Friday, May 23, 2008

How smart is your candidate?

A friend sent this cartoon to me which became the muse for this blog….thx, Barb!

The caption under the cartoon is, obviously, too small to see. It says, “I keep thinking we should include something in the Constitution in case the people elect a [freaking] moron".

Being in the trades, I’m required to take test and become licensed and insured before I can get my grubby hands on anything. It’s all about liability. If I screw-up (and I would have to screw up, royally) my liability is not insurmountable.

But, if I were president and I screwed up, losing hundreds of thousand lives and destroying futures, what insurance will cover my blunder? What test did I take to assure the American electorate that I have the quantifiable wherewithal to handle the job? What we do is put our multi-millionaire presidential candidates through an endurance gauntlet of stump speeches, town hall roll-up-your-shirt-sleeves meetings, substantively empty debates, Sunday morning “sound-bite” opportunity shows, bad regional food, bowling-for-votes and chugging shots at local watering holes.

The other night, I was channel surfing and I ran across these scantily clad women, so I stopped. It was the internationally-watched, Survivor. That’s right…I watched it. I thought that this show was an excellent metaphor of what politicians must do in order to get elected. After watching these hot chicks go through tests of nerve, agility, cunning, manipulation, deceit and all of the other disgusting things that they had to do, the light came on, da daaaah!….The Presidential Aptitude Test. Yeah, a P.A.T. Imagine our multimillionaire candidates being given a, let’s say….real world test. The P.A.T. would be broken down into two parts: a written test and a practical test.

Are you smarter than a fifth-grader?

What do we really know about their knowledge of basic government facts, e.g. the branches of government, the constitution, the bill of rights? Can you be pulled over and asked where you’re from just because you’re middle eastern looking and your name is Hussein? These are basic facts that all candidates for citizenship must know. But, do presidential candidates know them? Do our presidential candidates know America’s historical allies? Do they know where these countries are on the globe? Can they name the heads of state? My intent is not to be facetious, but to ask valid questions….ok, I’m lying. But, come on, after the last seven years, I think my questions are valid.

We all assume that our candidates are knowledgeable and capable, but, are they? They have wonderful personalities and great teeth. But, the U.S. no longer has the luxury of thinking that we don’t need to learn a second language because everyone speaks English and if they don’t, they better learn, uh? or appreciate customs and mores of other cultures because it’s all about us, right?

The Written Test

Should our candidates have to sit down at a table (a proctor sitting in front of them with her glasses sitting on the tip of her nose and a stop watch in her hand) and take an examination to test their “presidential knowledge base” like we have to do when we want to be a doctor, lawyer or a carpenter?

Do they know the difference between Shiites and Sunis, Hutus and Tutsis? Can they, intelligently, breakdown the economy, “macro-ly” and “micro-ly”, to us little folk so that we can understand why in hell we're getting gouged at the fuel pump? We’ll find out if they know how to pump their own gas in the practical test.

Now, the real fun – The Practical Test

Imagine this- Our candidates will be the head of a household, in the hood with three kids and one facing college, next year. Each candidate will have a household annual income of $65,000. To make ends meet, the candidate joins the army reserves hmmm.....should we deploy the candidates? The rent is $2,000 a month and the roof leaks. The family car is a Ford Taurus with 150,000 miles. The candidates will have a union factory job and a boss from India. Got the picture?

Now, let’s see how well the candidates meet the family needs. Like most parents, the candidate will go to PTA meetings, especially this time because his daughter’s teacher called and said it is important to be there this time. On Saturday, everyone piles in the Taurus to go shopping at Sam’s Club, knowing that the food budget is going to be less because food has gone up. That night, the candidate and spouse are home watching reruns of Good Times because they cut back the cable in order to get ready for baby girl going to college, next year.

On Sundays, the candidates attend church regularly because the rigors of “regular” working people’s day-to-day lives can be overwhelming and they find that they need to hear something inspirational that will get them through the week. Church starts promptly at 11:00am and the liberation theological pastor’s text, this week, is taken from Hebrews, Call forth those things that be not, as though they were. Faith…just keep on, keeping on! “lawdy, lawdy lawdy….I just don’t know how we’re going to make it!” You see, the candidates can’t remember the last time that their personal checking account balance was less than $30,000, if it ever got that low. In that case, the bank would automatically transfer additional funds. Can’t wait to get that stimulus check!

We’ve come down to the final month of the practical test and there are only two candidates left well, I’ll be… One candidate dropped out after he understood that his savings would be drained before Medicaid would kick-in to take care of his 80 year old mother who has Alzheimer’s. Another candidate dropped out under stress from having to live in a neighborhood where he heard gun shots and after calling the police, no one showed up. ‘It’s not worth dying for!’ The final candidate simply said that he wanted to make sure his daughter got in college, but he didn’t have to take orders from his idiot boss anymore and that he needed to go back to India. Well, I guess he told him!

The drama is building because the nation is down to its last two democratic candidates in the practical testing phase. The media is in frenzy. Each major network sent their junior reporters to the candidates’ homes because rookies always go to the most dangerous area to report. We have Sen. Beverly Benson, D-NY, upper middle-class white suburbanite, Yale Law School grad and we have Sen. Abdul-Haqq Khoury, D-Il, first generation American, lower middle-class black man, urbanite, Harvard Law grad. Sounds like history in the making!

The Benson Household

“The conditions of this test are nothing new to me. I have friends that live this way every day: they get-up early and make breakfast for their families, and then they go to work where they work hard all day. My friends come home in the evening, tired; they make supper and help their kids with their homework.” The exasperated senator from New York continues, “I can relate to these people, excuse me, ‘sweetheart, don’t worry about the dishes tonight. The maid will be in tomorrow morning’. Oh, I guess you weren’t supposed to hear that. ‘Just kidding, the detergent is under the sink, darling. I’ll be right there after this interview.’”

The Khoury Household

“Look, I’m forty-six years old and I just got finished paying off a student loan. It’s just recently that I’ve experienced how good other people have had it. I didn’t start making any money ‘til I came to the U.S. Senate. My work as a community organizer didn't pay very well. Hell, if it weren't for my wife, I’m not sure how we would have made it. This practical test we’re going through was my life, uh, it’s better than my life, growing up. I’ve been here before; I got the T-shirt to prove it! By the way, we’re about to have dinner. We’re having baked beans and hot dogs, care to join us?”


Well folks, you get the idea. I interjected a little satire, but my point is to bring attention to real issues of the day and not dwell on decoys or petty issues that are designed only to distract. The decisions we make today affects the whole world. Therefore, it seems ludicrous to allow ourselves to get caught up on lapel pins, name-calling or what others may say, incorrectly, on the candidates' behalf when we have to select someone who is going to make life and death decisions.

Our scrutiny of candidates on real issues will discourage the “manufactured” candidate from coming on the scene, again. Manufactured? These are the shell of a person who are filled with special-interests' money, special-interests' dreams and aspirations. They act and respond by remote control. The manufactured candidate has no capacity to think and reason and they have been known to malfunction.

Microbrother, do you mean the Manchurian Candidate? Whatever…I’m talking about Bush, o.k?

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