Saturday, October 25, 2008


Politics is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson which has remarkable bearing on our times, especially for our American friends:

We move, the wheel must always move,
Nor always on the plain,
And if we move to such a goal
As Wisdom hopes to gain,
Then you that drive, and know your Craft,
Will firmly hold the rein,
Nor lend an ear to random cries,
Or you may drive in vain,
For some cry "Quick" and some cry "Slow,"
But while the hills remain,
Up hill "Too-slow" will need the whip,
Down hill "Too-quick" the chain.

Reading and interpreting deep poetry such as this can be a difficult task, and it is highly dependent upon the life circumstances of the person reading it. For myself, I see this as a caution to those who would seek to lead a nation to be of firm resolve on every action taken. It is a call for integrity of the will. Any politician must have a destination in mind (this means something tangible, achievable, and measurable), and he must have a clear vision of what it will take to get there, so that when the crowd starts to shout its own directions he is able to shout them down with a greater wisdom. This is the heart and soul of what a mandate is. He should be able to say to the people, "You have selected me to lead you based upon what I articulated to you as where I think this country needs to go. I told you it would be a difficult journey but that the destination would be worthwhile. Now, shut up, please, and let me lead. I know what I'm doing."

In my lifetime, the only leader I have seen try to implement a clear mandate is George W. Bush with the war on terrorism. Our Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has been stumbling since day one in office, despite how much I like some of the reforms he has put into place. We don't know what his destination is; I don't think he does either. He's treading water, but is unwittingly being moved by the current to its own concept of a destination (which as currents go, usually involves a waterfall, or at least a nasty course of rapids).

I haven't paid enough attention to the messages of the American presidential candidate to know what their proposed destinations are, but I have definitely observed that McCain's ability to stand up to the crowd dwarfs Obama's. So far, Obama has turned his back on every long-term personal relationship in his life that contained any political risk. Say what you will about the man's unpleasant friends (Ayers & Wright come immediately to mind) but when he cuts his ties with them to save his own political neck after decades of friendship, that is the mark of a man with no backbone.

Like David Warren, were I able to vote in this American election, it would undoubtedly be for McCain. I have much more confidence in him as the one who "will firmly hold the rein."

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