Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wanted: US President: Train on the Job

I just read, online, an editorial by the centre-rightist op-ed journalist, Kathleen Parker, who writes for The Washington Post. I enjoy Ms Parker's columns. In fact, she was foremost amongst the gaggle of 'conservative-ish' columnists during the Election campaign to articulately rationalise the shortcomings of Sarah Palin, both as a Vice Presidential candidate and a candidate representative of women on the whole. I gather, from reading her columns regularly, that she received a lot of abuse from various and sundry, including an opinion from a Pro-Life Republican that it certainly was a pity that Ms Parker's mother hadn't aborted her as a foetus. Nice. And this from the so-called Christian right.

This time, Ms Parker's taken it upon herself to play schoolmarm and allocate a sort of early-in-the-term report card regarding the President's performance thus far.

Ms Parker sums it up succinctly in one word: amateur.

The President has been in Office just under one month, and he's been besieged with a plethora of problems, from the niggling little variety to the pesky, potentially damaging nominal coup d'etat speciality, courtesy of those sour losers on the other side of the aisle.

I must admit, I got increasingly frustrated when, Cabinet nominee after Cabinet nominee, appeared to have forgotten the age-old rule of thumb that all a body has to do in life is die and pay taxes. There's no avoiding death (unless you're Joan Rivers or Tony Curtis), but there must be a book someplace entitled '101 to Avoid Paying Income Tax' and each potential Cabinet member must keep a copy by his/her bedside.

Ms Parker's first note of unease: Obama apologised for Tom Daschle's resignation. True, and I agree with her in this respect, that perhaps these people should have been vetted more thoroughly. Or perhaps they were just so piggedly arrogant to think that non-payment of income tax was just a tiny matter that could be swept under the carpet. After all, no less than the late Leona Helmsley stated that only the little people paid taxes (and this before she was carted off to prison).

Ms Parker reasons:

"...Obama's eager confession: 'I screwed up' hit a hollow note. Doubtless, he was trying to demonstrate 'change' by distinguishing himself from Bush, who could never quite put a finger on his mistakes. Rather than seeming Trumaneque in stopping the buck at his desk, Obama seemed more like an abused spouse who starts her day saying, 'I'm sorry. It's my fault.'

He appeared weak. "

It didn't seem that way to me at all.

In fact, I found it not only surprising, but refreshing, that a President should stand tall and admit that he'd made a mistake. It was clearly a mistake that he didn't vet thoroughly enough and that it was a mistake made at Cabinet level. It must have taken Congress by surprise as well, because various bods inside that place let it be known afterwards that Daschle would probably have walked the hearing at the end of the day; instead, he fell on his sword.

Contrast this to Bush and the Harriet Miers fiasco, when he stubbornly did his best imitation of a sulky, spoiled frat boy determined to have his way, until - at the eleventh hour - Ms Miers showed uncommon decency, herself, and stepped aside from an appointment for which, she recognised herself to be supremely unqualified. Did Bush apologise? In the words of a British comedienne, 'Did he, bollocks!' The word 'apology' didn't even enter into Bush's limited and fractured version of English vocabulary.

So, in my opinion, that was score ONE to Obama: a President who owns up to his mistakes. And, really, any and every President will make mistakes. After all, a President is only a human being at the end of the day. He holds no infallibility clause, as the Pope believes himself to be. All this showed me was that Obama was, basically, a decent human being who was raised to take responsibility of his actions and to account for any misdeed or misapprehension with a simple acknowledgement of fault and an apology. In short, it showed me that Obama was real.

Ms Parker continues:

"At his news conference, the overriding impression was of a man not fully in control of his message or his material ... I began missing Bush's customary dispatch. Bush's contempt for the media meant he never stayed long enough to bore us."

Pardon me? She misses the Bush Press Conference? Of course, Bush was dismissive to the point of rudeness with the press. This was a man whose vernacular self-esteem was low enough to the point that he could be deemed unitelligible. It was a torture and an embarrassment to either sit through a press gaggle dominated by Bush or to read of its repercussions afterward in the British press. A stand-up comic couldn't have done better. Bush was an unintentional clown and an embarrassment to the Office. He treated the press with disdain because to have spent time verbally sparring with them would have painfully revealed each verbal inadequacy that the man possessed.

Ms Parker's premise throughout her op-ed is that Obama is singularly inexperienced for the job of POTUS, and that 'we the people', alienated by and disillusioned with the terribly substandard Administration that had spent 8 years re-writing Constitutional rules and behaviour, whilst ensnaring us in an illegal war based on fabricated evidence, sought 'change' by, basically, entrusting our wellbeing and future to a greenhorn junior Senator from Illinois.

This, after less than one month.

That's rich.

That's Republican.

That's rank.

Look, the office of President of the United States is not one to which a successful candidate comes with actual 'experience' at governing an entire nation. They may have governed a state, like Carter or Reagan or Clinton. They may have held a Senate post, like Kennedy or Johnson. It's interesting to note that the President who actually had the best curriculum vitae for the position was Richard Nixon, who deputised for Eisenhower, when the latter suffered a coronary. And, yet, Richard Nixon was the only President to be forced to resign from Office. And whilst George W Bush governed successfully (by Texas terms) as a bi-partisan governor, his inadequacies meant that during his two terms as President, the country was actually run from behind the scenes by a sinister Vice-President and a neocon cabal of Cabinet ministers, much in the manner of a third-rate and dangerous banana republic.

No one comes to the office of POTUS with the right experience. It's a position which the successful candidate learns on the job. And for such a job, the person had better be exceptional. Quick-witted. With higher than average intelligence.

In the last Presidential election, we had a choice between a greenhorn youngster from Illinois, who steered an image of calm, reason and articulace through a swathe of the population, or an elderly, crotchety old man, who didn't appear to understand that Spain was our ally and who thought the American economy was sound, and an inarticulate MILF.

And Ms Parker thinks our President is, as yet, amateur.

It's only been a month. Consider this: had McCain won the election, with all the pressure Obama's had to endure to date, we might have been considering life under a Palin Administration at this very moment, and wouldn't that have been a scarier prospect?

You betcha!


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