Thursday, October 16, 2008

The New Right Stuff

Over the past couple of weeks, in observing the swirl of fright-ening current events and the next-to-final throes of The Campaign Without End, then watching last night’s third and last presidential debate, I’ve found myself reflecting on the nature of intelligence, character and experience, and what exactly it takes to make someone fit to lead. Both John McCain and Barack Obama are smart men. But which of them also has the vision, temperament, and natural talent for leadership that ideally one should have in order to be president?

Since the conventions, both men have had ample opportunity to show their stuff to the people, and they have. McCain has shown that he is old-fashioned and uncreative in his thinking, mean-spirited in his attitudes, loose with the truth, erratic in his behavior, and shockingly self-serving in his ambition as evidenced by his selection of the ignorant and wholly unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate. In reassuring contrast, Obama has exhibited a clear understanding of 21st century realities, innovative ideas, graciousness, civility, straightforwardness, calm under pressure, and a willingness to properly balance personal ambition with a genuine desire for public service.

But even more important, Obama exhibits high levels of “emotional intelligence” and “cultural literacy.” Daniel Goleman’s 1995 bestseller, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, refreshingly introduced the notion that the qualities of social interaction and self-knowledge, including the ability to empathize, delay gratification, and interpret non-verbal social cues, were as essential to personal success as intellectual intelligence. E.D. Hirsch, in his captivating 1987 reference book, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, provided the first volume in a string of revisions over the years that list the facts and ideas related to world history & geography, technology, science, language, the arts, religion, mythology and folklore that someone who regards himself as literate needs to know. One only needs to look at George W. Bush to recognize an essentially homicidal lack of emotional intelligence and cultural literacy. John McCain may not be George Bush - but he, too, lacks these important qualities. (Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is George Bush.)

When McCain talks about “winning” in Iraq, he shows a scary lack of understanding that today’s wars (and tomorrow’s) will not be waged and won in traditional military terms, that today’s enemies are not other nations so much as rogue leaders and cults with zealous determination and considerable technological and financial resources; we need smarts, self-control, diplomacy, and a little sophisticated covert operation to address these dangers. When McCain talks about “spreading the wealth” and “class warfare” in disparaging terms, he reveals a dangerous ignorance of the economic imbalances that threaten our national existence and security. When McCain talks about giving people the “choice” to get the health care they want without government interference, he ignores the fact that most people are trapped in HMOs and other profit-making health service structures that long ago robbed patients of meaningful choices and quality care. When McCain rails against taxes and “big government,” he shows a total lack of understanding of how people need to support a government that really and truly supports them. And when he goes into his anti-abortion spiel, well…

Barack Obama is a young man with young ideas. He understands new media. He connects with young adults. He is dedicated to discussion and diplomacy. He has a personal, spiritual foundation that doesn’t deny scientific fact or attempt to control people’s personal behavior. He believes in both personal responsibility and governmental protections. He understands cultures other than his own. He’s a feminist. He supports affordable, accessible education, public education. He’s not afraid to say “I don’t know” or to take counsel and advice from other smart people. He understands the difference between coming from love or fear, and knows that working from fear is dangerous, not insurance against danger. He’s got a cool head and a warm heart. And he’s got Joe Biden watching his back, instead of Annie Oakley. We need this guy and we need him bad.

1 comment:

Adam said...

Barack Hussein Obama is the junior United States Senator from Illinois and presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2008 United States presidential election.


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