Saturday, March 01, 2008

Wakeup Call on the Red Phone Ads

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been running dueling commercials about who is better suited to be President when the phone rings at 3 A.M. with news of a terror attack.

Wrong question. While it's important to have a White House occupant who will respond, rather than keep reading "My Pet Goat" to school children, that moment will call for coordinating a response based on intelligence, military and diplomatic information and advice rather than pulling an answer from a backlog of experience in his or her head.

Good judgment, intelligence and emotional balance are the qualities that will be needed. (Read Robert Kennedy's account of the Cuban Missile Crisis for an idea of how it's done.)

What's crucial is what happens before the red phone rings. Whoever takes office next January will have to overhaul a politically decimated, dysfunctional Homeland Security apparatus headed by a Director who uses physiological metaphors about possible threats and keeps putting his foot in his mouth as he does.

In the White House, the new President will need a staff with brains and expertise rather than cunning on how to win the next election.

Any candidate who claims to be a savior when the phone rings in the middle of the night is selling snake oil.

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