And Another Thing

Susan Rushton: Pomp and Circumstance

By: Susan Rushton
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This column, with some revision and editing, is a quadrennial event.  
Something like it first appeared in 1989.
Well, we’re about ready for another inauguration day, another day of pomp, circumstance and conspicuous consumption. Once again, Washington has a spasm felt ‘round the world.
Even if you’re a Democrat and voted for Obama, you can’t really believe he’s the best person for the job. Really? The best person?  
Did the best person even run?
Voting for president these days is like flipping a coin or tossing a dart, blindfolded, at a target. You fervently hope that the winner won’t muck things up. Maybe Mr. Obama should take the Hippocratic oath as well as the presidential oath, promising to “First, do no harm.”
Granted, presidents are big men, and most of them have been nice guys, I guess. But it seems that not even the president is immune to the Peter Principle: In every organization, employees rise to the level of their incompetence-and stay there.
My proof comes from my unhappy observation that for lo these many years, since before I reached voting age, no president has refrained from embarrassing me. There has never been a president whose warmongering or posturing or idiotic or illegal or deceptive or randy or ignorant behavior has not made me wince with annoyance and frustration, regret and humiliation.
I want a president who doesn’t embarrass me in front of the world. I want a president who doesn’t do stupid things, say stupid things, believe stupid things.
I want a president who has no need for spin doctors, someone whose actions and statements are reasonable and understandable and therefore don’t need explaining. I want a president who doesn’t need a pack of sycophants constantly huddling at his ear. I want a president who doesn’t need handling.
The president I deserve doesn’t hang on his army of advisors to tell him the right thing to do. He doesn’t pour over the most recent poll to decide what to do. He knows the right thing to do and trusts himself to do it.
Since he must have advisors, though, I’d like him to choose them because they’re the best people he can find, not because they might fulfill a PR firm’s idea of the best people he can find.
I deserve someone intelligent and inquisitive, who understands and appreciates people. I want a president who reads, who knows about history and other cultures, and respects those other cultures.
I want my president to acknowledge that there might be more than two sides to a conflict. I also want him to recognize that in that same conflict it’s not always true that one side deserves our support and the others don’t-because all parties may be wrong.
I know my president must be a politician. He has to know how to deal with politicians, so he has to be one himself. But I want him to be interested in dealing with me, too, and other ordinary citizens who don’t happen to be politicians.
I want a president who doesn’t believe he’s John Wayne, Don Juan, Andrew Carnegie, the Pope or Augustus Caesar.
Someone with a sense of humor would be dandy. And I’d be thrilled if he consistently let us see how smart he is. Like, smarter than the rest of us.
I guess I could just stop expecting anything of my president. But I’m not quite ready to do that. Besides, it doesn’t seem right. If I give up, aren’t I giving the president carte blanche to be stupid? If someone expects nothing of me, I’m likely to live up to that expectation.
No, I have the right to expect intelligence, humility and curiosity of my president.
But if all that's too much to ask, then forget it and we'll make it just this. The Jews have a term for the kind of person I want to govern me: a "mensch"-a human being, a person.
If Obama's a mensch, I'd appreciate it if he'd prove it to me. And keep proving it.
Hail to the chief.
Susan Rushton’s opinion column appears every other Sunday in the Auburn Journal. Her email address is