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The Next President

Original post made by The Cohen brother, Old Palo Alto, on Apr 22, 2007

A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the "Yes, sir" crowd in his inner circle. He has to read voraciously, because the world is a big, complicated place. George W. Bush brags about never reading a newspaper. "I just scan the headlines," he says. Am I hearing this right? He's the President of the United States and he never reads a newspaper? Thomas Jefferson once said, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter." Bush disagrees. As long as he gets his daily hour in the gym, with Fox News piped through the sound system, he's ready to go.

If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he grows stale. If he doesn't put his beliefs to the test, how does he know he's right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means either you think you already know it all, or you just don't care. Before the 2006 election, George Bush made a big point of saying he didn't listen to the polls. Yeah, that's what they all say when the polls stink. But maybe he should have listened, because 70 percent of the people were saying he was on the wrong track. It took a "thumping" on election day to wake him up, but even then you got the feeling he wasn't listening so much as he was calculating how to do a better job of convincing everyone he was right.

A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box. George Bush prides himself on never changing, even as the world around him is spinning out of control. God forbid someone should accuse him of flip-flopping. There's a disturbingly messianic fervor to his certainty. Senator Joe Biden recalled a conversation he had with Bush a few months after our troops marched into Baghdad. Joe was in the Oval Office outlining his concerns to the President—the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanded Iraqi army, the problems securing the oil fields. "The President was serene," Joe recalled. "He told me he was sure that we were on the right course and that all would be well.’Mr. President,' I finally said, 'how can you be so sure when you don't yet know all the facts?'" Bush then reached over and put a steadying hand on Joe's shoulder. "My instincts," he said. "My instincts." Joe was flabbergasted. He told Bush, "Mr. President, your instincts aren't good enough." Joe Biden sure didn't think the matter was settled. And, as we all know now, it wasn't.

Leadership is all about managing change—whether you're leading a company or leading a country. Things change, and you get creative. You adapt. Maybe Bush was absent the day they covered that at Harvard Business School.

A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I'm not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I'm talking about facing reality and telling the truth. Nobody in the current administration seems to know how to talk straight anymore. Instead, they spend most of their time trying to convince us that things are not really as bad as they seem. I don't know if it's denial or dishonesty, but it can start to drive you crazy after a while. Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it's painful. The war in Iraq has been, among other things, a grand failure of communication. Bush is like the boy who didn't cry wolf when the wolf was at the door. After years of being told that all is well, even as the casualties and chaos mount, we've stopped listening to him.

A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you want to test a man's character, give him power." George Bush has a lot of power. What does it say about his character? Bush has shown a willingness to take bold action on the world stage because he has the power, but he shows little regard for the grievous consequences. He has sent our troops (not to mention hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens) to their deaths—for what? To build our oil reserves? To avenge his daddy because Saddam Hussein once tried to have him killed? To show his daddy he's tougher? The motivations behind the war in Iraq are questionable, and the execution of the war has been a disaster. A man of character does not ask a single soldier to die for a failed policy.

Comments (15)

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Posted by GSB
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2007 at 7:10 pm

Hmmm...lots of use of the work "he" and "his".

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 22, 2007 at 8:34 pm

How about must heve extensive experience in foreign affairs representing US interestes, not the interests of our enemies [even if they are really good dancers] and must also play the concert Grand? Stanford experience a definite plus.

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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 22, 2007 at 10:52 pm

Knowing they way around the kitchen and a good jump shot would also be helpful.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 23, 2007 at 6:29 am

The editors must be sleeping to let that sexist, racist comment by "Citizen" to stand.

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Posted by Hello?
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 23, 2007 at 6:40 am


Have you forgotten that Stanford plans to welcome back Senior Hoover Institute fellow Condeleezza "Mushroom Cloud Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside USA" Rice in 2009.

Dr. Ferragamo plans to "write books".

Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 23, 2007 at 7:09 am

The next president should get rid of bad and incompetent choices, even if he/she made them. The worse a cabinet member is, the more Bush will express'full confidence'.Examples: Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Condi, etc. On the other hand, he fired his first decertary of the tressuary, the most competent member of his cabinet, because he told him things he didn't want to hear. Anothe must for the next president:don't hire anybody from the Hoover Institute.

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Posted by Albert
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 23, 2007 at 7:46 am

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Perhaps because of his baseball background, George W. Bush (aka "the Decider") is a master at this. Regardless of the consequences, make a decision, any decision. This is about leadership.

The next president better realize that it's often better not to go down a road, especially when you don't know where its leading. Going down a road just to be macho would often result in a catastroph.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 23, 2007 at 11:20 am

How about natural rhythm?
Dave's comment outlines the only consistent democrat policy outside of raising taxes and surrendering - hound effectives out of office.

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Posted by Dave
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 23, 2007 at 12:50 pm

Oh yes, Gonzales, Condi and Rumsfeld, those great models of competense and effectiveness. John McCain called Rumsfeld the worst secretery of defense in US history. If he hadn't been running for president, he would have added that the other two were the worst ever in their respective jobs as well.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 23, 2007 at 1:49 pm

Rumsfeld managed the quickest, least deadly victory in US history. Dr. Rice has to cross bridges built by others. Nice to see you adhere to the Southern tradition of refering to a Black woman by her first name. Thanks for not calling her a hankey-head, I guess. Gonzales is far superior to Reno, which I guess is faint praise. McCain's opinion means little to me. I honor his service, but cannot understand his nuzzling up to the party that put him in prison.

Like this comment
Posted by Hello?
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 23, 2007 at 3:40 pm

One wonders what Dr. Ferragamo will do for fun when thousands of her fellow countrymen aren't floating face down in the water.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2007 at 3:47 pm

What about Hilary. Isn't she always referred to by her first name?

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Posted by D
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2007 at 4:45 pm

You're wrong about Rice, Gonzales, and Rumsfeld. I hereby declare victory in this forum. My mission is accomplished. Thanks for greeting me with flowers and sweets, Walter.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 23, 2007 at 7:59 pm

I guess you will celebrate your "victory" with your usual cross burning?

Like this comment
Posted by Sillaw_E_Retlaw
a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2007 at 10:21 pm

Dear Palo Alto Online Staff,

Do you archive all the discussions? I would be curious to see an article about the posts you removed or edited.

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