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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 24, 2008 / 21 Sivan 5768

Why do we expect presidential candidates to be kind?

By Anne Applebaum

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but in the past few days I feel I've been overwhelmed by a tsunami of commentary, all of which purports to prove the fundamental nastiness of Barack Obama or, alternatively, the deep unlikability of John McCain. You thought our presidential candidates were nice guys, regular guys, guys who you'd like to sit down and have a beer with? Guess what, lots of people are now telling me: They aren't!


Thus David Brooks of the New York Times has contrasted the warm-and-fuzzy Obama on our television screens with "Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who'd throw you under the truck for votes." The Daily Mail of London has called McCain a "self-centered womaniser who effectively abandoned his [first] crippled wife." In recent months I've also read, or been told, that John McCain snubbed the Vietnamese peasant who saved his life and is rude to his (second) wife in public; that Obama abandoned his beloved church to save his political skin and for similar reasons had some nasty friends in Chicago; that both candidates "flip-flop" on the issues nearest and dearest to them, merely in order to win votes.


From whatever political quarter it comes, and regardless of whatever merit it may have, all of this commentary starts with the same assumption: The reader is meant to be shocked, shocked, that these two men—men who have submitted themselves to months of brutal campaigning, men who have thrown their wives and families to the wolves, men who know they might at any second need to abandon their closest friends—these two men are not, in fact, very nice people at all!


________________________________________ ________________________________________ But why on earth should anyone expect them to be? In its wisdom, America has devised a presidential election system that actively selects for egotistical megalomaniacs: You simply cannot enter the White House if you aren't one. You might start out as an idealist, of course, and I would even give both Obama and McCain the benefit of the doubt here. I'm sure both are patriots, both care about America, both want to make the world a better place.


But in order to become the candidate, both also had to make a series of utterly ruthless decisions, decisions that most nice guys would find unpalatable. I don't care what a helpful father Michelle says he is, there is absolutely no sense in which Obama's presidential campaign—or, should it come to it, Obama's presidency—is good for Obama's children. Neither is there a scenario under which Cindy McCain, who always looks profoundly uncomfortable in the limelight, is ever going to relax and enjoy her husband's golden retirement years. Anyone who was ever closely associated with either candidate is now at risk of unpleasant media exposure. No one who works for them right now has job security, and no one who knows them can expect any favors.


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 G-d's gift to the American people, then you don't run for president at all.


And yet despite the existence of this extraordinarily harsh, ruthless presidential selection system, Americans, possibly uniquely among democratic nations, do at some level expect their leaders to be nice. I'm convinced George W. Bush became president in part because he seemed nice—refreshingly inarticulate, just like the rest of us—even though his former associates often admit that he isn't nice at all. It was once said of Ronald Reagan that his career proved the limitations of charm: If you turn it on for the public, you don't have much left over in private. Still, the desire to be represented by a nice person penetrates quite deep into the American psyche. We "like Ike," and we like Jimmy and Bill, and we want our country to be run by the sort of person we can call by a nickname.


Neither of our current presidential candidates seems much inclined to nicknames, which is just as well, really. Perhaps a touch of formality will help us remember that, whatever their many good qualities, both are self-centered, driven, ambitious, calculating, manipulative politicians—because they have to be. That's what it takes to be president of the United States, and we might as well get used to it now.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

APPLEBAUM'S LATEST
Gulag: A History  

Nearly 30 million prisoners passed through the Soviet Union's labor camps in their more than 60 years of operation. This remarkable volume, the first fully documented history of the gulag, describes how, largely under Stalin's watch, a regulated, centralized system of prison labor-unprecedented in scope-gradually arose out of the chaos of the Russian Revolution. Fueled by waves of capricious arrests, this prison labor came to underpin the Soviet economy. JWR's Applebaum, a former Warsaw correspondent for the Economist and a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, draws on newly accessible Soviet archives as well as scores of camp memoirs and interviews with survivors to trace the gulag's origins and expansion Sales help fund JWR.

Comment on JWR contributor Anne Applebaum's column by clicking here.


Previously:

06/17/08: Pity the Poor Eurocrats
06/12/08: Is the World Ready for a Black American President?
05/28/08: The Busiest Generation: America seems to value its children's status and achievements over their happiness
05/20/08: Leave Hitler Out of It: The craze for injecting the Nazis into political debate must end
05/13/08: A Drastic Remedy: The case for intervention in Burma
05/07/08: A Warning Shot From Moscow?
04/23/08: Radio to stay tuned to
04/17/08: China learns the price of a few weeks of global attention
04/01/08: Head scarves are potent political symbols
03/26/08: The Olympics are the perfect place for a protest
03/19/08: Could Tibet bring down modern China?
03/12/08: Have political autobiographies made us more susceptible to fake memoirs?
03/05/08: Why does Russia bother to hold elections?
02/20/08: Kosovo is a textbook example of the law of unintended consequences
02/06/08: A Craven Canterbury Tale
02/06/08: French prez' whirlwind romance reminds voters of his political recklessness




© 2008, Anne Applebaum

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