Presidential Hopeful At A Disadvantage…

by Dr. Wunmi Akintide

It is my contention that most presidential challengers in most countries, and more so, in America are nearly always at a huge disadvantage, running against incumbents. It is always an uphill task trying to dethrone or defeat a sitting President, even where it is clear like now that the incumbent’s policies had made many more enemies than friends around the world, making America look, for once, like an isolationist who still has a lot of power, but no longer earns or deserves the trust and confidence of the rest of the world. America could be the greatest super power on Earth, the problems faced by the world today, is not one that any one nation, regardless of how mighty and powerful it is, can solve alone. It is fine to want to have power like a lion, what is not so kosher is trying to use that power like a lion. Who would have believed in times gone by that America, with all its power and leverage would today have to heavily depend on a country like Pakistan and the relics of the autocratic regime in Saudi Arabia as the main pillar to sustain her so called war against terror.

America under George Bush is making the war look like and sound like a world war against terror which it is not. If it were so, under no condition would Russia have been left alone to confront her Chechnya rebels who are rightly or wrongly seen by themselves and arguably a cross section of the rest of the world as freedom fighters. America is also not applying as much muzzle to fighting the terrorists in Sudan and other places around the world. That America would even wait till she got hammered on 9/11 to really go after Al Qaeda, and its collaborators around the world, has made America look to the rest of the world as merely reacting to the attack on 9/11 for her own interest alone, and not because it has a properly coordinated strategy for protecting the world, and leading the War against terror, as the “primus inter pares” among the nations of the world, a designation, America, under George Bush and his conservative ideological soul mates does not relish. His opponent’s approach is more of the team approach but with America leading the effort, and doing so, not like a bully, but like a nation who sees a lot of strength in working with the rest of the world, and building consensus.

I honestly believe it is unfair for journalists and commentators on American Politics to equate or appear to equate presidential candidates or major party candidates like Kerry with incumbents like Bush in what they are supposed to know and to reveal about their plans, if they win, or what they can do or not do to change the “status quo” and to get things moving in the right direction for the country before their election into that office.

There won’t be any need not to refuse any incumbent their mandatory two terms, allowed by the Constitution, if in the opinion of the country, things are really moving in the right direction. But it is crystal clear today things are far from moving in that direction for America, both socially, economically and militarily. America image abroad is today at the lowest ebb it has ever been for years, because the rest of the world or much of it, now view American global strategy and leadership of the world as suspect or questionable, at best, while many view America as an arrogant bully around the block who wants to look down on the rest of the world, and who will often times lie, exaggerate, or bully the weaker nations into submission, if necessary, to impress his conservative base.

Gone are those days when America was viewed as strong and impregnable at home and highly respected abroad. 9/11 has totally shattered that myth. America is as vulnerable today, if not even more embattled than each of the nations in her so called coalition of the willing. If you don’t believe me, ask New Yorkers or some of the people living in many of the American cities that are now conceded, even by the Bush Administration, to be on the hit list of terrorist whose addresses are unknown, and who can strike again at any time at any place. If in four years, this is the best George Bush can show in his War against terror, it is time for America to seriously consider the other options or possibilities open to her as the undisputed leader of the Free World. The orange and the red alerts that are foisted on the nation from time to time are clear indications of America’s vulnerability under this Administration. Very few people can dispute that fact as we speak. All those indices are reasons good enough for world’s leading Democracy to consider changing the direction of policy, and allowing a new team to come take charge. What is good about America and why America is very different from her peers in the world is the general awareness by the rank and file of this country that America is not looking ahead to just tomorrow, but to another 100 years from today, and how America must maintain he lead come rain or shine That is why the Constitution allows four year of grace to test the incumbent, before we the people show him the way out, if in our collective judgment as a nation he has not met the test. It is not a responsibility that is taken lightly by American voters every four years.

Kerry, as a credible challenger, has come out with the kind of plan he would pursue if elected, but some journalists continue to pressurize him to come out with more details about those plans with more specificity. How more specific can he get when he still does not yet have all the leverage that the incumbent enjoys, all because he has been President for four years. If Kerry comes out with any more details than he has already offered before the presidential debates begin, and three or four months before the real election, you can be sure a sneaky and clever incumbent like Bush may quickly try to steal Kerry’s thunder by quickly moving to adopt or steal those positions or plans, just like Bush has quickly moved to embrace much of Kerry‘s positions without acknowledging it in so many words. You therefore cannot blame Kerry, if he decides to make haste slowly by keeping some of his ideas closer to his chest until the most auspicious time to release them.

So those journalists who are asking Kerry to be more forthcoming about what he wants to do and how he wants to do it, are indirectly helping to deflate Kerry‘s balloon, and to give undue advantage to Bush without saying it so loud. Bush already has an edge by the simple reason that he has occupied that office for upwards of four years and had used its limitless leverage to intimidate and even sabotage his challenger to the extent possible. For instance, when a candidate commits a Freudian slip or a slip of the tongue or makes some statements that can be easily taken out of context, the impact and the seriousness of such a gaffe or mistake, cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, rise to the same level as an incumbent President committing the same gaffe. A Congress man or a Senator lying or making a stupid statement is an embarrassment, but that embarrassment is no where as bad as a President making the same mistake. Because unto whom much is given, much is expected. When a President talks, the whole world listens and takes him much more seriously, because he is President. Being President gives him a lot more advantage and credibility than any presidential hopeful can ever muster.

When Bush tells the whole world he was declaring war on Iraq and Saddam because has had found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that was a serious statement that could not be taken lightly by majority in Congress. It is true that no less than 22 members of the Senate including Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd were still able to see through the grand deception and to say no. They reached that conclusion, in large part because they were experienced Senators and because, most of them hardly contemplate ever seeking the presidency again because of their age. Many Senators including Kerry were persuaded to vote for the plan to go to war, despite any reservations they might have had against the Bill. I would have to believe that John Kerry had reluctantly gone along with the resolution to go to war, because he had put himself in the shoes of George Bush, which is perfectly understandable. He had believed like the majority who voted for the resolution, that the President was above board. If the president says it, it has got to be the truth. He little realized the President may have lied or whitewash falsehood to make it believable. In the ideal world, a President of the United States is supposed to represent the gold standard in honesty and integrity.

If the President gives you his word, the way the system is designed by the founding fathers, we are supposed to be able to take that word to the Bank If that statement later proves to be false for any reason, the president has to be fully prepared like Harry Truman to hold himself accountable. The American President is not one of those Banana Republic Presidents whose words are not worth the paper on which their words were written. In that context, any presidential hopeful in America system is a long, long away from being at parity with an incumbent. It is expecting too much to expect him to sabotage himself by giving out too much information. Every morning, the President of the United States unlike most presidents, the world over, receive Presidential Daily briefing not only about America, but about the whole world. He receives the most detailed and often accurate Intelligence information that money can buy, because information is a tool for decision-making. You don’t have information, you are like someone shooting in the dark.

It is mark of good leadership for the President to be sure of the accuracy and the potency of the information he is getting and how he is using it. The bucks stop at his desk, like it did, when Harry Truman was President of this great nation. If things work out good, the President takes the credit. If on the other hands, things end up in a fiasco, the president should also be man enough to take the blame, and not to start looking for a scapegoat or a fall guy, like this President often does.

President Bush told the nation he was sure Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and his Defense Secretary, Don Rumsfeld even went as far as telling the nation where those weapons could be found in Iraq. One year later and with close to a thousand American soldiers killed and more than 2 Billion dollars squandered, not a single weapon of mass destruction has been found. Under no condition must the president be allowed to change the topic or his position. Because no weapons of mass destruction has been found, this President now says the removal of one unrepentant despot in Saddam Hussein, was good enough reason to justify the war. When that notion would not fly, he sang a different tune again, saying he had gone to war to fight the enemies of America abroad, so they could not fight America on her own soil. If that rational is accepted, it can only mean that Americans under George Bush would never stop fighting. Because there are just too many around the world today who do not like the American policies under George Bush, and many of them have said so loud and clear. Must America now go after all those enemies wherever they may be?

Kerry had once made a statement that President Bush had harped upon, so much, in his commercials to label Kerry as flip-flopper “I first voted for that bill before I voted against it.” It was, after all, a true statement, but Bush had completely taken the statement out of context to make Kerry look and sound stupid and unprincipled in his commercials. My point is that John Kerry making that kind of mistake is no where near the flip-flop by Bush himself who had once told the nation he was out to get Saddam out of power because Saddam was going to deploy imaginary weapons of mass destruction, and that he knew where those weapons were kept in Iraq and would send his troops to go get them.

More than one year later with more than 900 American deaths and thousands maimed and wounded and more than 2 Billion Dollars wasted, not a single weapon of mass destruction had been found. If that is not a disaster for a President that stakes his reputation on being a war time President, I don’t know what else to call it. Bush now says he is after Saddam and Iraq as an extension of his War on Terror, and because the terrorists in Iraq did not like American ways of life. That was not what he said going in. But having woefully lied to the nation, he has quickly moved to change the topic while trying in vain to pin the label of a flip-flopper on John Kerry. He was a more dangerous and deadlier flip-flopper than John Kerry, if you are paying attention. When the move to set up the 9/11 Commission, Bush was the first to say it was a bad idea, and he did everything to abort the idea, but for the insistence of the family members of the victims of 9/11. Today Bush is the greatest cheer leader for the 9/11 Commission, another major flip flop. He gave the impressing he was going to swiftly implement their recommendation, but what he has done is a caricature of what he has promised and a departure from what the Commission has recommended.

President Gerald Ford was once ridiculed by the Media for saying that that the old Soviet Union did not dominate Eastern Europe. Bush had committed a greater blunder recently when he said “that terrorists had never stopped thinking of hurting and harming our people, and so do we” That was a serious gaffe for any incumbent President to ever make, but Bush does that all the time, and never for once, has the news media seriously challenged him on that. Under no conditions should Presidents be treated with kid gloves like Bush has been treated ever so often.

When you are President of the United States, regardless of the checks and balances guaranteed by the American Constitution, and the so called “separation of powers” you are a one man battalion, so to speak. You are so many things rolled into one, and you exercise a lot of power, if the truth must be told. You are in some respects like the old “Kabiyesi” a terminology used for natural rulers in my own part of Nigeria before the advent of colonial rule. The term “Kabiyesi” simply means in Yoruba Language “Ka bi o ,o si” meaning “nobody is allowed to question your authority or judgment. Whatever you do is the Law, and is binding on everybody. The concept is very much akin to the notion of Louis the XIV when he once called himself the State in France in his famous statement “L’Etat ce’st moi” I am synonymous to the State, and my words are Law. I would agree that no American President’s power has yet risen to that level, for purposes of argument, but most people will agree that the job is without any question, one hell of a job, and clearly one of the most powerful positions in the world today.

Just like President Obasanjo gets a kick out of his being addressed or cajoled as President of Africa, whoever is President of America, at any given point, is sometimes viewed, with some legitimacy as the President of the World. America, as the only remaining super power and clearly the leader of the Free World projects that aura of power around the world. When America sneezes, it follows that the rest of the world must catch cold, in this age of Globalization and Computer age where the entire universe has become one global village, with America calling the shots on all frontiers of power, including the military and economic matters, talk less of the American Hip-Hop culture and civilization which have now totally gripped the whole world. Much of the entire world including the most conservative region of the Middle East, all want to ape or emulate America. That is the general trend the world over.

Serious Presidential hopefuls like John Kerry are clearly at a disadvantage. If Kerry is doing as well as he is doing today in the opinion polls, across the country against a sitting President, you have to assume he is clearly ahead and must be doing a lot better than the pundits give him credit for. There is a compelling reason to give John Kerry and John Edwards a chance in this Election. There is so much at stake that the voters cannot afford to gamble on a policy that is clearly not working. If four years after 9/11, Al Qaeda is still as powerful and as dangerous as it is today, there is a compelling reason to reappraise the current policies and to give the new team of John and John a chance to lead the nation to the promised Land.

I rest my case.

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1 comment

Just Reading January 1, 1970 - 12:00 am

You are some what correct about Bush and Kerry but the only problem is that the people of this country will have the last word at election time and that this will be Bush last stand. Whats in the dark will come outin light sooner or later.


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