Friday, April 21, 2006


I’m no whiz when it comes to politics, but Hub would be the first to agree that I watch more of the stuff than is good for me. Politics is complicated stuff and because it overlaps into global situations as well as domestic ones, I tend to think about it in smaller pieces. Smaller pieces that my simple brain can easily manage.

And one of the small pieces was the day a news reporter was interviewing people in the street during a leadership campaign. He asked one passer-bye how he felt about anyone wanting to be President. The response he got was to the effect that ‘Anyone who is bent on having that much power and authority is probably not a good person to lead a nation.’ I was struck by the wisdom of that comment. I had to agree.

Now I have observed both Canadian Prime Ministers and American Presidents over many years. There is so much I didn’t like about Prime Minister Trudeau’s policies and much I didn’t like about Diefendbaker’s as well. But regardless, I have to admit they were clever men who, above all else, were passionately in love with Canada. And I believe President Clinton and J.F. Kennedy were Presidents who were passionately in love with the U.S. But the U.S. now has a President that it seems to me is passionately in love with power and authority rather than country. What a difference it makes when a relationship is based on love of power and prestige rather than soul-felt love of that significant other – in this case – country.

And to curry these thoughts a bit more, at the moment it might be premature to say so, but I can’t help but think that our new Canadian P.M. is more in love with power and authority than country, and that is not good. By the way, there are symptoms of the kind of love a politician harbors. Those who love authority more than the country tend to hide behind a façade created through physical appearance. These are the ones that are most likely to have sleeves rolled up in a work situation, casual clothes in a town square situation, and academy winning performances when it comes to interaction with the vulnerable of our society. In the same way that we might seek to hide a facial blemish with make-up or a flesh-colored bandage, they seek to hide their zeal for power with outward costuming.

But those who harbor passionate love of country right to the depths of their soles/souls pay little attention to fashion appropriateness or role-playing. They have no blemish to hide. Eyes are windows to the soul and those leaders crazy-mad about country cannot alter the intensity of that zeal with costumes or role-playing. No matter how they dress, it is in their eyes and voice and countenance that we can all read the sincerity of their love of country.

I can’t recall who it was but I do remember one politician announcing his resignation by saying that he must retire because he no longer had the ‘fire in his belly’ to do the job. In a world where no one ever apologizes was that an apology or was that just straight-up honesty? I think it was a bit of both. And I appreciate the bravo of the person willing to honestly admit to this weakness.

And one more thought. Have you ever plowed through the last obligatory weeks of a job once you have handed in your notice? I have many times. And as honorable as I may have wished to be about it, as hard as I may have tried to have the same interest and commitment to that job as I always had, it just doesn’t happen. As soon as I handed in that letter of resignation, motivation flew out the window. No amount of self-hypnosis could make me care about tasks as I once had. Every single day after handing in my notice was a drudgery that I reluctantly carried on with. And I find it hard to believe that anyone would feel any different than I felt at times like this. And what really blew my mind is when I was selected to interview those candidates hoping to replace me. Flattered at the inclusion of my opinion, but truly, honestly, deep down in my soul, it didn’t matter a damn to me who did the job after I left, or even how they did it.

So then I look at American Politics with the policy that after two terms a President must step down. And I have to ask myself. How can a President be even a little bit effective in the final years of a second term? With a forced resignation in place there is no reason to strategize over the long term? No reason to bend an ear to constituents. No reason to harbor close to one’s chest any new wisdom learned from past mistakes. No reason to be motivated. No reason to be passionate. No reason to even have integrity or credibility. Because in a few short months all that will matter is how comfortable they are in the role of a private citizen. So if installed for two terms, they work furiously for the first four years to get re-elected, then work like a lame duck for the next term, knowing that no amount of dedication or motivation can selvage their position beyond it’s fixed deadline.

CNN polls keep asking things like “Is Bush a lame duck?” Silly question. Of course he is. When you know for a certainty your time is about to expire, nothing matters in that arena anymore. The incumbent remains seated in a public square, in a place of governance, but the extent of that governance can now be placed on the head of a pin. Tasks that have to do with the public good no longer have purpose. The ‘fire in the belly’ is forcibly extinguished leaving only a shell of a leader. Too hollow to ponder anything beyond his integration back into private life and personal situations that have absolutely nothing to do with the good of the country.

It’s a good time to sneer at Iran. To utter false threats that are unbelievably brave. Knowing that, as soon as the fight starts, retirement of the aggressor kicks in, and he can fly to a personal retreat and let someone else get his or her nose bloodied in the fray.

There seems to be a presumption that Presidents are tied enough to party lines for them to work doggedly to the last day of their term in order to keep a ship afloat that they will no longer be sailing on. That is such utter nonsense. How many of us, if we knew tomorrow was our last day on earth, would doggedly set out to re-shingle the roof today for the good of those in our household being left behind?

Now if there is more sanity in all this than I am able to see, I would certainly appreciate your comments to help me understand it. And if there is no sanity in it, might as well comment on that as well.


Blogger Eleanor said...

"I’m no whiz when it comes to politics"

Oh really? That's not what I'm thinking after reading this post. Nope, not what I'm thinking at all. I'd say that your assessments are right on the money.

Well said indeed.

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree with Eleanor, you're a whiz at politics.

I've always felt that the lame duck aspect of the job really hits the last year. By then they are expected to help their party (whether they want to, or not), and many will, just to keep the opposite party from undoing all they just did.

That last year, our politicians go crazy with personal appointments, and pork barreling, and pardons, that leave a bad taste in our mouths for years to come.

I don't have the answer. Because it is easier for an incumbent to be re-elected, I'd rather not allow extended terms, but the possibility of three terms, rather than two, might have been a better choice. If a president were elected for twelve years, that would be the same term for senators who are elected to two six year terms. Perhaps the powers that be felt that might give too much power to one party for 12 years.

So, the Prez has a shorter term with more powers, and the Senators have a little less power, but longer to get things accomplished.

I hope I have that's been a very long time since I had civics.


10:07 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

Thanks for that comment eleanor. So not like Hub's consistent insistence that I leave politics alone and stick to what I know best. Much appreciated.

Buffy, I appreciate your encouragement as well. I find it hard to believe that outgoing presidents invest much time or effort in supporting their party. But that kind of thinking comes from a Canadian perspective. We have no fixed term for our P.M.'s. And if their hope is for historical posterity, all they have to do is find the ways and means to stay in power longer than any of their predecessors.

10:08 AM  

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