Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hints for Obama: How others do it

By Carol Gee

Because it is the widespread assumption that Senator Barack Obama will become the Democratic Party's nominee for President of the United States, what if Obama goes on to win the general election in November? Also assuming a win and zooming ahead, he will need to get some useful preparation for the job. One of the ways to do that is to watch other national leaders. If he watches our current president (OCP), however he will quickly get into trouble, given the bad track record of OCP. So, unless he just does everything the opposite of OCP, our new president will need to look outside U.S. borders.

Perhaps Obama can look to other nations for examples of good or poor leadership. Today's post is a round-up of a few current news stories about the men and women who will probably become the new President's "peers" in January of 2009.

Australia: Progressive ideas -- PM Kevin Rudd leads to the Labor Party that beat out the right-wing Liberals after several years of being out of power. It looks as if a parallel exists that might make useful learning for Obama. Culturally, Aussies and Americans share some same elements of style. Obama is widely seen as a progressive intellectual. He also has a reputation for lofty talk. The event in Australia billed as a summit for brainstorming. That would not be a bad idea for Obama at some point, and a model that seems to fit in with what I think will be his governing style. The story is headlined, "Australia's brightest brain-storm for progress" (Reuters, 4/19/08). To quote:

. . . a summit of the nation's top minds on Saturday, bringing Hollywood together with corporate chiefs.

"Today we are throwing open the windows of our democracy to let a little bit of fresh air in," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told the gathering of 1,000 scientists, unionists and central bankers,

. . . Rudd has asked to throw up at least 10 big ideas to improve Australia's future by 2020. Critics have panned the meeting as a unwieldy talk-fest.

. . . Rudd, whose centre-left Labor government ended almost 12 years of conservative rule in November, said ideas must be affordable and he would respond by the end of the year.

"I say it's worth having a go through this summit, even if we fail. What is there to be lost from trying?" Rudd said.

United Kingdom: Global solutions to global problems -- Barack Obama seems to be a big picture kind of thinker who wants to unite towards common goals. He might get along with others who have a similar capacity to be collaborative. In a predictable turn of events, OCP is becoming more and more irrelevant to other world leaders, including the British PM. The headline puts it this way: "Brown's speech looks beyond Bush" (BBC News, 4/19/08). To quote:

. . . in Boston, the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was in a spiritual home of sorts, familiar territory from the many holidays he has spent on nearby Cape Cod.

This is where he chose to deliver a key foreign policy speech, a decision that went down well with Massachusetts liberals, as he called for American leadership on a range of issues, including climate change.

In a broad and almost idealistic speech, he emphasised the need for global solutions to global problems and said international institutions, set up after World War II, needed to be overhauled to deal with the challenges of the 21st Century.

. . . "Now is an opportunity for a historic effort in co-operation, a new dawn in collaborative action between America and Europe," he said in his hour-long speech at the JFK presidential library, adding that "America's leadership is, and will be, indispensable".

The message was clear - the days of unilateralism should be behind us and the post-Iraq war tensions across the Atlantic are water under the bridge.

Germany: Domestic Surveillance -- Barack Obama has occasionally talked about the need to protect U.S. civil liberties. It seems to me that such bedrock constitutional protections cannot be compromised away. Obama must be able to resist any unnecessary clamoring for bipartisanship that would weaken necessary protections against unreasonable search and seizure. German PM Angela Merkel has not fared well in Germany's similar situation. The chilling headline reads, "Germany to Allow Video Surveillance of Private Homes" (Deutsche Welle, 4/18/08). To quote:

Changes proposed to the law governing Germany's federal criminal police operations would allow investigators to use wire taps and surveillance cameras in homes of innocent citizens to keep tabs on terror suspects.

. . . A cabinet decision on what is known as the BKA law is expected this summer. The acceptability of using video cameras as well as microphones in private homes for up to a month has divided opinion among the Social Democrats, who share power at the federal level with Chancellor Angela Mekel's Christian Democrats.

. . . The new draft regarding video surveillance met with resistance among members of her party. Berlin's Interior Minister Ehrhart Koerting (SPD) and Sebastian Edathy (SPD), the chairman of the Bundestag's Interior Affairs Committee, were among those voicing strong skepticism.

After months of discussions, Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries (SPD) and Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble (CDU) settled this week on a compromised version of the BKA Law, with Zypries drawing the line at allowing investigators to break into homes to install spyware programs on private computers.

Brazil: The Environment and Climate Change -- The United States failure to play its appropriate leadership role in energy consumption, controlling greenhouse gases, and validating scientific input can be laid straight at the feet of OCP. Barack OBama must figure out what his appropriate leadership role is to be. Let us hope that his administration can avoid Brazil's military interventions. The story is headlined, "With Guns and Fines, Brazil Takes On Loggers" (NYT, 4/19/08). To quote:

This is Operation Arc of Fire, the Brazilian government’s tough campaign to deter illegal destruction of the Amazon forest. It is intended to send a message that the government is serious about protecting the world’s largest remaining rain forest, but so far it has stirred controversy for its militaristic approach to saving trees, and the initial results have been less than promising.

The operation began in February after new satellite data showed that deforestation had spiked in the second half of 2007 after three consecutive years of declines. The new data rattled the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, which has been trying to play a bigger role in discussions about global climate change amid mounting scientific evidence that some 20 percent of annual global greenhouse emissions come from the clearing of tropical forests, including the burning, decay and decomposition of the land.

So, if Obama's staff would consider taking some notes on how others do it, he might get a leg up on what will be a very big cleanup job come January of next year. Australia models smart leadership and a sense of community, the United Kingdom models global interconnected thinking, Germany models an inability to resist surveillance overkill, and Brazil models a too-little/too-late approach that is also a danger in the USA.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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  • I'd have to add Chavez of Venezuela - a sparkling leader leader AND man of the people. VIVA HUGO!

    By Blogger QueersOnTheRise, at 5:28 PM  

  • Tricky Dick, you always add a nice "sparkle" when you post comments at The Reaction.
    BTW, I like your web site, too.
    Thanks for your comment.

    By Blogger Carol Gee, at 7:56 AM  

  • Indeed! Nixon was "from the people," but then became a paranoid plutocrat.

    By Blogger QueersOnTheRise, at 8:35 AM  

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