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Competence, Ideology and Passion

July 14, 2008 - John Whittaker

Quick note - Since I'm on vacation this week, the regular update schedule will go a little bit out the window. I'll try to update a couple of times this week, but can't promise anything, especially since this is my second time writing this blog today since my dial-up connection just booted me off and didn't save my previous post!

Anyway, one of the things I do a lot on vacations is read - today, it's The Choice by Bob Woodward, a comprehensive look at all of the candidates in the 2006 presidential election and the discussions and events that drove that campaign.

While the book is largely about Bob Dole and Bill Clinton, it was a section about Dan Quayle - you remember him, Mr. I-Can't-Spell-Potato - that caught my attention this morning.

"Dole had additional problems in Quayle's view. His message would be about competence: I've been there, I've had the experience. That, Quayle worried, was too much like Michael Dukakis's theme in 1988 -- competence, not ideology, not passion."

One paragraph in a 200-page book hit me like a ton of bricks, or like looking at the fantasy baseball standings and realizing I'm in ninth place at the All-Star Break. 

As the 2008 Presidential election gets closer, the debate seems to have shifted to competence. Who can do the job competently? Whose experience will help them do the job? I've decided I have a problem with that debate.

If there is one general issue I have with President George W. Bush, it's this - the country just doesn't care anymore, about anything. If this was 1950, and gas was $4.30 a gallon, the economy was stagnant and people were worried about their futures, something would happen. Somebody would do something.

That isn't happening now. There is no energy, no impetus for change or improvement. There is no thought for the common good.

When you think about it, that's the president's ultimate job. Yeah, you can bomb people, you have control of the most powerful fighting force in the world, and you have that cool round office with the awesome seal on the floor.

But, day-to-day governing is boring. It's easy to get bogged down in the little things - a problem Woodward says both Clinton and Dole had, by the way. In the end, it's the president's job to create energy, to create an us-against-the-world attitude that propels us to bigger and better things.

Bobby Knight for president! YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!

Maybe Coach Knight wouldn't be a good president, but ask yourself this: Would the space race have happened without a push from President Kennedy? Would the Greatest Generation have become the Greatest Generation without leadership from President Roosevelt? I don't think so. We need a jumpstart.

As we move toward the November election, I think the question to ask ourselves is who will provide the most energy to make our country better? Who will get us, the general public, up off our couches to find alternative energy, or pay for our older citizens to afford to be older citizens, or even to find jobs for those who want to work, but can't find work, or workers for companies who want to expand, but can't find qualified workers.

While he didn't run for the presidency in 1996, I think we can thank Dan Quayle for one thing - he perfectly summed up what we don't want in our next president. Rather than a political wonk or a party hack who is competent, who can run the office, we need someone who will take on the big issues, not leave them sitting around for the next guy, someone with energy and experience.

Someone with passion, maybe the passion to throw a chair or choke a player who's slacking, perhaps? It's something to think about, anyway...




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