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King of the Planet

By       Message Uri Avnery     Permalink
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THE PRESIDENT of the United States is the king of this planet. I live on this planet. Therefore, the election of the President concerns me, too. Very much so.  

The President is not the sole ruler of the world. There are other rulers too, albeit less powerful ones.  His decisions are subject to many constraints beyond his control. But there is no other person on earth whose decisions have such an impact on our lives.  

The eight years of George W. Bush can serve as an example. The primitive character of the man, his low intellectual level, his past as a born-again zealot - all these have influenced the state of the world, from his failure in preventing  9/11, through his bloody adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, to the collapse of the world economy.  

But still, every one of us, the citizens of the world who cannot vote in this election, has at least the right to say which of the candidates he or she would prefer in the White House.  

I prefer Barack Obama.  

ELECTIONS ARE not beauty contests. A wise voter must define the criteria according to which he intends to make his choice.  

For me, the main attribute, overshadowing all others, is the ability to quickly recognize major changes when they occur and draw the necessary conclusions without delay.  

In the words of the ancient Greek philosopher, "everything flows" - we know that the world does not stand still for a moment. In our time, with the rapid pace of modern life, the changes are quicker and more dramatic then they were 200 years ago. The development of technology, the spread of the internet, globalization, climate change, the instability of the economy, the currents of human migration, shifts in the world-wide balance of power - these and a thousand other factors ensure that changes will become more and more frequent and more and more radical.  

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The ability to adapt quickly to new situations is a decisive requirement for a leader. After dealing successfully with the world economic crisis, Franklin Delano Roosevelt reacted rapidly to Pearl Harbor. Winston Churchill recognized before others the danger inherent in Hitler's ascent to power in Germany. The young and inexperienced John Kennedy dealt decisively with the Cuban missile crisis, which had brought the world to the brink of World War III. Mikhail Gorbachev oversaw the sudden collapse of the Soviet Bloc and avoided world-wide bloodshed. The next American President will be faced right away with an economic crisis that is changing the face of the world.  

The President resembles the helmsman of a sailing-boat who has to be ready at every moment for a sudden change of the wind and even for a hurricane.  

Which of the two - Barack Obama or John McCain - is better suited for that job? The elderly Republican, who sees himself as the successor of a long row of Admirals and whose spiritual world is stuck in the middle of the 20th century, or the (comparatively) young Democrat, a man of the 21st?   

THE SECOND test, in my eyes, concerns the character of the candidates. A person can change his opinions, but hardly his character. A solid - but not exaggerated - self-confidence, self-discipline, cool-headedness in a crisis - these will have a large influence on his ability to carry out his duties.  

We have seen the two in the great debates. One should not pay too much attention to what was said there - everything said in an election campaign is merely a tool to catch votes. But we saw how the two candidates function under extreme stress. Obama controlled himself admirably. His self-discipline did not falter for a moment. He did not respond to provocations and he kept his cool at all times. McCain was much less in control of himself.  

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The most important decision the two had to make in the course of the campaign was the choice of a running mate. Since the Vice-President can assume power at a moment's notice - and there is indeed a significant probability that this may happen - the decision tells us much about the decision maker.  

Obama's decision was responsible and reasonable. He did not choose a brilliant or charismatic person, but someone who is versed in the affairs of state and could assume office without a problem.  

McCain's decision was a scandal that cries to high heaven. It suffices by itself to disqualify him from high office - not because of Sarah Palin's opinions or her character, but because she is totally incapable of filling the role of President.  

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