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A Test of Leadership

Our process of selecting presidents discourages real leadership because it punishes anything that is slightly outside of "normal" -- or what the media thinks is normal.
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President Bush says he wants $50 billion more for the surge this September. That's on top of the $147 billion he was planning to ask for the overall wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And on top of the $460 billion Defense Department budget for next year. You gotta hand it to the man, he has chutzpah.

He claims the surge is going so well that Congress can't turn down his request right after they hear from the legendary General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. After that dog and pony show, he thinks it'll be no sweat to intimidate Congress into giving him all the money he wants for the Iraq War and his surge.

He says this based on experience -- because that has always been the case so far in his presidency. Roll out some troops, lob political slurs at your enemies, hide behind the troops and intimidate the Democrats into going along. That script has never changed and never been challenged in six and a half years.

So, will this time be any different?

I understand there are some people running for president who claim to be leaders. They say the can lead this great nation toward a better future. But so far, we haven't seen any of that leadership. What great fight did Senator Clinton or Senator Obama or Senator Biden lead (I'll leave Sen. Dodd out of it for now because at least he's trying to repair the constitution by leading the fight against the Military Commissions Act)?

I remember Senator Feingold leading the fight against the abuses of the Patriot Act and the abuse of the FISA law. I remember Harry Reid at least leading the fight against Social Security privatization (I'm being kind by leaving out all the things he didn't lead on, but that's for another day). I remember Senator Leahy and Rep. Waxman and Rep. Conyers leading the investigations that led to the ouster of Alberto Gonzales and Karl Rove.

Credit where credit is due. But I have no idea what I should give credit to the Democratic presidential candidates for. Do you? What brave act of leadership have they shown in their time in the Senate?

Unfortunately, our process of selecting presidents discourages real leadership because it punishes anything that is slightly outside of "normal" -- or what the media thinks is normal. It is built around mindlessly avoiding gaffes and appearing presidential by doing absolutely nothing. Spew flawless talking points and the media think you are qualified to be the leader of the free world. It is a bizarre and perverse system. It discourages leadership, rather than inviting it.

You think Martin Luther King was normal? Do you think Gandhi would have been considered viable? Would Mandela have seemed like a fringe candidate?

That being said, it is no excuse for the candidates to cower behind the system and say they couldn't lead because the media wouldn't let them. Not exactly a profile in courage. But luckily, it's not too late. And we have a huge moment coming up in September where these people will be tested.

Leadership is not casting a vote in the middle of the night and then running away. Leadership is not waiting to the last moment to see how the other candidates vote. Leadership is not polling to see how issues are going to play in the primaries and the general election.

Leadership is leading your fellow Senators and Congressmen to rejecting this absurd claim to unchecked power that President Bush is putting forward. I think there's some chance that Bush is putting the new $50 billion request out there so that he can compromise on it and still have the $147 billion for the wars overall. On the other hand, there is some chance he thinks he can have it all because he has never been stopped before.

Look at what he's saying about the selection process for the next Attorney General. As The Washington Post is reporting, he is basically saying I don't give a damn who the Democrats want. As the Democrats are talking about conciliation with the White House again, Bush talks about shoving his chosen candidate down their throats. You know why? Because they have never stopped him before.

So will the vaunted leader and front-runner Senator Hillary Clinton be able to lead the fight against Bush's war stance in September? Will she even try? Does she even know what it means to lead others? Has she ever tried?

That's a serious question. Have Clinton or Obama ever tried to lead their colleagues on any issue? What has been the result? Why the hell are these people considered to be our leaders? So far, they haven't shown the ability to lead themselves out of a paper bag as they continue to get their ass handed to them by the most unpopular president in history.

But after all this, there is still time. I can't wait to see if they can stop the $50 billion for the surge, let alone stopping the whole senseless war.

By the way, why would you give any money to candidates that can't do something as simple as stop the additional money for the surge? If they can't hit that bare minimum, I think you'd be crazy to waste your good money donating to them.

This applies to all the Democrats, not just the presidential candidates. I'm not concerned about meaningless votes cast when you knew you were going to lose. I'm concerned about results. If you can't lead a few Blue Dog Democrats to do the right thing, then on what grounds should we keep giving you money for continued failure?

We're just a couple of weeks away. Let's see what they got. Can they actually show leadership for the first time in stopping a person they consider to be the worst president in U.S. history? If they can't, how can they in good conscience ask for our vote? And ask us to make them the next leader of the free world?

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