Wednesday, September 19, 2007

If I Were President, Part 1

I wrote this last night and for some reason I was in a preachy mood. Please excuse the preachy-ness. Here goes:

Here is what I would do in an ideal world:
It is hard to hear criticism of the US, as the immediate reaction is to defend our actions. I am very guilty of this. But one of the most important lessons that everybody can learn is that it is extraordinarily important to not react to different opinions or ideas with aggression. Listen to the opposite side. It is important. When one hears an idea different from one’s own, consider the new alternative and then re-assess. The worst thing one can do is get angry or defensive when a differing opinion is heard. At that moment, intellectual investigation stops and is replaced with egotistical banter. That’s why if I were President, my Cabinet would be as diverse as possible: I want the Noam Chomskys and the Ralph Naders (very liberal) along with the Bill O’Reillys and Tucker Carlsons (very conservative) in the same room. If you have an informed, well considered, fact-based opinion, and are willing to hear the opinions of others without getting angry, your opinion should be heard as well. What is the good in surrounding yourself in a room full of people who think the same as you? We don’t need advisors to parrot each other or the President, because then there is no diversity of opinions. I want to have an Advisory Board of Harvard graduates and truck drivers. Give me a room of 15 men and women who are interested in weighing options and finding solutions; who are interested in hearing an opinion that is completely opposite of their own because they are looking for the positives in other opinions so that a new, better opinion can possibly be formed. Give us a bottle of wine, a chalkboard, pens and paper, comfy chairs, snacks, good lighting, and a fine view out the window.
Some might say that that Advisory Board is Congress. That makes sense, but it has always confused me how the President is not allowed to attend sessions of Congress. We are all on the same team! Maybe that’s why I respect the British style of politics, where the Prime Minister has to actually address the representatives of the people. But, I think Congress and Parliament are too big to facilitate true intellectual debate and consideration. In a room with dozens of people, group mentalities take over an individual’s reason. Cliques form and stick together, no matter the given subject, or just vote/speak as they are instructed from above. In my Cabinet meetings, there should be times of silence in the room when everybody is individually thinking about a solution to the problem at hand. Ego must be left at the door. No political parties and no representatives of organizations: only diverse individuals tackling a problem with their intellect and reason.

What I Wish I Could Do:
Make “lobbying” illegal. I hate the idea of lobbyists. The fact that tobacco companies, the NRA, the Restaurant Owner’s Association, the Center for Happy Laughing Babies, or any group whatsoever can pay a member of the government to represent their views is completely unacceptable and is honestly only a legalized form of bribery. If the loudest voices heard are the voices of those who possess the most money, then there is something truly wrong with the system. Lobbyists can write letters expressing their views. They can even request meetings with politicians. But the moment a gift, whether that be monetary or material (baseball game tickets, a teddy bear, or a night at a strip club) is exchanged, it is illegal. That is bribery. The same goes for those running for election, and not in the government yet. I guess this falls under the category of “campaign finance reform.” Whatever.

Dismantle and destroy Guantanamo Bay detention center. It is a concentration camp, no way around that. By definition, it is a facility that detains people without trial for an indefinite amount of time. It is unfair and a human rights violation. We know the conditions are harsh. We see the pictures. Time to give those held there a trial and either imprison them or release them. If there are criminals there, detaining them will only strengthen their resolve once they leave. The purpose of this is simple: improving America’s ethics will improve America’s international reputation, which will, undoubtedly, decrease international security threats. This is addressing the cause of international threats rather than the effects. Rather than chasing and eliminating “terrorists”, we address the root of terrorism: why do some people wish to harm the US?

Tune in tomorrow, dear reader, to see how Matt single-handedly solved the entire problem in Iraq!

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