This Thanksgiving, I got into a debate with my sister's boyfriend (I owe my sister two posts, so you will see her highlighted in the Valley soon)(and he is a nice guy) and he made the same statement that my friend, Chessnovice makes: How few Statesmen there are among the partisan mud-wrestling.
In a way it ties into President Obama's speech last night (transcript):
Professor Jacobson of Legal Insurrection described the speech as a "War plan designed by committee," I have described how partisans have a role in political debates, but, as mentioned by Chessnovice and my sister's boyfriend, President's should not be treated as partisans.
But what no one understands are the rule changes of the last 8 years.
Someone at the Bush White House read the Hopkirk books about Afghanistan and switched the scene of battle against Al-Queda to Iraq (Should the President or Secretary of Defense gone on Television and mentioned that? Are TV's only found in the West and not Central Asia?). The Democrats (including our current President) said "We must fight in Afghanistan!" Bush and the Republicans believed in Wilsonianism as a weapon for the Middle East against Al-Queda.
Not only did the Left despise Wilsonianism during the past 8 years (which I protested for against Bush's father in 1990-91), but they took up the mantle of Nixonian Geopolitics. And their protests went out of bounds. The reaction of the Right today is because of how the last administration (and Palin) were treated. If the Left treats our President like a Politician, why shouldn't the Right?
President Obama's speech last night was not Statesmanlike -- it was written to support his base. Thus the Anti-war crowd (or truthfully, the anti-Bush crowd) and the Blue Dogs both had to be sated. Rather then say, "We stay until we have a secure and functioning Afghanistan," President Obama said, "We stay for 18 months,"
Could you imagine Churchill saying, "We will only fight the Hun for 18 months?!"
A partisan plays politics and policy for his or her side; A politician gets caught up in the mudslinging of politics and policy, trying to score points; A President is supposed to be above the mud slinging in the Governing years (2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, etc.); and a Statesman? They are above the political fray and do what Presidents do -- work for the country, without scoring points.
Throughout the year, President Obama (and Senator Obama) have been about scoring points. The Statesman comes from politics, but no one starts out as a statesman (that's why Conor Friedersdorf's pieces make no sense, statesman come later. And if he wants to go after partisans who fight dirty, start with Andrew Sullivan).
President Nixon became a Statesman 10 years after he left office. Bush's father was a Statesman immediately. Even Speaker Newt became a Statesman. How was this possible? Statesman do not score points. When I cross-endorsed in 2007, I thought I endorsed someone who would country ahead of partisanship and personality. Wrong!
During Elections, most non-politicos want Statesman but get politicians. Because Americans believe in ideals, we hope our Congressman, Senator or President is a Statesman first, but this is never the case until after they leave office (and not planning to run for any other office). To get statesman, you need politicians to fight for their beliefs and their party.
And yes, fight dirty too. From the mud, comes giants. Ask President Clinton if you're a Democrat and Speaker Gingrich if you're a Republican.
What will it take for President Obama to act like a President and not a politician? and, who are today's statesman?