An interesting article in the Washington Post poses the question:
“You thought our presidential candidates were nice guys, regular guys, guys with whom you’d like to sit down and have a beer? Guess what, lots of people are now telling me: They aren’t.
But why on Earth should anyone expect them to be? In its wisdom, the American nation has devised a presidential election system that actively selects for egotistical megalomaniacs: You simply cannot enter the White House if you aren’t one…
But in order to become the candidate, each also had to make a series of utterly ruthless decisions, decisions that most nice guys would find unpalatable….
Think hard, as well, about what a presidential campaign truly demands of a candidate. To become president, you must love talking about yourself: Talk, talk, brag and talk, every day, every evening, on national television, in the company of newspaper reporters, in every spare moment, and not just for a few days or weeks but for years and years on end. If you don’t crave attention, if you don’t long for adulation, if you don’t, at some level, feel you are God’s gift to the American people, you don’t run for president at all.”
As we head to our election here I think it’s timely to look at who our leadership is – and whether we have realistic expectations of them. Helen Clark’s abilities, having been leader since the early 90s, are now almost taken for granted. Her breadth of knowledge, her decisiveness (even if you don’t agree with her at least you know where she stands) and her ability to deliver on a policy framework. We don’t expect her to be nice – but we expect her to be good at her job. Does she brag? Well perhaps not enough – in terms of selling the achievements of her government (along with her colleagues) in a language and style that are relevant to the bulk of us!
But what of Mr Key? I suspect we still see him in the “Mr Nice Guy” mode – which, as described in the opinion piece above, is a naive avoidance of the realities of politics. If Mr Key is going to lead our country, then we need to see the grit and determination that he’d apply to the top job, and get beneath the veneer of “nice”.