High office teaches decision making, not substance. It consumes intellectual capital; it does not create it. Most high officials leave office with the perceptions and insights with which they entered; they learn how to make decisions but not what decisions to make. — Henry A. Kissinger
I have a love/hate relationship with politics. It’s like a drug I can successfully abstain from for awhile, and then suddenly it’s as if I’ve gone to a party where everyone is passing around the pipe. I hesitate (almost imperceptibly) and then say, “What the hell.”
And now the silly season is looming over us yet again. I opened my Comcast home page to be met with the news that Sarah Palin thinks she could beat President Obama.
In checkers, maybe. She promises to make an announcement in August or September. I can hardly wait. (Please, do it, Sarah.)
See? I’m pulled in yet again. If personal history is the least bit accurate, I will slide down the long and slippery slope of political interest until splashing into the pool of election frenzy about 16 months from now.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. There was one thing I actually admired about George W. Bush (and, yes, a small puff of smoke arose from my keyboard as I wrote that sentence). I actually appreciated the fact that he was “the decider.”
A friend of mine always says, “Let’s do something, even if it’s wrong.” I thought of that saying often during the Bush II Era. I rarely liked his decisions, but I had to give him credit for simply making them. Washington has such an incredible tendency to become a stagnant cesspool of indecision that it isn’t really that difficult for a confident “decider” to rise above the crowd.
Because that’s really what we are voting for on election day — a decision maker. Our entire democratic republic is based on that concept. With rare exceptions in the form of ballot initiatives, we rarely vote for ideas; we vote for people. We don’t make decisions; we vote for decision makers. And then we hold our breath for the next four years as we watch them do exactly what we gave them the power to do.
President Obama’s ability to hold the Republican hopefuls at bay in 2012 may well depend solely on his ability to appear decisive. Americans have their pet issues and political perspectives, but mostly they just want to know someone is in charge. Someone who is not afraid to make a decision.
I contend that the President’s 2012 hopes will rise and fall not so much with the decisions he makes, but with his ability to appear decisive as he makes them. That theory, of course, is dependent upon the assumption that the decisions won’t be too outlandish. I suppose if he decided to invade France, I would have to return my Amateur Political Scientist merit badge.