Are Politicians Humans?
My mother sent me a copy of this story and said, "I just can't not send
this, it's great -- isn't it Howard?" What follows is my reply…
That is a nice story. Amid all the mud-slinging and lies, I too, like to see the
fact that all the people involved are still human. We sometimes forget about
that and view them almost as caricatures. I would like to believe that people
who are running for office are motivated to help their fellow man.
I'm reminded during the Gore/Bush campaign of 2000 that many voters who
couldn't decide, cast their ballot with who they were mostly likely to have a
beer with. They voted for Bush because he was "like them". In fact, it almost
seems that collectively we don't want an "expert" with credentials to be the
president, but we want to vote for someone who is almost average. And I think
that is a huge part of the draw for Sarah Palin. She gets nervous and stumbles
and trips on her words … just like I do when I'm put on the spot. In fact, I
would love to have Sarah and her family over to my backyard BBQ on my patio …
however, I don't think that should be a prerequisite for the White House.
If you think about it, if I was going in for surgery, I wouldn't base my
criteria for a surgeon on "whether I would like to have dinner with him". I
wouldn't want someone average at all. I would want an expert. So why is it, we
think running the White House requires anything less than the best and most
prepared person we can find for the job?
Is it because we think that egg-heads are less trustworthy? I personally think
it is impossible for anyone running for high office in this country to be
spot-less. It just the rules of the game, and in a way, it is a shame. However,
the goal of "politics" is to come to a consensus… to make compromises with
each other, and with the extreme positions of people in this country, this will
undoubtedly require giving up something.
Having Palin be a "Washington Outsider" has the potential of not being privy to
"Washington Corruption". That would be nice. That was part of Jimmy Carter's
campaign. But I don't think you necessarily need to be living in Washington to
A major source of corruption in Washington is due to special interest groups
and corporate lobby efforts, for the goals of a major corporation or special
interest group doesn't always have the interest of regular folks in mind. So, it
would be best if our politicians could answer to "the people" instead of "the
I guess this is why I thought that Obama was "a breath of fresh air" when he
returned the money of anyone his campaign could detect that was involved in
lobbying efforts (see this op-ed). He said he didn't want to "owe anything"
except to "the people" (I guess even the DNC won't take such money now). Do
politicians listen to the people who give them huge checks? Bush certainly
listened to them, and clearly that was the main point in starting a war with
Iraq (The oil companies have certainly made back their campaign contribution money…
it is just an investment, right?) McCain has received almost $2 million from "Big Oil",
and it seems like that money does seem to influence his decisions.
Sorry to get off on a tangent … we were talking about the humanism in our
candidates, not the business aspects.
Ignoring John McCain's past, it is refreshing that both the Palin's and the
Obama's have such good, stable relationships (see this op-ed piece).
While I don't think it is required in order to do a good job at the White House,
it certainly helps.
On a slightly different subject, does someone's "beliefs" influence how well
they can lead such a diverse nation as America? I went the rounds when this came
up with Romney's candidacy. While strange, I can view as metaphorical Palin's
blessings of protection of witchcraft and
her prayer that the Iraq War be part of God's will
and that God really wants a pipeline in Alaska, however, her view that
the world is less than 6000 years old is another thing…
If accurate, it means that she may be willing to believe things without
evidence, and I personally would like someone to check the facts and look for
evidence before deciding to… oh, I don't know… jump into a war or something.
Now, I don't think that because of her beliefs, she would want to fight science
or anything like that. But given her comments about energy, this seems very strange, for
without our current model of natural selection, we would have no theory for
predicting where oil may be found (check out Donald Prothero's book for 500
pages of evidence of this).
Without our science, how are we going to deal with constantly evolving bacteria
and drug-resistant tuberculosis? For a chuckle, see this comic (and
this one too).
Another tangent. Sorry. I guess you get my points… I do believe these people
are good people, and it is helpful to go behind the caricatures to see the human
side. BTW: This is my favorite picture of Obama for just this reason.
I'm sure that Obama will never again have an opportunity to just ride his
bike around Chicago any more:
Tell others about this article:
I found that story and the pictures ironic and somewhat heartbreaking. I have
to say that I have been dismayed by my own personal reaction to Sarah Palin.
Credentials and experience aside, I have had a very visceral reaction to her
candidacy. Fourteen months ago if anyone would have told me I would feel this
strongly about her family circumstances and her candidacy I would never have
believed it. But 14 months as a working mother of three special needs children
has altered my world view. I am appalled (and there is no gentler word for it)
that a mother at this stage of her parenting (an infant with Downs and a
pregnant 17 year old daughter) would put her family through the circus that the
American presidential election has become. Never mind the demands of the job
should her party win. As a staunch feminist, I have wanted to subscribe to the
notion that one can indeed have it all--a fulfilling, exciting career,
well-nurtured children, and a strong sense of personal satisfaction with one's
life and choices. But fourteen months of juggling job (forget "career") demands
and child demands have left me sobered, exhausted and more clear-eyed about the
seasons of one's life. I am grateful that I came to parenting quite late in
life--after I had become so sick of my "career" that I would have gladly chucked
it to live off the land with some organically grown vegetables. Had that not
been the case, I think I would be quite bitter and resentful of all the
sacrifices motherhood requires of me and my inability to balance career
aspirations with three young children and the multitude of their special needs.
One can argue that Sarah Palin is not a single parent and that her children will
have one parent available to them. And that's another painful lesson I've come
to realize first-hand. There is a reason why children need two parents. Mothers
aren't replaceable by Fathers (and vice versa). Mothers have a unique role in
the process of the successful emotional attachment of children. I don't think I
would have believed this prior to my own parenting journey--but the research is
irrefutable and so is the experience I live each day with these kids. Her baby
will never have another first two years of life and her 17 year old will never
have another frightening, bewildering, first pregnancy and early years as a
teen-age newly wed. But, if Sarah Palin is as talented a politician as many
think she is--there will be other elections, other campaigns, other times of her
life when her nation needs her more than her children. Now is clearly not that
As a life-long defender of a woman's right to choose her path in this world, I
appreciate the irony of my current view. But once some choices are made--to have
a child for instance--there is a moral imperative to meet their needs, however
inconvenient this may be. This is not to say that it is impossible to combine
work and family life. But, there are certainly combinations of career demands
and child demands that are completely incapatible. (I must say, in my own
defense, that if Sarah were a male, I would also feel that his family needs
should be placed above his political aspirations for this season of his life.)