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September 02. 2014 9:50PM

Thomas Sowell: Choosing the right politicians for the right reasons


 

THE LATEST Gallup poll indicates that 14 percent of the people “moderately disapprove” of Barack Obama’s performance as President and 39 percent “strongly disapprove.”

Since Obama won two presidential elections, chances are that some of those who now “strongly disapprove” of what he has done voted to put him in office. We all make mistakes, but the real question is whether we learn from them.

With many people now acting as if it is time for “a woman” to become President, apparently they have learned absolutely nothing from the disastrous results of the irresponsible self-indulgence of choosing a President of the United States on the basis of demographic characteristics instead of individual qualifications.

It would not matter to me if the next five Presidents in a row were all women, if these happened to be the best individuals available at the time. But to say that we should now elect “a woman” President in 2016 is to say that we are willfully blind to the dangers of putting life-and-death decisions in the hands of someone chosen for symbolic reasons.

If we were to choose just “a woman” as our next President, would that mean that any criticism of that President would be considered to be a sign of being against women?

It is by no means guaranteed that this country will survive the long-run consequences of the disastrous decisions already made by Barack Obama, especially his pretense of stopping Iran’s becoming a nuclear power. If we wake up some morning and find some American city in radioactive ruins, will we connect the dots and see this as a consequence of voting to elect an unknown and untried man, for the sake of racial symbolism?

Among those who look around for someone to blame, how many will look in the mirror?Presidents already have too much insulation from criticism — and from reality.

When President Calvin Coolidge caught everyone by surprise in 1928 by announcing that he would not run for re-election despite a prosperous economy and his own personal popularity, he simply said, “I do not choose to run.” But, when he later wrote a small autobiography, Coolidge explained the inherent dangers in the office of President of the United States, especially when one person remains in the White House too long.

“It is difficult for men in high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion. They are always surrounded by worshippers. They are constantly, and for the most part sincerely, assured of their greatness.

“They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation and exaltation which sooner or later impairs their judgment. They are in grave danger of becoming careless and arrogant.”

Of Presidents who served eight years in office, he said, “in almost every instance” the last years of their terms show little “constructive accomplishments” and those years are often “clouded with grave disappointments.”

Another President chosen for demographic representation (whether by race, sex or whatever), and further insulated from criticism and from reality, is the last thing we need.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University at Stanford. His website is www.tsowell.com.


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