am unclear whether Coulter also thinks she has information that Edwards is homosexual. Certainly no followup has investigated that possibility. I would love to see an openly-gay President, even if it should not be me, but John Edwards is not openly gay, so is presumed heterosexual.
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None of the other candidates, of either party, has the handsome movie-star quality of Romney and Edwards. Even the actual TV actor, Fred Thompson, doesn't have star quality. He is, instead, almost an anti-star, old and really unpleasant to look at. And yes, voters are 'superficial' enuf not to want to have to look at that face every day for four years.
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Cheerleader-in-Chief. The President is not just a government functionary. He is head of state, not just the top supervisor in the administration of the Executive Branch. In his person resides the majesty of the Nation. He should have gravitas and charisma, charm and wit. When he meets foreign leaders or speaks before the United Nations, he must be seen to represent the best of us and be seen as well as being able to deliver on the promises and threats he might make. He should be at once paterfamilias and movie star, someone whose counsel we value and who makes us proud. The Kennedy Administration wasn't called "Camelot" for nothing. The White House during the Kennedy years was a palace of culture and refinement, filled with luminaries from all fields. JFK's press conferences were something people actually tuned in to rather than avoided, because he was funny and charming, not just on top of the issues and able to spout statistics in answer to technical questions. Yes, he knew his stuff. But he was more, he was like George Washington with a dazzling smile.
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Who could be that to us from this crowd? Anyone? No one has come even close in the 44 years since Kennedy's death. Ronald Reagan, that old ham actor who played President so convincingly that a lot of people thought he actually was President, when in truth he, like Dumbya, was just a puppet for a collective leadership, the public face of a faceless conservative cabal, was called "the Great Communicator". It is to laff. Whether he was talking about National Pickle Week or the challenges of the Cold War, he was always the same: studied, in character, dignified but relaxed. Grandpa. In his person, he excited no passions for nor against. But that's not what builds a Peace Corps or Food for Peace program, much less an Alliance for Progress. When Kennedy died, the luster and hope of a generation was shattered, crushed under the weight of all that is wrong with the world. And whereas we had started to believe that change is possible, progress can happen, and we really can bring peace and freedom to the whole world, when the man in whom we invested so much of our collective aspirations was killed, we crashed to the ground. "Abandon hope all ye who enter here." That's Dante's inscription at the gates of Hell. And our view of the world since then has been dark.
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People lost in the dismalness of a world without hope don't usually exert themselves to change it. Few people take Eleanor Roosevelt's counsel, "It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." Far more would say, "Don't curse the darkness. Lite a fuze".
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Barack Obama is offered as the man who can return us to Kennedyesque optimism and pride in our self-assigned duty to be the City on a Hill that is a lite unto the world. Does he have that kind of magic? I don't see it. He comes across as a nice man whose congenial and easygoing personableness warms audiences. But will he inspire us higher?
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John Edwards speaks ardently about unfairness. But he presently comes across as too negative, too much inclined to condemn the present, to show us the future. That might just be the distortion of his message by media concerned about sound bites. His heart is in the right place. He's handsome/purty. He's smart. He might just be able to do it, lead us into a new "Camelot".
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Among all candidates of both parties, one is plainly the best qualified to serve in government, because he has done so in various capacities. "And the winner for Best Résumé by a candidate for President is ... [drumroll] Bill RICHARDSON!"
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So, from what I have seen so far, the best ticket for the Nation would be John Edwards for President, Bill Richardson for Vice President. I have spoken. If the voters of Iowa now torn between Hillary and Obama decide they can't actually bring themselves to vote for either of them, they have a compromise candidate they should all be able to agree upon. And if John Edwards pulls a win out of Iowa, he might be on his way to giving the Democrats, and the Nation, the best chance we have had in a generation to return to the optimism with which we launched this great experiment in 1776.
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(P.S. Ordinarily, I would have put this blog post in phonetic spelling first and traditional orthography (T.O.) second, but I am pressed for time. I personally would much prefer to read the Fanetik, but I imagine most readers would skip to the T.O. anyway.)
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(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 3,897 — for Israel.)



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