Change or Competence?


With the U.S. presidential primary season in full swing, there's a lot of talk here about "change" vs. "competence" in leadership. Which does your country have more of? Is that a good thing?

Posted by Lauren Keane on January 30, 2008 1:26 PM

Readers’ Responses to Our Question (13)

MikeB :

A refreshing change might be honesty. Last week, the government reported that job growth was negative by some 17,000 jobs. In he Post there is a good story on why it may be a lot worse than that. But, over on the Bill Gates Network, oh, excuse me, MSNBC, the lead story in the business section is "Jobs data may not be as bad as they look". The story even has a cute little lead in line to the effect that if your wishing to hire an engineer in "Silicon Valley", the market is just great. That, of course, is if you are hiring and completely ignores the very real fact that 90% of engineering hires in this country are Indian or Chinese H1-B workers... at a time when unemployment for U.S. engineers is closing in on 50%! Kind of insane unless you are the corporation looking to hire a dirt cheap indentured servant or a politician being paid of by that firm. Darn, another mis-statement, I mean received a campaign donation from that firm. The problem is we've had too d*mn much change over the past several years. Until the early part of the 20th Century 100% of federal revenues were from tariff's on goods and services. This was designed to protect U.S. jobs and critical infrastructure. Over 1/3 of the federal budget was derived from those same sorts of tariff's right up until the insanity of the Clinton-Bush "Free Trade" experiment ended those tariff's and we witnessed the outsourcing of some 60 million jobs and the displacement of more than 5 million U.S. engineers and computer programmers by cheap foreign H1-B workers. Now, this certainly was a change, but not one for the better. (And, even as a Democrat, I'm still trying to figure out just how wedded to Wall Street Barak Obama and John McCain are. We know the Clinton's are. They designed this disaster; it's part of Hillary's "experience".) Likewise, tossing out our moral authority in the world by establishing secret and not so secret prisons to torture prisoners was certainly a change. But, God help us, that change wrecked forever any moral stature we have in the eyes of the world. I could go on about government spying programs on American's, our government boldly lying to us, goofy cultural wars where homosexuals are allowed to "marry" ... and, in Oregon, the courts literally threw out a ballot referendum to overturn a legislative move that did this in the face of an earlier referendum that forbade them from doing so. Go figure. Another change where everyone feels they are above the law so long as they believe their particular view is right. God help us, we need less change and more thought!

Salamon :

Without major change in USA political leadership the USA voter will have only two choices:

Extremely changed economic and social mileau, all for the worse, due top the absolute corruption of the present leadership at the Federal Level, which corruption involves all three powers under the Constitution, the Executive [source of most destructive tendencies in recent memopry in the areas of morals, law abeyance and cronism], the Congress, which serves the Preident's aganda at the bidding of K-Street, and the Supreme Court, which has forgotten that the USA is supposedly made to serve the people by the people, not by the efforts of the moneyed cabal.

Conversely, if the system does not self implode in the economic/social mileau, then the powers to be, A.K.A. the Sovereign Wealth Funds, will reufse to help the USA on her economic need, for they will rightly conclude that there is not a honest soul in the poower sturcture of this once GREAT NATIONJ, and thus, they will refuse to help, for they be affraid that the thanks for their help would have disasterous consequences for themselves.

To escape tha bove morass, the Voter in USE will have , as a form of self preservation, deny power to the REALIST POLITICAL REPRESENTATIVES, who in the past were slaves to the bidding of K-Street and the military industrial oil cabal.

the dude :

Competence? Didn't see any in New Orleans....let alone in Iraq or Afghanistan or Darfur or Kenya or Gaza or Annapolis or......

CONSCIENCE-TO-THE-WORLD :

Ref: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20080201TDY01305.htm
(368 CLAIM FOOD POISONING/VICTIMS OF CHINA-MADE GYOZA REPORTED IN 30 PREFECTURES)

HELLO CONSUMERS WORLDWIDE:
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WHO ON EARTH CAN AFFORD TO EAT CHINESE FOOD WITHOUT RISK THEIR LIVES?

DON'T EAT CHINESE FOOD AND CONSUME CHINESE FOODSTUFFS, BEVERAGES SUCH AS TEA, FRUITS, VEGETABLE, ROOTS, MUSHROOMS, FISH, MEAT ETC!!!!!

UNLESS SOMEONE IS WILLING TO RISK HIS/HER LIFE!

ONE LIFE TO LIVE! DON'T CONSUME CHINESE POISONOUS PRODUCTS!

daniel :

With the U.S. presidential primary in full swing, there's a lot of talk here about change versus competence in leadership. Which does your country have more of? Is that a good thing?

I am an American and I would have to say that one of the major problems of philosophy and science is exactly how much the human race must change to keep abreast of the natural changes which occur in the world--in other words we are trying to discover exactly when it is safe to be static and when one must keep moving.

Of course all throughout history there have been political structures which have sought to remain static and have eventually perished. It seems man must keep moving. But how much change exactly is there that a political structure must keep abreast of? When will it be safe to be static, and if it is safe to be static will we be faced with the opposite problem which is to get people to change and not be satisfied with stasis even if not threatened by change?

Returning to earth from these abstractions and to the immediacy of the American political situation, the candidates I find best for America are McCain and Barack Obama. I really like McCain but I might have to go with Obama because I tend to be something of a futurist. I would like an assurance though that Obama will have a deep and powerful and intelligent team behind him to make up for his inexperience and weaknesses. But Obama in body represents the necessary future America.

I believe America should integrate on all levels and that really the statesmen we need should be more artistic and scientific rather than business oriented. Business so far does not seem to appreciate the whole of the nation and the task of the politician requires something of the synthetic mindset. A politician capable of synthesis with a team behind him to talk care of the analytical details.

The problem with America is both a lack of competence and ability to change. Or to put it clearly a nation always needs competence in changing--competence directed only towards changing--because a nation cannot help but change. America I would say is ahead of a great many countries in its ability to change, but this power must be increased. And the nation which is successful the most in this endeavour is the nation which leads the world because most capable of solving the philosophical, metaphysical question of exactly how equal to change must man be...

I would go with Barack Obama although it is a serious question whether Americans would rather go with McCain. Hillary Clinton of course is the safe choice for Democrats against the Republican party but she does not represent change (except for being a woman) and the Republicans might go after her more than Obama.

I would go with Barack Obama. Or if we must play it safe go with John McCain. But we Americans must change--there is no doubt about that. We must consume less, have universal healthcare, an increased respect for the military, fix our schools, improve our infrastructure, work on alternative energy, and have an economy which is not so lurching and divided between rich and poor. The magnitude of the problems literally call for genius. I would recommend some sort of fast track which enables people with brains to find themselves in positions to make a difference.

Pour money into the best and brightest although then we would have an increased division between the intelligent and not so smart...But what else can we do? And who best than the intelligent to solve this problem on top of all the others? The problem really at bottom with these questions is the recognition more and more of the need for truly adaptable humans, ones competent enough to be equal to any change. Questions like these are not merely political in the narrow sense but questions which ask exactly what we expect of the citizenry and man as a whole.

Integrated and capable and adaptable humans. I think Barack Obama is an adequate symbol of that now in America. But McCain did survive being tortured in a camp in Vietnam...Fascinating this discussion. It seems America is really stretching and imagining politicians beyond the ordinary. This is both a good sign and bad. A sign of crisis but also a sign of starting to dig deep and ask what we expect of Americans.

I hope that beyond our political choice in the next presidential election that we continue digging deep and asking what we expect of ourselves. For that really at bottom is only American....

Shiveh :

All talk about change and competence in American politics is relevant if we could assume the influence peddling behind the scene is inconsequential. But with billion dollar campaigns relying on money exchanged for influence, with all media converging into the power hubs of corporate dominance … it is hard to think of these campaigns as anything more that other TV reality shows with just as much reality that can be found in such entertainment. The best change for America would be a clean-up of the election process that would make real changes possible.

America has many competent leaders. A dose of integrity is what it lacks. Candidates have only their integrity to barter for soft media exposure and donations that will ultimately decide who will go to Washington. With integrity spent, competence is lost.

Cristina :

This is not just a "good thing". It is essential, almost vital whether the current situation looks bleak or promising.

But I think these are intertwined concepts. They are co-existent, co-dependent concepts. One cannot change, in the real sense, if does not have competence to do so. And one cannot be considered competent if has no capacity to change himself or the environment in which he is in.

Leadership encompasses both (or it must): change and competence.


“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction”(John F. Kennedy)

..well that includes change and competence...it is just necessary to think of what this quote implies!

and for those, like Ignatius who claim themselves addicted to change (only it seems), here is some food for though:

“Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favor.”( Robert Frost)


Yousuf Hashmi :

Change is in human genes. The humans are changing each moment. And after a decade or so it is visible in all aspects of life. You see the fashion the music or the food you will find the change every where.

Political and socio-economic change is another part of the life and this is also visible in all parts of life. In our life time wee see in Pakistan the people becoming more religious. Or we see in europe the sex free culture went to the top and then subsidized to an average figure. Or East Europe where communist ideas were torn apart.

Now in corporate culture talking about change become a fashion. And Mr. David correctly pointed out that most of the time a huge amount of money is wasted in industrial concerns at the name of change with out getting anything.

For Hillary asking a change is surprising. I think she must divert her atention with this slogan as soon as possible. Because she is saying that I have experience of white house and on the first day things will be moving normal means Clinton doctrine will be in place. So we are going again to past. this is amusing.

for Obama yes he is coming from another culture and he has no other card in his pocket except to call for a change.

In Pakistan yes we want a change. A 180 degree change from a rotten old feudal system. we want a change for equal opportunities of the people and we want the change where every children will have a unified system of studies.

But on the other hand we do not like this restructuring to disturb the balance of the socitey and create an anarchy. Un fortunately in Pakistan different governments tried to bring the change very rapidly and end up with the disaster.

So a competent and honest government is a better choice than a reformer who on the name of change make a mess of every thing. We like to take the change rather in slow pace but definately moving away from the old system

JRLR :

Change? Competence? Experience...? What a load of c..p for the masses!

What real, genuine, fundamental change? For another smiley from the same lot?

Competent at doing what? Fund raising? Having one's vulgar .ick my .ick play the goon?

We need TRUTHFULNESS, INTEGRITY and UNCONDITIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY. That's all!

Where do we get that?

Can't get any of that? Vote "none of the above!"... or stay home.

Basta!

They'll understand real quick!

Ever heard of the need for legitimacy?

Dwight :

if you tell me they will be competent enough to keep the world in order, we would that to be a lie. Will Americans die, yes, regardless of who is in office. Will America change, count on it, we are all on the downslide...

Mike :

As an American living in the UK I am tempted to comment on the UK political scene, which basically the current PM trying to pretend he is change and experience, when he is really just more Tony Blair – more or less at least. But let’s face it; the US campaign is way more interesting.

It seems to me that Hilary’s claim to experience is a bit overblown. Sure she was in the White House, but what a disaster her policy-experience there was with health care. In the Senate she has done a great job getting into the security portfolio and forging bi-partisan relations. One has to admit she has worked hard and done well. The problem is though that Hillary is just more of the same. Her team will be the Clinton Administration re-hashed. Furthermore, she will mire us all down for another four or eight years in highly partisan politics. This is not her fault – but the fact of the matter is there are lots of people who just really hate her and I think we need to get beyond this. Interestingly enough, it is conservative Andrew Sullivan in last month’s Atlantic who articulates why Obama matters best. Obama will really bring us around the curve of the baby boomer conflicts.

It also is rather ironic really that Billary should be going after Obama on his record and his ‘fairy tale’ life, given Bill’s rather dubious relationship with the truth. I find it rather difficult to have admiration now for a man who “did not have relations with that woman” and who “did not inhale” who is being an absurd hypocrite. The fact that he misquoted, or incompletely quoted, Obama from the NYTimes interview makes it even worse. He is not actually a hypocrite, since Obama has not been liberal with the truth – Clinton is just a downright liar, like he has been all along. I did not hold Bill’s affair against him (did not approve either), but his inability to tell the truth was pretty sad. I used to like Bill, but this sort of stuff shows us just how little change we are going to get with Billary.

The Billary campaign also likes to highlight Obama’s lack of experience as opposed to Hillary and the great and good Clinton years. But as someone who works in foreign affairs and defence, let me say Bill Clinton made a good contribution to where we are today. It is easy to look back on Bill’s years in office with rose coloured glasses now that US foreign policy under Bush has been truly disastrous. But let’s not forget, it was Bill’s administration that failed to use the Cold War “peace dividend” to craft a new, sustainable order during a period of unchallenged American primacy. The US was in one country and then out again, never doing a job really properly. There was little sustained engagement and practically no grand strategy. Kosovo was Tony Blair’s war, not Bill Clinton’s – remember the US was practically dragged into that war by the UK. Finally, the lack to create a new international order did help put the US in-line for the events of 9/11. I know Mr. Clinton likes to claim that his admin warned the Bush team about Bin Laden and Al Qaeda – but seriously, lobbing some missiles at Sudan and Afghanistan was not an effective counter terrorism strategy. So in the end the ‘experience’ of the Clinton years is dubious at best. I would prefer a young, fresh Obama team that will look at the world differently, than the old, hardened and to be honest, out of date team that Hillary will most likely engage. Hillary’s team are experienced in the Cold War world – in case you have not noticed, that world is long gone. I have this feeling that the Dems, and in particular Hillary’s crowd, think that the next admin is going to pick up in 2000 where Bill left off. The assume the world is just going to fall in-line with the US and walk lock-step into another period of American greatness. I hate to say it but the world has changed and American foreign policy will need to change as well. I’m not sure they get that.

Anonymous :

"Weak Dollar Fuels China's Buying Spree Of U.S. Firms"
Foreign Cash Ignites Political Concerns

Please visit:

REF: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/27/AR2008012702380.html

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Amy, Honolulu HI :

Geez -- talk about a loaded way of framing our options!

If you're going to move away from the usual simplification of "change" versus "experience", fine, but it is biased of you to give only one of these empty disjuncts ("experience") concrete meaning ("competence") while leaving the other ("change") still vacuous.

Here's a better choice, given the focus of Obama's campaign and democrats' competing views about what's primarily to blame for the misery of the Bush years (corruption or incompetence?):

"Truthfulness or Competence?"

Best wishes,

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