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Which of the two tickets?

03.09.2008 11:53

Now that we have two complete tickets, Republican and Democrat, the first thing I notice is a startling difference in their attitude towards the job they are running for. Let’s start with Sarah Palin. While she is an accomplished woman, she surely realizes that there are thousands of women in America with qualifications at least as good as hers: there are mayors, senators, and governors of larger states, women who run major corporations, aid agencies, advance worthy international causes, women, that have traveled the world, academics, educators – women, whose name immediately invokes respect. And then, there are responsibilities of the Vice President: just imagine Mrs. Palin and her husband, a blue collar worker, dining with the King of Jordan. Did we check Palins’ table manners, are we sure they know what to say and what not to say? Will Mr. Palin be using his toothpick in front of the King, and does he know where Jordan is? And what would happen if Mrs. Palin were to become President? Since I am a man, my sympathy goes to Todd Palin. What does he learn first: to wear a suit, geography, a French word “bonjour”, or to ride on a back seat of a big black limo? I would suggest he starts by reading The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain. Does he realize, a commercial fisherman that he is, that now he will have to have manicure done and that half of the vocabulary he usually uses would no longer be appropriate (to say nothing of many English words that he just does not know)? And I would like to think that he is kicking himself for allowing his wife, who has a four month old baby with a Down syndrome that needs undivided attention and must be breastfed, to recklessly and irresponsibly accept this, really insurmountable, challenge. No wonder the Palins look absolutely stunned, and not in a good way, as if they just won a lottery, but more like thieves surprised that they have not been caught yet. The Palins know that they are the impostors, and they must wish for this spectacle to end, soon. Now, the McCains. Would not you agree that Cindy McCain looks as unhappy as any woman in America? And the reason is clear: neither she, nor John McCain want this job. Take the McCain’s “five million” gaffe. As soon as McCain made this statement, he said that he knew that it would be used against him. Indeed, how can it NOT be used, if it is so outrageous? Yet, McCain did not seek to qualify this statement, to somehow reduce its impact. That, and of course the selection of Palin, tells me one thing: consciously or unconsciously, the McCains do not want this job. John McCain is too old to look forward for four (or eight) years of devilish schedule and responsibility. And there are two more things here. First, this job requires an even temper and the ability to make a calculated, balanced, well thought-out decision, and McCain simply does not have these qualities. The only reason why he is called a maverick is that he is too impulsive. And you can be impulsive when, as a US Senator, being one of a hundred, you decide nothing on your own. Indeed, the buck has never stopped on John McCain’s desk: he has zero final decision experience. And the job of the President is not like that: all Presidential decisions are final, and have enormous implications. The Red Button that the President has is not for casting a vote, being one out of a hundred. Fortunately, McCain does not want to come near this Red Button: he just runs as a favor or as an obligation to someone. And as he runs, he thinks only of losing, for otherwise he would not have picked Palin, a person who brings no agenda and no skills to Washington, DC. McCain’s lack of drive is especially obvious if we compare him to the Clintons. Now, the Clintons are wealthy and successful beyond anybody’s wildest dreams. And yet, Hillary Clinton showed to everyone what it is “to want a job”. Indeed, there are people who badly need a job: to feed their family, to start a career, to save their home. But even if it is a do-or-die situation for them, they do not show such passion, such determination, such tenacity – not even close. They do not give it their all and than some. I think I know how bitterly Hillary wept after her speech at the convention and, even though I do not particularly like her or Bill, I do not know any one in the world who deserve respect and admiration more than Hillary and Bill Clinton. They simply had made an assumption that to win one must be insincere, calculating, and ruthless, and it worked for them. It took Barack Obama to make Hillary look like a turtle on its back, and only Barack Obama could do that. Now, Joe Biden. Personally, I thought that an innovator, someone like Steve Jobs of Apple or Carl Icahn would be a better pick. American government is a flawed, wasteful, and inefficient megacorporation, and it needs to be reformed. Even the US Constitution, written at the age where the world was nothing like it is today, may need to be looked into. Certainly, if someone like Sarah Palin, of all people, may theoretically end up as the President of the United States (so that people in the audience would be screaming, “Sarah, Sarah, Paris is not a name but a capital of a foreign country!”) the Constitution may need an overhaul. But now I understand why Barack picked Joe Biden. Barack did so for comfort and advice, knowing that a lot of hard work lies ahead. Barack knows that Joe Biden, with his 36 years in the US Senate will show him the ropes, free him up for the job of a leader. Joe Biden is reliable, and he could do everything but to choose a direction, which is something that only a leader can do. And Biden would not need an adjustment period or on the job training: his suitcase has been packed and ready for many years now. So, Joe Biden is the best choice: it shows that Barack is already thinking how will he be doing his job as President. And finally, the Obamas. In order to tell you what I think of them, I want to tell you a story. As a young man growing up in Moscow, Russia, I once asked a Russian WWII veteran how did he survive the entire war that he fought from the very first day for four most terrible and murderous years in human history. For those who are like Sarah Palin, I must remind that the war started very bad for Russia: the Nazis advanced very fast and the entire Russian army was surrounded and decimated, with millions dead and millions taken prisoner. And here is what the veteran told me: At the start of the war, our division was completely destroyed. We did not know where the frontline was, we did not have any communication equipment, and we knew that our commanding general was dead. We did not have any weapons that could destroy German tanks, and so we were running towards Moscow, with Germans in hot pursuit. Sometimes we had to fight them just to gain time, sometimes German planes would bomb us, some of us drowned in rivers, and the injured could no longer be carried. Our numbers dwindled fast. First, we were led by a colonel, then by a captain, then a lieutenant. Finally, we got ourselves completely surrounded, practically out of ammunition, exhausted with nowhere to run. And then our lieutenant with killed. Without an officer, the soldiers looked at each other in panic, not knowing what to do. And it was then that someone shouted, “Follow my orders! I am assuming command!” It was a sullen private whom nobody really knew. But when everybody was thinking of death, of giving up, he was thinking of surviving and winning – and everybody immediately knew that they had a commander again. It was that private that made us break through the encirclement and brought our division, and its torn and bloodied flag, across the frontline where we, less then two hundred of us out of ten thousand that the division had at the start of the war, rejoined the Russian army. This private was decorated and made an officer, and I was under his command for the entire war – this was how I survived. Now, America is not encircled, out of ammunition, and in panic. But both parties agree, both candidates agree, and the polls agree: for the last eight years, America has not been led right, and it is now in serious trouble economically, militarily, internationally, and most of all, domestically, in terms of our spirit as a nation. It is in this grave moment that the Natural may (or may not) come. And I think Barack may well be the Natural. You see, we are in such a situation that McCain, Romney, Lieberman, Pelosi, Kerry, or Kennedy cannot save us. These are distinguished officers, fine for parades or even conventional battles, but useless when you are encircled and need to find solutions for intractable problems that can no longer remain unresolved. When McCain said that the US economy was fundamentally sound or that the US should remain in Iraq, he was acting as an officer knowing that whatever happens he would be protected. Indeed, if you have eight houses the state of the US economy is not your great worry. The point is that any number of our senior statesmen would do fine as US presidents, but not at this moment. This moment is for Barack. But if this moment is for Barack, could it be that instead it is a moment for Palin? Maybe she is a Natural, too? Well, she could have been had she felt a calling for the Presidency, ran and won the primaries, spent a year on a sleepless schedule – and never wavered in her resolve. We cannot say this about Palin, in fact, we can say the opposite. She chose to keep a baby with a Down syndrome, who is now four months old and will always require her undivided attention. Being a mother of such a child is a full time job for a strong woman. But Palin abandoned this baby immediately, without hesitation or remorse. And, she offered herself to America without honesty, humility, or fear of God. So, she is NOT the Natural. And yet, going back to the story, when a private assumes command over what’s left of a division, legitimate doubts remain. Yes, Barack could have more experience, yes his father was a leftist, yes, his stepfather was a Muslim – but it is too late to consider this now. We have to choose between Obama and McCain – and McCain is simply inadequate. Thus, we have to take a chance on Obama, knowing that he, and his wife Michelle, gave us many indications of being the Naturals we so sorely need.

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