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August 19, 2010

Choosing Their Successors

Patricia A. Kelly

The time is short to make the first decisions about who will provide new political leadership in our country. A lot of people think we blew it last time, and possibly the time before.


Bill Clinton acknowledged this week, while stumping for a candidate, that a lot of people are angry, and that, if you make a decision out of anger, it will be the wrong decision 90% of the time.


For once, I had to agree with him.


There are no real requirements to run for the House of Representatives, Senate, or president outside of age, citizenship, absence of felony conviction, and residence in the country.


That means any bum may run, and could win, if he could convince enough people to vote for him.


A lot of votes go to those who promise to bring jobs, and both government and business revenue to their communities. Except, in local politics that is just wrong. It sets up a pattern of corruption and self-serving behavior on the part of the representative, even if he or she wasn’t corrupt in the first place.


At the national level, it’s not whether the Air Force builds a new base in your community. Whether the Air Force builds a base somewhere should be based on finding the best spot for the Air Force to work efficiently and on cost-effectiveness for the taxpayer. On the national level, it’s about what’s best for the country as a whole, and snuffling through the cow manure looking for corn is not the best way for a national leader to spend his or her time.


On the local level, it’s a little different. Creating a business and project-friendly climate is definitely in the best interest of the community. Even giving tax incentives for business start-ups is fine, as long as the benefit clearly outweighs the cost to the community.


Back to qualifications, a good personality, charm, charisma and the ability to articulate one’s position and generate support often have a lot to do with success in seeking office. This is not all bad, as building consensus and the ability to explain your position are very important in success as a leader.


There are obviously many other considerations, and these are much more difficult to assess. The candidate doesn’t have to have done anything but pop up on the ballot to be eligible. Maybe we’re upset with that last guy.


Should we run out and vote against him?


We tried that with George Bush, both in electing him twice and, then, in electing his successor.


Mr. Bush was really no shining star in life prior to his election as Texas governor. He graduated from a good university, so he had some brain power, but not necessarily a lot. His dad was president, so he had good name recognition. He was a failure in most of his business ventures, but he did succeed in giving up alcohol. To many, his fundamentalist Christianity was a good thing, although he was so committed to his way that he was willing to attempt to impose his personal values on everyone else.


He barely won, and many dispute the first election, but he did jump through hoops successfully to get on the ballot in the first place. The second time, we were in a war, and probably wanted the security of continuing with the leader we knew. Let’s not even go to the discussion of how our government extrapolated a terrorist attack into that war. It makes my head hurt.


After Mr. Bush, the war, the overspending, the scary restrictions on personal freedom, our inability, in spite of billions spent on Homeland Security, to figure out whether there were critically ill people in the New Orleans charity hospital for days after Katrina, and more, we were ready for change.


We got “change” all right, in the person of a handsome, charming, bright, convincing leftist ideologue. The truth is that we had lots of evidence to tell us the change we were voting for; but we were mad, and we were sick of things the way they were. Heaven knows, Hillary Clinton could be quite annoying, not to mention Sarah Palin, so here we are.


Barack Obama represented two races, in a world that was beginning to hate the United States. He spoke well. He represented hope for reconciliation in the world on the most visceral lever. He grew up with a white family, knowing by his teenage years that white women would lock their car doors while passing him standing on the street corner.


He hung out with leftists and alleged pinnacles of corruption throughout his life. He spent his legal career not publishing anything, thus not risking putting an opinion in print. During his stay in the Illinois state legislature, he pretty much failed to vote on anything controversial. He obtained his first office by legally challenging his own mentor on a technicality, thus keeping this very popular woman out of the race. He wrote books telling us much of who he is.


He told us a lot. But we were mad.


Now the cycle begins again. What’s happening now is that a lot of us are mad at the liberals, who seem to be threatening our personal freedom and our financial security more than George Bush and his buddies ever thought of doing. The Republicans are running around in little circles shouting epithets, worrying way more about winning the next two elections for their party than about making things better for our country, or us.


So, this time, let’s make up our own qualifications. We could start with white teeth, gregariousness, charm, public speaking skills, rich and powerful friends, well-fitting clothing appropriate to the occasion, and, maybe an attractive family.


I know it’s a reach, but we could then move on to character, accomplishment, strength and calm in the face of adversity, a life history that reflects both personal values, significant achievement, and the skills necessary to represent us.


Business success, enough community involvement to know how things work in government, reasonable intelligence and education, relevant work experience, and character, character, character are things we could look at before voting.


After really looking, as my momma would say, go with your gut. If it looks and smells like a dog, don’t vote for it.


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