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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Mavericks Need Not Apply.

In a recent Newsweek article Jonathan Karp, who edits John MCain’s books, has this to say about the man who could be President:

“Although it is too soon to know whether picking Palin will turn out to be the right call, anyone reading “Hard Call” will quickly realize it’s exactly the kind of decision McCain values- one unconcerned with conventional wisdom. In a passage written almost two years before anyone knew McCain would be running for president against Barak Obama, or that 2008 would be deemed a “change” election year, the authors stated ‘Profound change doesn’t always require consensus. Sometimes it is achieved when just a few people see the way ahead and decided to set in motion events that will overtake resistance, change the unsatisfactory status quo, and leave something better in its place’”

Let’s consider for a moment the implications of these statements. In essence Karp is saying that McCain has no concern of learning from the lessons of the past- conventional wisdom is often built from these lessons. Even though conventional wisdom can sometimes be wrong and impede growth, ignoring it altogether can also be foolhardy. 6 weeks in, we still don't know how his pick of Palin is going to play out- bold move or foolish error- and this is not a good sign this close to the election. McCain himself spells out for us, in a passage he wrote over 2 years ago, just how we can expect him to run this country- by making decisions he deems correct regardless of consensus, regardless of what the majority wants or demands, so long as he thinks the resulting change will leave us in a better place.

Quick review- The very definition of democracy is rule by consensus:

From Merriam Webster:

1. government by the people ; especially : rule of the majority b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

So let's revisit this statement:
‘Profound change doesn’t always require consensus. Sometimes it is achieved when just a few people see the way ahead and decided to set in motion events that will overtake resistance, change the unsatisfactory status quo, and leave something better in its place'

Is John McCain suggesting that being a leader would bestow upon him the ability to make decisions carte blanche with no accountability to the constituency simply because he finds it to be the ‘right’ decision? No, he is out right saying this. I can certainly see where this attitude served McCain well in his military life as the military is not a democracy and hard battle field decisions are made by a select few with no questions asked. Combine this attitude with his insistence that he is a maverick and we can begin to see just how dangerous John McCain’s brand of leadership has the potential to be. I say ‘potential’ because even though he claims the ‘maverick’ title and according to Karp he eschews conventional wisdom, his record of voting with the current Administration doesn’t support these claims.

Accountability has been a big theme in the current election- if only as a word and not the actual act- but I don’t think McCain understands that there are two sides to the accountability coin. Yes, accountability means accepting responsibility for your actions after something goes wrong or has unintended consequences. But what about the accountability that must happen before a decision is even made? What about being accountable for decisions you have yet to make by merely honoring the weight of what it means to be the leader of a democracy? What about the accountability to the constituency by keeping your ego in check?

Honestly, we don’t know what we’re in for if McCain wins on November 4th, but it is fair to say it could be one of two scenarios: an extension of the Bush Administration or possibly something far more precarious with even less transparency or accountability. Why would a President McCain- unilateral decision making maverick he claims to be- ever feel the need to explain any of his decisions to the people he elected let alone care about our approval of those decisions?I don’t think he would and I don't think that is the kind of leadership we need.

1 comment:

Matt Plavnick said...

Watching Sarah Palin toss around the word "maverick" like hard candies from a parade float during the VP debate, I was struck by how little that term is helpful to McCain anymore. He's corrupted the value of that currency by the actions taken during this campaign. I read your post, Kate, and I think back to "I'm the Decider." You're right that a McCain win would look like another Bush term in some respects. You're also absolutely right--this is not a question in my mind--that transparency and accountability in the Executive Branch will suffer even more than they have the past eight years. Think "President Cheney."

These guys, McCain and Bush, they bring the ego you mention without any sense of propriety. History will judge, not the American people. The beauty of considering yourself a visionary, as McCain clearly does, is that you _expect_ people not to appreciate the value of the decisions you make and the work you do. George Bush's reward presumably lies in heaven. John McCain's developing story, however, reads much more like Proust. And heaven help John McCain if he actually pulls this thing out.