Are They Experienced? by John Ostrander
I was talking with “goldeneye” Glenn Hauman about a week ago and our conversation, as it often does, turned to politics. Glenn told me both presidential candidate Barack Obama and presidential candidate John McCain were asked which was their favorite games of chance. Obama replied “poker” and McCain replied “craps.” Glenn and I both found these choices telling, especially with McCain’s recent choice of Sarah Palin as his running-mate which certainly qualifies as something of a crapshoot.
Poker involves a lot of different elements: reading the other player, calculating the odds based on the cards played and the cards you hold and, as the song says, knowing when to hold ‘em and knowing when to fold ‘em. You need to think. Craps counts on luck and your gut feeling. You do your ritual, roll the dice, and hope.
That’s not the main reason I’m for Obama over McCain in the Presidential race but it is indicative of why I prefer the senator from Illinois over the senator from Arizona. We’ve had almost eight years of someone who trusted his gut and rolled the dice and the country has come up craps. We’re neck deep in it. It’s time for a poker player – someone with intelligence and skill.
There are/can be/should be a lot of different elements that goes into choosing the person you want in the most powerful position on Earth. There’s been a lot of talk about “experience” and which presidential/veepal candidate has the most or what kind of experience they’ve had. I’ll tell you a secret, though – everyone has experiences. The real question is have you learned anything from them and, if so, what.
The American poet Emily Dickinson lived most of her life within her house and even her room. Yet from that set of circumscribed experience she distilled 1800 poems and described vividly the “landscape of the spirit.” On the other hand, we also all know people who seem to never learn from their experiences and keep repeating them over and over again to their own detriment.
For example, Wile E. Coyote has lots of experience chasing roadrunners. He never seems to learn much from those experiences. He’s not a quitter; got to give him that. He has lots of tenacity. And he just announced Petunia Pig as his running-mate. I like ol’ Wile E. but I’m not going to vote for him for President. I want the guy who avoids the traps, not the one who steps into his own trap time and time again.
We extrapolate from our experiences – at least we do if we actually are learning from them. Those are the proverbial “lessons learned.” Even here, however, it’s a question of what lessons are learned. And do those lessons continue to apply over time? Therapists and psychologists put their kids through college by helping people figure out what lessons they have learned in their past no longer apply. You have to be willing to question those lessons learned; what you know or think you know. A belief that has not been questioned is not worth holding. The ability to think is best demonstrated in the ability to question.
You’d think we’d want that sort of quality in our president but that doesn’t seem the case in recent years. When did it become a political liability to beintelligent? Why is it necessary that our president be “just folks” or “just like us”? I don’t want a president to be just like me. You don’t want a president to be just like me, either. I’d make a terrible president. I want a president who is smarter, who knows more about policy, about government, about the world, than I do. I’m not saying I’m stupid; I’m smart enough to recognize I want someone smarter than me to be president. And try not to be offended but I want a president who is smarter than most of you out there as well.
I want someone who has experience with thinking. Who knows there are more than two sides to a question. Someone who can come up with a better answer than “My way or the highway.” Someone who doesn’t define things in black and white, who understands that there are grays and more than one way of doing something. Someone who will seek out other opinions and have people around him based on their ability to think and not on their loyalty.
Here’s a question for all America – the Republicans had control of the White House for the past seven-plus years. They controlled both Houses of Congress for six of those years and much of the Judiciary. They put us in a war that has nothing to do with our security, that wastes our resources and our military, and that has diminished us in the eyes of the world. They have eroded our freedoms instead of protected them, tanked the economy with their deregulation, and benefited their wealthy buddies. Do you then reward them by giving them another four years in the White House? With a man who has voted with the current administration’s policies 95% of the time? Are you going to vote your gut or your head?
No more Wile E. Coyote White House. I’m going with the Roadrunner.
John Ostrander pops up here anew every Thursday morning.