Public Comment

Commentary: When I’m President

By Marc Winokur
Tuesday January 22, 2008

Beyond all the bloviating, bombast that we have been subjected to in the last few months, (and will continue to be bombarded with for the foreseeable future) there are several questions we voters should be asking ourselves amidst this egomaniacal cacophony, otherwise known as politics. 

First of all, given the positions of power they have occupied, what have of these candidates tried, with any earnestness, to accomplish that might be of interest, relevance or importance to us? Secondly, what have any of them actually carried out? Third, why would they be more likely to realize these objectives in their ascendancy to higher office? 

I bring these specific matters to bear as it has become perfectly clear that the greatest challenge to the integrity of a dynamic democracy is dissolving the chasm between what a politician says he or she will do, and what that politician actually does, or at least attempts to do with any focus and vigor. Politics has been fraught with this dilemma for decades, but never before has the media fostered such a chronic “American Idol” political mentality that has all but obfuscated the nuts and bolts of what is involved with getting real problems solved. Instead, we are assaulted with a ratings driven, horse-race like energy as the candidates are let out of the gate before any of them really addresses anything beyond their myopic preoccupation with generalizations, and imagistic claptrap. 

More than 200 years ago, John Adams remarked: “Public affairs go on pretty much as usual: perpetual chicanery and rather more personal abuse than there used to be...” Today, it appears we have reached what is hopefully the apex of such debauchery in the name of “the people.” How many times can we tolerate a candidate roaring like a bellicose beast: “When I’m president, I’m going to.....blah...blah....blah!... we’re not taking anymore of that other person’s or party’s blah-blahbedy-blah.” 

When was the last time you heard a candidate reference national, or populist ethics (beyond corporate greed) as a major talking point? When has the word “honesty” been thrust forward into the rhetoric with the same spirit as the endless attacks, and concocted, facile misrepresentations of the scope and challenges that these circus-like campaigns and pitiful ‘debates’ suggest as necessary? 

As Billy Joel so eloquently sang: “Honesty is such a lonely word”....but, it’s mostly what we need from them, and from each other, if we’re ever going to transcend the inflated sense of self that has come to define politics abroad, and increasingly so here in the U.S.. Today, our problems have become defined by such gravity and urgency that anything less would be nothing more than ‘business as usual’...and that won’t come close to saving our crisis-laden, teetering times. 


Marc Winokur is a Berkeley