Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Keep Trying, Tom!

Tom Friedman almost gets it right! Buried under quivering layers of flabby, clunky prose is a bright shiny kernel of what's-wrong-with-America truth:

Talk to U.S. business executives and they'll often comment on how many of China's leaders are engineers, people who can talk to you about numbers, long-term problem-solving and the national interest - not a bunch of lawyers looking for a sound bite to get through the evening news. America's most serious deficit today is a deficit of such leaders in politics and business.

I think Captain Obvious is really quite spot-on with this. Lawyers are not bad in and of themselves, but their role (at its best and purest) is to argue and persuade and advocate, not to manage or lead or fix or strategize (no offense intended to my legal friends - it's just that the words, "We need someone to run our business/country" are rarely followed by the words, "I know! Let's hire a lawyer!"). Unfortunately, the central problem with Republicans today is that their idea of problem-solving is to convince everyone that they've fixed the problem, or that there is no problem - as opposed to, you know, actually fixing the problem.

In addition to the usual bad writing, Friedman also misses on one of the key facets of his own premise ("America needs to be more like Lance Armstrong!") by not saying anything about integrity or decency. Does anyone remember a few years ago when one of Lance's chief rivals fell, and Lance hung back and waited for him rather than taking advantage to rack up a lead? He didn't think it would be fair or sportsmanlike. Sure, I can see a lot of Democrats doing this, but no Republicans - they might hang back too, but only to kick their fallen adversary in the nuts and then steal his tires.

I have the same why-aren't-more-politicians-like-this reaction when I hear about golfers like David Toms assessing stroke penalties or even disqualifying themselves from tournaments because they think they might have committed an infraction that no-one else even noticed. This is pretty much the exact opposite of what we have now, where the ruling party is trying (successfully) to minimize and deflect the impact of torture, treason, and election-gaming, rather than owning up to it and accepting appropriate penalties. Or, better yet, not perpetrating it in the first place.

I'm not 100% sure that we want engineers running everything (probably not realistic in an electoral democracy anyway), but I do agree that we need more accountable problem-solvers and fewer butt-covering problem-spinners.

2 comments:

ntodd said...

Unfortunately, the central problem with Republicans today is that their idea of problem-solving is to convince everyone that they've fixed the problem, or that there is no problem - as opposed to, you know, actually fixing the problem.

Actually fixing stuff is hard. It's hard work.

larry said...

In my experience, U.S. corporations tend to be run by people who came up the ranks in sales and marketing. I think that has something to do with the overt corruption in business.