Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Our remaining three Presidential candidates seem to be playing out another 'mexican standoff', just like the Spaghetti Western of 1966 fame. That film depicted a violent chaos as three tough hombres fought it out in seeking a fortune in Confederate gold. The 'il buono' was Blondie, played by Clint Eastwood. 'Il brutto' was played by Lee Van Cleef, as Angel Eyes. Eli Wallach played Tuco, the 'il cattivo' character. Today, those roles are being filled by Obama, Clinton and McCain, respectively.

But, this particular Presidential Campaign has persisted way longer than any Spaghetti Western! It's almost as if it has a life of its own -more like a long running series, like 'Gunsmoke'! In many respects, that’s not all bad. Issues have been discussed, voters have been inspired and candidates have revealed their personalities, styles and staying power. Those things are inherently good in nature for a democracy, warts and all.

All of this bodes well for us not getting another bush-league President, which if it happened, might well signal the great American experiment has peaked and is accelerating on a very slippery slope downward.
The idea of dynastic succession ought to be outlawed in a country that owes its existence to a loathing of tyranny imposed by those more interested in their own power trips than what is good for all citizens over the long term. But freedom is funny that way! We can choose to fall back into the very rut we were lucky to escape.

The pundits who fret and jawbone over the prolonged uncertainty of who will represent the Democrats need to get a life. Instead, they need to examine and heed what the increasingly sleepy, sheep-like public is now expressing; it's need for a real change! The American public -and maybe the World- needs hope that some things that desperately need change actually have a chance of changing. Like the mess Washington, DC has become. Like maybe valuing the truth in all things governmental, despite the Supreme Court’s decision that its OK to lie and stretch credibility if one is just acting as a political animal?

The ‘media’ -necessary as it is- has also become a big part of the problem. How tiresome to see competing ideologies and propaganda touted by fat-cat owned stations using the public’s airways!
How deceiving to read, see or hear supposed knowledgeable accounts from writers, talking heads and announcers who are being controlled like puppets by unseen people and forces we don’t know. I’m sick and tired of it, and I think many folks feel the same way.

As a country, we have continually let this stuff happen to us, until remedies seem almost impossible to expect. I say ‘almost’ because there is still some hope; but this depends on the public getting behind a leader who inspires them, is credible and willing to work hard despite the difficulties certain to come with the territory. Of the three Presidential candidates now left standing, Barack Obama is the one that clearly stands out as a potentially very effective agent of the type of change we need as a society.

I haven’t always felt that way, and neither have a boatload of people I know. Obama was just another candidate among many, a real dark horse in many –maybe most- people’s assessment. But he kept on plugging, evoking a growing support through his thoughtful and reasonable responses to the battery of questions thrown at him. He had to be considered an underdog in this race because of his relative newness on the national stage, his race, his lack of strong political base, and particularly his tendency toward a calm coolness whether under fire or trying to make a point. Every one knows that passion is valuable in any candidate, and that emotions are usually triggered by passions way before rational thought is reached. That’s the amazing thing about Obama, he keeps to the dialogue thing, you know, what the Dalai Lama talks about. He’s not without passion, but he seems to be able to translate it into a consistent conduct that people come to respect and value. He’s not flashy, but he is charismatic, and that is a trait most folks consistently like.

The North Carolina and Indiana Democratic Primary results from yesterday again favored Obama, but did not put him over the top. That will require a continuation of campaigning and the attraction of sufficient 'super-delegates' to get him nominated. That will likely happen despite all of the Clinton camp's tactics, which carry the real danger of 'poisoning the well' for the Demos in the November Elections. I certainly don't blame Billary for campaigning hard, but I do mind the negative, nasty and 'do or say anything it takes to win' conduct. She and Bill wanted this so bad that they nominated themselves for the 'il butto' role! And spent $6.4 million of their own money in the process? Easy come, easy go.

Bill Clinton used to say 'we can do better'. He was right, he can! I voted for him twice, but do not want to see him back in the White House in any role. The last time he chose to lead his 'parallel life' there he got himself impeached for lying about it. Sorry Hillary, but Bill's already served his time and doesn't deserve to occupy the White House again.

It is ironic that this election has brought forth both our first female and our first black candidates for President!
Which one is acting more Presidential?
Which one understands the true tenets of leadership the best?
Which one balances realism and optimism better?
Which is more consistently credible?
Which one offers the more thoughtful and honest questions and answers?
Which one tends to prefer passionate emotions over rational thought?

Our country is a far more complex place than it was over 200 years ago, and so is the world.
Yet, we the people still get to decide whom will become our top elected leader, indeed the world's!
There is no scripted set of qualifications other than what is clearly spelled out in our Constitution. Maybe there ought to be, but that's something that Congress and the American people must decide. For those who think the Constitution is carved in stone, think again! Only the basic premises are inviolate. That's why Amendments have been added -and subtracted. That's why we adopted a Bill of Rights. Things change over time and modifications are not only in order, but necessary.
It's time for Angel Eyes to exit, stage left.

Soon, it will be just cool Blondie against hot-tempered Tuco.

In that match, I'm picking Blondie, just like in the Spaghetti Western!

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.
- George Patton

A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.
- Arnold H. Glasgow

Men make history, and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skilful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.
- Harry S. Truman

Leadership is generally defined as the capacity to make things happen that would otherwise not happen.
- Thomas E. Cronin

There are many elements to a campaign. Leadership is number one. Everything else is number two.
- Bertolt Brecht

Our world is very dishonest, and our leaders encourage dishonesty by setting bad examples- by lying, being corrupt, and using political sleight of hand to sustain power.
- Stuart Wilde

A leader, once convinced that a particular course of action is the right one, must be undaunted when the going gets tough.
- Ronald Reagan

People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.
- Theodore Roosevelt

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy

The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.
- Dwight David Eisenhower

Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation.
- William Arthur Ward

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
- Peter F. Drucker

No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.
- Peter F. Drucker

Nothing so conclusively proves a man s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.
- Thomas Watson

All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.
- John Kenneth Galbraith

Leaders aren’t born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.
- Vince Lombardi