Setting the Record Straight

September 5, 2008

Vet, CEO Or U.S. President

President Judgment, Judgment, Judgment

     Much is being made during this presidential campaign about military experience and executive experience as important criteria for serving as president. It is all a bunch of bunk.
     Those who make those claims are either unknowledgeable about the job or trying to fool you. Neither service has anything to do with being an effective president.
     A chart of the military and gubernatorial experience of our presidents of the past 70 years is revealing. Between Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton, neither of which served in the military, all of our presidents did. So what?
     Only Dwight Eisenhower ever made any military decisions during his service. Only John Kennedy, George H.W. Bush and the would-be John McCain saw any significant action, and none of them actually made significant military decisions. Among all of the presidents we have had the past 70 years, which have served us best during times of military strife?
     Scratch military experience.
     Claiming executive experience in almost all cases means the candidate has been a governor of a state. So what? Maybe the odd one or two of them led a company, but who cares.
     Over that same 70-year period, we have had five former governors as president. FDR was one, but not until 1977 and Jimmy Carter did we elect another. Then followed Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. How did they serve us any better than the elder Bush, Gerald Ford, Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower and Harry Truman, who did not?
     Check the scenario to the right as one example of what a president faces and a governor does not. And neither does a company executive, who in that phone call would be told what is being done or has been done about the crisis at the plant because he or she relies on the expertise of those below him for snap decisions.
     Supporters of Sarah Palin struggle to tout her “executive experience” as qualifying her to be a heartbeat away from being president in a setting she has never seen and which she has acknowledged she does not understand. To support that idea, the analogy is drawn between a president of a country and the president of a company, a CEO if you prefer.
     The CEO can hire cronies, maneuver to get friends on the board of directors that would uphold his or her decisions, bribe people with lunches, plane trips and other favors, all of them legal in the private world, but illegal or impossible in government. The CEO’s aim is not to make money—he or she already has oodles—it is to try to accumulate more money than anyone else. The thrill for CEOs is in the making of money, not the having of it.
     Neither a CEO nor a governor has to elicit the help of peers to carry out a policy associated with his or her job. Each is on his own. A president, on the other hand, must conduct foreign policy by convincing his peers, heads of other nations, that his policy is the correct one. We all know what happened when former Gov. and CEO Bush tried to go it alone and how his peers view him today.
     A governor makes provincial decisions. Palin governs a state far more provincial than most; it has fewer than a million people even though it has the largest land mass. The object of the contrast she is intended to make—with Barack Obama, who has a similar number of years in elected office—represents a state of 13 million, but is one of only 535 contributing to decisions that affect more than 300 million people, and on international issues, possibly the entire world population and its future.
     Obama and other senators do not gain experience in making “executive decisions” by virtue of serving in Congress. The experience they do gain is immersion in national and international affairs, the very knowledge they need if they go on to serve in the White House.
     But most importantly, if one reviews the U.S. presidents of the past 60 years, one realizes there are no specific criteria to serving as president. It is a job that requires the ability to inspire people to follow, to develop policies that serve the national constituency and above all, backed by a lot of knowledge and at least a little experience, but most of all, judgment, judgment, judgment, but most of all, judgment based on knowledge.



September 2, 2008

Still Crazy After All These Weeks?

Anti-Obama Clinton Voters. Still Nuts?
     It is hard to believe, but after all that has been said and done on the national political scene in recent weeks, there supposedly are still Hillary Clinton supporters who claim they will not vote for Barack Obama, and instead would vote against their own self-interests.
     That is not unusual; Republicans, particularly minorities, who do not have six-figure incomes have been voting against their own self-interests for years.
     Oh, the Hillary supporters agree with Obama’s policy stances. After all, they are about the same as Hillary’s. Supposedly, it is be-cause of what he said while he was opposing her in the primaries, or he blocked the chance to elect the first U.S. female president, or whatever. It all comes down to spite. We say supposedly they feel this way, because much of this feeling seems to be generated by those practicing political dirty tricks.
     Nonetheless, the movement is damaging because a surprising number of people vote based on feelings instead of information.
     Here are some of the things Hillary supporters would face if they vote for the GOP ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin. And we won’t repeat the mistaken claim that such-and-such candidate “would” do these things, because they require the consent and help of Congress.
     The voters who gave Clinton just short of half the delegates to the late-August Democratic Convention in Denver typically did not have a $3 million estate they needed to protect from inheritance taxes, levied on estates valued at about $3 million. McCain/Palin want to do away with the tax, and, trying to play on your emotions, will refer to it as the “death tax.”
     Most Hillary supporters are not sexist, they did not benefit greatly from the Bush tax cut, they are beginning to suffer greatly from eight years of lax federal regulation, their health care is getting more expensive and harder to come by, it is getting harder to send their kids to college, their homes are not worth what they used to be, and their sons and daughters are more likely to be serving, and dying, in vain in Iraq while their neighbors in the ritzier suburb next door send their kids to binge- drink at a fraternity or sorority somewhere.
     McCain/Palin, as is now crystal clear, would deny the sons and daughters of Hillary supporters access to sex-education in the schools. They would rely instead on “abstinence-only” education, copying the Reagan solution to the drug problem—just say no. We know how effective “just say no” was and we now know the effect of the “abstinence-only” philosophy is called Bristol Palin. And absti-nence-only is a plank in the GOP platform, presented almost in ob-scurity on the truncated opening day of the GOP convention.        
     Every American’s future rides on decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, the freedoms being taken away in the guise of fighting terrorism, a woman’s right to choose what happens inside her own body, the ability of the poor to get some help from the government when they need it, and the nation’s overwhelming problem of dealing with all of the ramifications of allowing widespread poverty to continue.
     At 61, Hillary Clinton came of age as the women’s rights movement was gaining amazing strength, leading to major gains in women’s ability to compete in a man’s world. They still have a long way to go, but the McCain/Palin vice president who was younger than her daughter Bristol during that fight, believes in, besides opposing sex education:
     –Wants creationism taught in public schools along with evolution.
     –Opposes embryonic stem cell research even though scientists say the current ban on the use of them is hampering medical research.
     –Opposes gay rights, not just gay marriage, as in “preserving traditional marriage.”
     –Is for drilling for more oil, including in now-protected areas of her own state.
     –Is anti-abortion and would support a Supreme Court that would overturn Roe vs. Wade.
     –Opposes gun control, which Hillary actually does support.
     –Is so naïve about national and international issues, she would set the advances of women in the United States back to the days of the women’s rights struggle.
     And that is just what we know of her views so far. More probably is to come. None of these is a view that Hillary Clinton has endorsed.
     These are not just Palin’s personal views, all but teaching creationism are embodied in the Republican Platform.
     All of those examples happen to be major differences between the leadership provided by Democrats and Republicans. Voters need to understand that Republicans vote for members of their party primarily to protect their money.
     In other words, any person who would have voted for Hillary Clinton would be voting against his or her own self-interest by voting for a Republican. Non-rich Republicans have voting against their own interests for four decades now, but why would a Democrat, much less a Clinton supporter?
     Racists who cannot bring themselves to vote for Obama because of his race never belonged in the Democratic Party in the first place.
     So what about the Clinton supporters who are not racist? What is their excuse now?


August 30, 2008

Gustav & McCain’s Party

Irony Doesn’t Get Much Better Than This     

     What delicious irony for the Republicans on the eve of their national convention.
     They considered delaying their convention beyond its Labor Day opening because a major hurricane threatened to strike the country that day.
     But wait, the convention is set for St. Paul, Minn., about as far north as one can in the United States from New Orleans where landfall was expected. That part of the country has never seen a hurricane.
     About-to-be presidential nominee John McCain, not normally known for compassion and sensitivity, said it would be insensitive to hold such a gala convention while people are suffering the throes of a natural disaster. This would be a change. No one’s ever done that before so far away from the event.
     Louisiana mobilized unusually quickly and with great strength in preparation for the visit of Hurricane Gustav. The entire Louisiana National Guard was mobilized—all but the 360 members of its Air National Guard deployed in Iraq. Along with its fleet of helicopters. But the local guard solved that problem by borrowing helicopters from other state national guards.
     The people living in 3,000 specially provided trailer homes in the New Orleans Parish were warned they would have to be evacuated because their homes would not be safe in such a storm. The people in those trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency because their homes were destroyed on about the same date three years ago.
     FEMA, which won plaudits from the president just three years for its response to another New Orleans hurricane, geared up with unusual haste in the advance of Gustav. The same president was scheduled to deliver a speech at the GOP Convention on opening night.
     But neither the president nor the conventioneers would be able to revel so far away in St. Paul the on Labor Day if Gustav struck far away in New Orleans on the same day.
     That might be too much of a reminder at the opening of the GOP presidential candidates campaign of the two major disasters of the lame-duck president who preceded him, forever tied to the major twin failures—Hurricane Katrina and the invasion of Iraq.
     Sorry Louisianans, but what delicious irony. But then, The GOP convention schedule already was ironic. Opening on Labor Day, traditionally the day for workers, mainly union workers whose ranks have been decimated by years of Republican anti-labor policies.
     And what if it turned and hits Tampico, Mexico instead of the United States, would it be okay to party then?


August 23, 2008

Biden Was Best for President,

Is Best for Vice President

     As occupants of front-row seats for decades of D.C. doings, we have watched Joe Biden grow from someone who matured from simply playing at being a member of Congress to being a major player in world politics. He should be allowed to be an even bigger player.
     As much as Democrats love their candidate, Barack Obama, his biggest lack and his main Achilles’ heel in the upcoming campaign is his lack not only of experience, but also knowledge of foreign affairs.
     The replacement for the boob in the White House has a major mess to clean up over the next four to eight years, but he can stumble through on the domestic front —there are plenty of people who can help him out.
     In foreign affairs, the country needs not only to extricate itself from Iraq, do the right job in Afghanistan and finish it, it needs to restore its credibility around the world and demonstrate this is not really a nation of bumbling fools. And the nation needs to act with the greatest authority possible.
     Biden, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is in a position to hit the ground running as vice president to establish and lead a foreign-affairs team to get busy and right all the Bush administration wrongs.
     As Vladimir Putin has demonstrated in arranging to sidestep the Russian constitution and hang on to power for eight more years, and the invasion he led into Georgia to nip off its Russian-speaking sections, he has delusions of grandeur and perhaps illusions of Cold War II. His arguments for Georgia could easily be applied to Ukraine, which is half Russian-speaking, and who knows where else.
     Biden also has demonstrated a deep knowledge of all the other foreign-affairs issues the nation will face in the coming years, inside and outside of the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and has the respect of his peers abroad.
     As a senator for 36 years, he also has a background depth on the major domestic issues the nation has faced and the maturity that Obama seriously lacks. Biden has served in the past as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and could be a treasured adviser with that background.
     We all know that with tabloid-cable, bloggers and e-mail swappers, this is going to be the nastiest campaign period in U.S. history. Biden played around a bit when he first came to Congress, but suffered an early family tragedy that appeared to turn him around and cause him to focus more seriously on life.
     Yes, he makes speaking gaffes and overstates his own works that will be exploited to the hilt in this day of gotcha media, but he has been around long enough he should be able to weather a serious probe into his past.
     But for Oprah and Iowa, Biden might have had a chance to last long enough in the presidential primaries to be choosing his own vice president at this point.
     Whom better to have sitting a heartbeat away than a man who fits Obama’s wise description of the right person for the job: “I want somebody who’s independent, somebody who can push against my preconceived notions and challenge me so we have a robust debate in the White House.”


August 11, 2008

Petulance and Politics

Pettiness and Presidential Campaigns
     Few activities outweigh the selection of the U.S. president in importance to the world, yet we engage in the process at such a juvenile level, one wonders how we retain an iota of respect.
     One can understand how the general public, which does not bother to try to understand the government process that deter- mines our well-being, can be swayed by polls, tab-loid-cable, fascination with peccadilloes, sycophancy and many other aspects of campaign silly-season born of persistent ignorance.
     But what explains the decisions by those operating at the highest levels of a campaign, including the candidate, based on pettiness, personal feelings and, amazingly, their own ignorance?
     As could have been expected, the Democratic convention included major speeches by both Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Clinton camp has forced some major elements of the party platform and Hillary has been tapped to make campaign appearances on behalf of Barack Obama.
     How could those things not have occurred? Hillary Clinton won nearly half the delegates to the convention, so common sense dictates she could not be ignored. Yet, there are reports by the respected press that the Obama camp resisted all of those decisions. And they still have others they should be making, if they could get past their own pettiness.
     That general public who ends up making the decision on who will be “leader of the free world” is still going to base its decision on those irrelevant factors listed above. One of the secret weapons each party has is a president, or a past president.
     Anyone who has covered a presidential visit has seen the draw he always attracts, regardless of his popularity level or the petty scandal of the day dogging him. Just the presence of Air Force One on the tarmac of Podunk International draws oohs and aahs.
     Any candidate who ignores that factor and fails to take ad-vantage is doomed to suffer the same defeat Al Gore suffered. He ignored the draw of President Clinton and Air Force One to his peril.
     John McCain’s people have shown some acumen in this regard by giving President Bush a speaking role at the convention, even if it is stuck at the beginning on a national holiday. This is a tightrope decision for McCain—he needs the presidential draw at the same time he tries to distance himself from an unpopular president.
     But a tightrope though it is, McCain would be Gore-foolish if he does not have Bush and Air Force One make appearances on his behalf. And although he can no longer fly on Air Force One, Bill Clinton should be a major presence on the campaign trail with Obama.
     In Clinton’s case, he still enjoys enormous popularity among the general public and happens to be a captivating and enthus-iastic speaker. Although he may have been too enthusiastic on behalf of his wife during the primaries, there is little Obama could lose with that enthusiasm on his behalf against McCain.
     Yet the press reports indicate there is still some hangover petulance among Obama’s advisers stemming from the pri-maries. They need to grow up and run a presidential campaign. Democrats, indeed the world, do not need another inept Gore loss.


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