Running From the Presidency

mccain 2 Running From the PresidencyI made the mistake of watching some of the T.V. coverage of the Presidential campaign last night—I guess that’s what happens when the Yankees have the night off and I’m too tired to do anything else. Listening to the commentary is mind numbing and most of it ranges from misleading to out and out inaccurate.

As I watched these candidates move around in the security and media bubble of the modern Presidential campaign I was thinking that they must feel as if they’ve been abducted by aliens. Poor Barack Obama-he’s going to travel to Iraq so he mentioned that while he was there he might listen to what the military folks have to say. Suddenly "Obama is moving to the right on the war". And poor John McCain- who told him that he had to smile all of the time? When he laughs at something funny his eyes smile and he seems to laugh with his whole being. When he has to wear his media-consultant smile it’s genuinely painful to watch.

For Obama, the issue the other night was moving his acceptance speech from the 20,000 seat venue to the 70,000 seat venue. This was considered by the punditry to be an example of the same ego mania that resulted in the faux presidential seal podium plaque of the other week. Never mind that John Kennedy gave his acceptance speech in the 100,000 seat Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960. This was considered a move worthy of news time on all the 24 hour news channels. I could only take so much of this stuff, so I turned on the stereo, opened a book and turned off the tube.

I hope these guys running for President are not watching this nonsense too much. I know that CNN’s ratings have been going up with this endless Presidential campaign. There must be money in this campaign coverage or these folks would be paying more attention to Christie Brinkley, A-Rod and Madonna. I know that like any long-running soap opera, the show needs some plot twists to keep the viewers watching. Is McCain really too old? Is Obama a closet conservative? Is he a closet Muslim? Is McCain still a maverick or has he sold out to the dark side of the force? Stay tuned to this channel….

Has anyone noticed that there really are some critical "issues" out there? It’s true that Presidential races are not just about "issues" but about the character of the candidates. In an uncertain world, we don’t really know what challenges we will face in the next four or eight years. What worries me is that we have designed a Presidential selection process that virtually guarantees that only unbalanced people will enter the race. If Obama and McCain where normal folks before running for President, it’s hard to believe they are normal today. In other words, you probably have to be crazy to run for President, but if you’re not at the start of the campaign, you’ve got to be by the end of it.

Getting to the issues, let me mention that over a billion people on the planet are living in dire poverty. What is America’s moral responsibility to those people? The planet is getting warmer and we are having trouble making sure there is adequate food and water for the humans who live here. Here in the United States of America we have created wealth and health unequaled in human history. However for the first time it is not clear that our children’s life will be as good as ours. While we moan about gasoline approaching $5 a gallon, we still seem unwilling to make the investments in the infrastructure, scientific research and education that will be needed to make our wealth sustainable.

In 1798 Thomas Mathus published An Essay on the Principle of Population. Simply put his theory was that population would grow faster than food supply on our finite planet. The one element that he could not fully factor into his theory was the impact of technology. Technology has made it possible for us to live longer and healthier (which increases demand on food), but also has allowed us to grow more food than we ever could naturally. Technology has allowed us to both poison and detoxify our natural environment

Despite the wonders of modern technology, we are seeing the strains in our technologically dependent world. What are our candidates saying about these fundamental issues? We need to invest in our future. We need to build our educational institutions to make sure our kids can compete in the global economy. We need to invest in science and research and development. We need to spend money on infrastructure-especially alternatives to fossil fuel based transportation. That may mean a little less partying today to ensure that our way of life is sustainable. I know that this is not the stuff that tests well in the focus groups convened by political consultants. Still, I suspect that with some leadership, Americans would respond to a real challenge. Many of us would support a candidate who acknowledges these issues and makes it clear that we have the capacity to deal with them. While I’m not expecting it in this campaign, I’d like to be proven wrong. Maybe the candidates can escape from the Alien space ship they are travelling in and let us know what they really think.