Someone wrote to me that Barack Obama deserves to win, because he is such a nice guy. Possibly he is, or at least he is good at projecting that image. This caused me to reflect on the qualities needed for survival and the qualities that are desirable in democratic leader.
In democratic countries today, leaders are expected to be personable, to be "team players" in the mold of modern corporate ethos. Hillary Clinton lost ground when she appeared to be "mean" and gained support when she cried. One could not imagine an irascible person or one who lost their temper in public very often becoming president of the United States or Prime Minister of Israel, Britain or France today.
It was not always so. David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir, Winston Churchill, and Charles De Gaulle had many great qualities. Being "nice" was not among them. Nixon was probably the last American President, and Shamir was the last Israeli Prime Minister, who were not "nice." They were already anachronisms.
The people who US and other leaders have to meet in the international arena, their opponents, cannot be described as "nice." Vladimir Putin was formerly a KGB agent, and said his experience in the KGB helped him in running Russia. That is no doubt true, considering how he runs Russia. The KGB does not cultivate "niceness" in its agents, and doesn't choose them on that basis. Putin cannot be classified as a nice guy.
Osama Bin Laden is not "nice." He blows people up and has airliners crash into buildings. He doesn't talk nice, and doesn't cultivate a "nice" appearance. Bashar Assad, President of Syria is not "nice." Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, intentionally cultivates a scruffy look. He reminds me of nothing so much as a sewer rat, and that is probably his intention. That's a compliment. Sewer rats are tough, scrappy and built for survival by eons of evolution. Ahmadinejad is a survivor. He is not a nice guy.
In democracies, nice guys win elections. In the international arena, nice guys may finish last. Ami Isseroff
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Replies: 3 Comments
One of our "meanest" mayors was Rudy Giuliani, who inherited a murder rate of 2200 per year from his "nice" predecessor David Dinkins.
Soon after the "mean" Rudy Giuliani took office , I noticed that the regular exchanges of gunfire in front of and near my house subsided to the level of rare occurences.
Because of our "mean" ex-mayor's policies, I now do not have to pull my children away from the front window for their own safety.
Although the abrasive Ed Koch balanced the books for New York City,he was a flop on crime. When he was mayor and I was hooked on cigarettes, I used to buy them from stores which sold marijuana openly. This shows you that coherent policies are also necessary to make a difference in public life.
The reason Ed Koch and David Dinkins disliked Giuliani so intensely is because he showed New Yorkers what a real mayor is.
Josef, Friday, February 8th
Interesting ideas, but having spent 28 years in national high-level politics, I can guarentee that not one serious candidate for President becomes one without being a strong, tough, determined person. They are seldom truly "nice" people--they have to be so intense and have such strong egos that they would be crushed in the early days (as they often are!)
Cindy, Thursday, February 7th
I'd best check my pulse and heart rate. Of late I'm agreeing with Isseroff more than disagreeing with him.
Howard Wolf, Thursday, February 7th
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