There is Mickey at the wheel of the ship. As far as we know, he had no training in seamanship. But he is obviously enjoying the feeling of control, though he can’t see over the rail to know where the ship is headed. Enjoying the feeling of control, and actually being in control, can be two different things entirely.
So how do we decide to whom to entrust the wheel of our ship? Before we decide which candidate to vote for, we first have to decide what job we intend to fill. Different jobs require different skills. We can’t decide whether an applicant fulfills those qualifications until we decide what the qualifications are.
The Constitution empowers the president to be commander-in-chief of our armed forces. In peacetime, this role is important but not decisive. But in wartime, it trumps all other duties of the president. So the first thing to decide is whether we are in a war.
Note that I did not say whether we are fighting a war, which is a different thing. We have been at war with extremist Islam since 1979, when Iran seized our embassy and mistreated our diplomats for 444 days. The hostage crisis ended the day Jimmy Carter left office and Ronald Reagan was inaugurated. Some people believe this was a coincidence. Some people also believe in the Tooth Fairy.
In the years from 1979 to 9/11/01, we were subjected to multiple attacks. But we responded either inadequately or not at all. During this period, we were in a war, but we were not fighting a war. Only our enemies were fighting. The same situation exists today, but in reverse. Our troops are fighting a war, but many people − mainly liberals and libertarians, but also some conservatives − fail to recognize that we are in a war.
As a Marine remarked, “America is not at war. The Marine Corps is at war. America is at the mall.” And as Oliver North observed regarding terrorism, “We only win when we play on the road. We lose when it’s a home game.” Whether we admit it or not, we are at war. We need a commander-in-chief.
We need candidates who can mention extremist Islam even once during the debates. If they don’t know we are in a war and can’t distinguish who our enemies are, how could they possibly be an effective commander-in-chief?
The first rule of gun fighting is bring a gun. The first rule of culture wars is bring a culture. The first rule of any war is recognize you are in one. Many Democrats are incapable of accomplishing any of these necessary objectives. Their answer to street crime is to disarm the law abiding. Their answer to a culture war is to abandon our own culture. Their answer to an actual war is to bring the troops home − that is, to return to 9/10 thinking.
In effect they say, “If we don’t fight back, maybe the bully will stop hitting us and go hit someone else” − not a very moral approach. He didn’t stop hitting us for all those years from 1979 to 2001, when we didn’t hit back. He won’t stop now. We’re the biggest kid in the schoolyard. If we don’t stop the bully, no one will. Those who don’t know how to handle bullies are in no position to ask for our votes to be commander-in-chief.
We left Iraq prematurely, and those who worked with us for a free Iraq are being massacred. We do not want to elect someone to preside over the desertion of our friends. But some Americans want just that. They want to abandon our friends in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to dump our ally Israel. Then the world will learn that it is more dangerous to be our friend than our enemy. If there is a more effective way to lose friends and gain enemies, I have yet to hear of it.
If we are selecting a social-worker-in-chief, we look for compassion. The problem with compassion is that it may be directed at those who do not deserve it as well as those who do. A social worker must have compassion for all who ask for help, whether they are admirable characters or convicted felons.
For someone who is the last hope of those who have fallen through the social safety net, compassion for all is a virtue. For most of us, compassion for all is a vice. For a president in wartime, compassion for all is a disaster. A social worker need not distinguish between aggressors and defenders, or between terrorists and those who fight terrorists. A president must make these distinctions.
For a social worker, a short fuse is a disqualifying vice, as is a long memory for those who have hurt people, while unlimited patience is a virtue. But for a president in wartime, a long memory for those who have hurt America is a virtue, while unlimited patience is a disqualifying vice.
Some liberals criticized President Bush for striking at Afghanistan after that nation served as a launching pad for the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. But what would a social-worker-in-chief have done? Sit down and talk? (Talk about what − how to identify body parts in collapsed buildings?) Send the Taliban regime billions in “aid” − which in reality would be extortion, sent in the hope of stopping further attacks? The social worker’s approach would reward those who kill Americans. And what, exactly, would that accomplish, other than to encourage more attacks?
For a commander-in-chief, a long memory, a familiarity with the use of force, and even a bit of vengefulness are enormous assets. A person like that would be likely to keep us as safe as possible in a dangerous world, but he would make a poor social worker.
On the other hand, a social worker must be nonjudgmental, reject the use of force, and have no trace of vengefulness. A social worker need not be concerned with the threat of international terrorism, or even with the threat of crime in this nation. A social worker needs to be a caring individual, concerned with health care and education.
The role of commander-in-chief is not more important than the role of social worker – it is just different. A commander-in-chief protects us from enemies abroad. A social worker protects us from the guilt of leaving the poor, the disabled, the very young, and the very old without needed care. A nation that neglects the needy does not deserve to survive. Still, a nation that aborts a million babies annually cannot claim to care for the very young. The Democratic Party, which claims to be the caring party, in fact cares the least for the very young. The party that claims the role of social worker in reality performs that role poorly.
We need social workers, but why must they work far away in Washington, rather than close by in our home town? Why must local problems be referred to the most remote possible layer of government, while truly national problems like defense are neglected? We need social workers, but not a social-worker-in-chief.
We must decide what position we need to fill – commander-in-chief, or social-worker-in chief. Only then can we know what qualities to look for in the candidates. In an ideal world, we could find a candidate who fulfills the requirements of both jobs. But we do not live in an ideal world. We will be lucky to find a candidate who fulfills the requirements of even one job. If we sit waiting for the ideal candidate, we risk being ruled by people who are very, very far from ideal.
We must first decide what job we are recruiting for, and then decide which of the actual candidates exemplifies more of the qualities that job requires. That’s our job.
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