Leadership

Here’s an excerpt from a Jerusalem Post article on Barack Obama:

Two months ago in the Oval Office, President George W. Bush…was accompanied by a team of no fewer than five advisers and spokespeople during a 40-minute interview…

In March, on his whirlwind visit to Israel, Republican presidential nominee John McCainchose to bring along Sen. Joe Lieberman to the interview our diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon and I conducted with him, looked to Lieberman several times for reassurance on his answers and seemed a little flummoxed by a question relating to the nuances of settlement construction.

On Wednesday evening, toward the end of his packed one-day visit here, Barack Obama, the Democratic senator who is leading the race for the White House and who lacks long years of foreign policy involvement, spoke to The Jerusalem Post with only a single aide in his King David Hotel room, and that aide’s sole contribution to the conversation was to suggest that the candidate and I switch seats so that our photographer would get better lighting for his pictures.

[Emphasis added]

Politicians are, by nature, extremely cautious people–they’re terrified of giving the wrong answer, of losing voted by saying the wrong thing. That’s why they surround themselves with a phalanx of advisers and experts and aides and others who can jump in at just the right moment to save the candidate from himself. Lord knows John McCain has needed to be saved from himself more than once.

Yet, the Bush years have taught us the danger of a President relying too much on his advisers.  When that happens, Presidential advisers wage bureaucratic turf wars under the President’s nose, leaving the right hand of the administration clueless as to what the left hand is doing.  In the end, it creates a divided, incompetent, hopelessly dysfunctional government that does nothing to help the American people.

Republicans say John McCain is experienced, particularly on foreign policy.  But if that’s the case, why does he need advisers sitting at his side, whispering answers into his ear? I mean, Israel has been a major political issue since long before McCain was elected to Congress, so why does he need information on Israel fed to him by an adviser? Shouldn’t he know this on his own? Considering the decades he’s spent in Washington, which included another Presidential campaign, I just don’t understand how he could have such a poor grasp of one of America’s major foreign policy issues.

On the other hand, Barack Obama–who the Republicans say is too inexperienced to be President–is confident enough to talk about one of the most complex and sensitive foreign policy issues out there without help from his campaign. Obama knows what he believes, he knows what he wants to accomplish as President and he has no problem just sitting down and saying what he thinks.

And, in the end, isn’t that what we want in a President? Don’t we want a President who can understand complicated issues and make important decisions without being pulled in a dozen different directions by a dozen different advisers?

As Harry Truman once said, the buck stops at the President’s desk.  After 8 years of blame-shifting and finger-pointing and responsibility-shirking, America can’t afford another administration where the President’s advisers are more powerful than the President himself. Personally, I’m voting for the guy who shows independence and leadership over the guy who can’t function without his advisers and campaigners and aides.

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