As some of you have noticed, this election isn’t about politics. It’s about two kids from middle school that we all knew.
The bookworm sat in the front row, did her homework on time and all the time, and raised her hand to answer every damn question.
The other kid never did his homework and sat in the back of the classroom firing spitballs at the front row.
The know-it-all, goody two-shoes, bookworm spent time after school helping others.
The spitballer spent time stealing lunch money and pushing kids on the playground.
The know-it-all took advanced placement classes when she got to high school.
The spitballer went to reform school.
Fast forward roughly 55 years. The know-it-all is a policy wonk whose idea of fun is to spend Saturday nights reading briefing books on Syrian history. The spitballer is an entertainer who likes to spend his Saturday nights assaulting women.
Both kids now want to be President. Both kids claim they are good decision-makers.
Here’s the thing about making presidential decisions: They are all difficult, or they wouldn’t be on the President’s desk. And no, pardoning turkeys at Thanksgiving for crimes they didn’t commit doesn’t count as a decision.
The President is forced to decide between one option that is awful and one that is worse, and needs the wisdom to figure out which is which, and understand that there is still a thousand shades of gray between the two.
Decisions like this: Trying to solve the 10-sided Rubik’s Cube of Syria that involves Assad, ISIS, “moderate” rebels, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Kurds, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Russia.
Or trying to prevent war in the South China Sea over an area claimed by multiple nations, one of whom happens to be nuclear armed China.
We know that one is cool under intense pressure. The other wakes up at 3 am to pick fights with former beauty queens.
Who do you trust to make those decisions? The spitball kid or the know-it-all?
Here’s the thing: Even the know-it-all is going to screw it up some times due to the enormous complexities of the situations and the unknowables. If presidents get it “right” 75% of the time, I figure they’re doing pretty damn good.
And then Presidents have to deal with their failures, by analyzing the actual facts of a situation, to the best they can actually be ascertained in real time, and changing course if necessary. That means acknowledging an initial error. In other words, it’s not just tactics, it’s an issue of ego.
So there are really two issues here:
- Who is more likely to make the right initial call in a complex situation?
- Who is more likely to acknowledge error, own that error, and make the adjustment?
I don’t usually use this blog to discuss politics, unless it involves tort “reform,” but this issue is too big to ignore.
I don’t know about you folks, but I’ll take that bookish kid in the front row with her hand up every time, whether I like her or not. She may not get it right all the time when the problems are so complex the teacher doesn’t know the answer, but she sure as hell will have a better batting average than the spitball kid.
Given that this will involve war and peace and actual dead bodies, this kinda matters.