In this morning's New York Times (Jan. 31, 2007), columnist Nicholas D. Kristof presented an interesting problem.
On one hand, he said that Hillary Rodham Clinton has all the qualities and experience to make a formidable president.
On the other hand, he said that if she were elected and served two terms, 40 percent of the people alive in the United States at the end of her second term would have lived during presidencies held by members of only two families - the Bushes and the Clintons. For 28 years, the White House would have been occupied by a member of those families.
Let's see -- daddy Bush took office in 1989 and Hillary will serve, if elected twice, until 2017. That's 28 years.
"Naturally, views on this are influenced by politics. Clintonians who dismissed George W. Bush as a dynastic puppet see nothing wrong with another Clinton in the Oval Office," Kristof writes. "On the other hand, Obama fans who shiver at the prospect of a Clinton dynasty bask in endorsements from an even greater dynasty, that of the Kennedys."
O guess great minds move in the same direction -- see my previous post for the same sentiment, although written less elegantly.
Kristof then leads us through history, with the Adamses, John and Quincy, the four terms of Roosevelt, the resulting 22nd Amendment and quoting Thomas Jefferson as saying "in no office can rotation be more expedient" than the presidency.
Kristof ends with the obvious tradeoff -- those who believe Hillary Clinton is a most formidable lady with great credentials to clean house (no sexist pun intended) after the Bushes have packed up the pickup truck and moved back to Texas. At the same time, he says, we fear the kind of dynasty where sons take over from fathers (Papa and Baby Doc in Haiti, the Ghandis in India, the husband-wife deal going down in Argentina.
But at the same time, do we want to eschew a superior individual just because her husband was a superior individual in the White House? As Kristof puts it, "Mrs. Clinton has proven herself and excellent senator, and presumably would make a superior president. Yet...28 years....two families! That needn't be decisive, but it's too important to be ignored."
I disagree. It is, at most, a side issue.
If there were demonstrably superior alternative, I would agree with Kristof. I'm not sure there is. Barack Obama is a very bright man who has the talent to inspire, which is great for getting elected. My problem with him can be summarized by the following: Do you remember a wonderful movie called "The Candidate?" Robert Redford as McKay, and Peter Boyle as his campaign manager. McKay has the better way was the campaign slogan. McKay was good looking and gave a great speech and got himself elected. The final scene takes places in a closet, where McKay drags the manager to escape the hoopla for a moment to ask this question: "What do we do now?"
I'm a little afraid of that with Barack Obama. I'm afraid he's a guy who can get himself elected and then have to look around to his advisers to find out what to do now. That's Ronnie Reagan and that's George W. Bush. If you have great advisers who have the good of the nation at heart, you are fine. If your adviser is Karl Rove, we're all in trouble again.
John McCain is a pleasant enough guy who has to carry water for the right-wingers and born-agains to get himself elected, and that scares me. Although I really believe he wants what's best for the nation, what he wants to do will be drowned out by what he must do to keep his coalition going. Just ask Ehud Olmert in Israel what that's like.
You notice I don't mention Mitt Romney. Let's not mention him and perhaps he'll go away.
Hey I have an idea. Hillary should use her maiden name, Hillary Rodham, and then we can forget this dynasty nonsense and get on with doing what's best for the nation.
The Democratic debate is on tonight on CNN and I hope race isn't injected into it. Look, there is nothing wrong with someone voting for a guy who looks like him or her as long as that person doesn't then upbraid his neighbor for doing the same thing.
But there are better reasons to vote for someone, especially for a president who have so much healing and patching to do both at home and on the world stage.
People who look like me (blue eyes, light brown hair before it started going ash blond) are scratching their heads about why African-Americans made such a fuss about Hillary's comment about how Martin Luther King couldn't have done what he did without Lyndon Johnson doing what he did.
I think I know and I think there is a lesson for all of us in it.
African-Americans haven't been allowed to have many heroes. That isn't to say there haven't been a whole lot of African-Americans who have done heroic things, but because of racism, those heroes have not been acknowledged by the general population, haven't been taught in schools and the like.
People who haven't been allowed to have many heroes will not take kindly to one of their heroes, especially one who has been acknowledged by everyone, being diminished. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a true hero, or should be a true hero, to all Americans and people of good will around the globe.
Everyone knows who Paul Revere and Samuel Adams were, but how many know who Crispin Attucks was? See? Revere and Adams and John Hancock were heroes of the American Revolution, but so was Crispin Attucks, who died in 1775 in Boston. How many kids learn that.
So, we need to be careful how we diminish other people's heroes. I think Hillary learned that, just as she learned that one should learn what a foreign individual says before embracing them (as in Suha Arafat). That was bad staff work. It's one of the lessons she has learned.
Gotta go. It's the last day for some colleagues at The Journal News, which is winding up its next buyout phase. I wish them the best and want to be there to wish them well.
Until next time...