Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Professional Politicians

This was originally meant as a comment on my last post, but it got long and most folks don’t read my comment section, so I’ll write it out here.  Cannablog’s omnipresent Whig commented in my last post that we need “character” and “principles” in our politicians.  

But I say screw character and principles; I just want to know what these dudes are going to do for me.  Bad people can do good things and good people can do bad things.  Nice guys aren’t always the best leaders, good intentions can go horribly awry, and people with firm beliefs can be the absolute worst ones to be around.  And in reality, most people have character flaws and this isn’t black and white (except with Cheney, whose soul is pure black).  

Reagan was a nice guy and I think of decent moral character, but he had some horrible, horrible advisors who led him into taking many really lousy actions which often went against his own beliefs.  Clinton had some definite character flaws and questionable principles, but he was a decent president who did what was necessary for the job.  And don’t even get me started on Bush.  Even if he was well-principled, he’d still be stuck with the same fantasyland belief system which misled Reagan; and Bush isn’t well-principled.  He’s just a schmuck who said all the right words about character and principles, and look how far that got us.

So I say screw character and principles.  I don’t care what these politicians personally believe.  I just want to know what they’re going to do and have some yardstick for measuring that.  A politician’s job isn’t to enforce their personal morality or institute their world vision.  Their job is to represent their constituents; to represent our morality and our world vision, even if it disagrees with theirs.  

They’re our employees, not our role models.  And just as a good employee doesn’t have to mindmeld with the boss, a good politician shouldn’t have to agree with what he does or even be a good person.  As long as they can balance a budget and provide for our welfare, they can be serial killers serving from their prison cells, for all I care.  I just want the job done.

Depersonalizing the Politicos

Overall, I think we need to get a little professionalism into politics and stop making this about the politicians themselves.  So what I want is what we expect from CPA’s: Objectivity.  The ability to look past our own personal wants and preferences in order to do the job that’s expected of us.  A CPA may like his client, but that doesn’t mean they can give preferential treatment; and a nice guy CPA might be the worst one.

For CPA’s, ethics isn’t a matter of abstract principles and good intentions.  It’s about following the rules and established procedures every time.  And rather than likes, dislikes, and beliefs being admired; they’re considered problems which lead to unethical behavior.  Accounting isn’t an art; it’s a science.  Before each engagement, the CPA comes to an agreement with the client on what’s expected of them, what’s expected of the client, and a general idea of the procedures the CPA will perform.  They’re called engagement letters and have become so standardized that we even have software to write them.

And that’s all I want: An agreed upon set of actions that the politicians plan to uphold.  Not because they personally believe these things, but because it’s their job.  For legislators, that means that they write good laws that serve our interests.  For presidents, governors, and mayors, that they be able to run a government and enforce the rules efficiently.  And that’s all.  I don’t want a preacher or visionary.  I just want people who do what’s best for the people and who can explain what it is that they’re doing.

Friend for Hire

And that’s it.  That’s all I want.  They can be Mormons, or devil worshippers, or Amway salespeople; I don’t care.  I just want someone to do the job, and I want them to give us a good idea of what they’re going to do.  Not a specific plan, necessarily.  But a list of priorities, or an engagement letter, or something other than empty platitudes about the importance of character and firm beliefs.

They don’t have to be the same priorities they gave last time and I don’t care if they don’t agree with a word that they write, just as long as they do what they say they’ll do.  I want to know what we’re agreeing to before the election.  Is that too much to ask for?  Probably, but that won’t stop me from asking.  I know it’s not going to happen and was being facetious when I first wrote it.  But all the same, I’d prefer things all around if we could drop this belief in the politicians as people, and start thinking of them as professionals.

I don’t want a saint.  I just want things to work.  And if the guy who can make things work is a real bastard, then give me the bastard.  This should be a job, not a fricking popularity contest.  I’m not hiring this guy to drink a beer with me.  I’ve got people for that, and they’re much better at it than any politician I’ve seen.  I just want someone to do the job we’ve hired them for, and for them to tell us what they think the job is.  That’s not going to happen, but it certainly should.

P.S. I once did drink beer with a fairly important state senator here in Texas, and the experience weirded me out.  It’s one thing to debate this stuff as a hobby, but this was the dude’s job and it really made things awkward and personal.  I liked the guy and stayed on his good side, but he got a bit upset when a few other people in the bar started criticizing him.  He was pretty drunk at the time and really put them in their place.  And I always thought of that afterwards, every time I voted for him.  It really is weird to realize that this stuff isn’t just a game, but involves real people.  That’s why I never want to drink with a politician again. It ruins the fun.


whig said...

The thing is, you cannot trust a politician who promises you the moon and the sun if he has no demonstrated commitment to do what he promises. You cannot make him (or her) sign a contract which is binding in any court. Political promises have no validity.

If Arthur Anderson for President is what you're advocating, I guess we wouldn't have an Enron economy because we could trust them?

Thanks again for linking.

Doctor Biobrain said...

But if a politician felt compelled to commit to promises they didn't keep, it would be much easier for their opponents to use against them in future elections. It would also be easier to wage a recall effort against them. As things are, politicians can get away without promising anything real and thus can't be held accountable. They just have to show us what upstanding citizens they are and ride the incumbent road to victory on a wave of empty phrases.

Besides, Arthur Andersen isn't auditing anymore and many of their CPA's lost their licenses and will never audit again; thus ruining their careers. And all because CPA's have strict rules that are enforced. Don't you wish you could say the same for a quite a few Republicans.

Overall, in my scheme, the bindingness would come from politicians wanting to make good on their promises so they'd be re-elected. And that's really how the system should work; rather than the current system, where an incumbent has to have huge personal problems before people think to throw the bum out. And even personal scandal and bribes aren't always enough to have them lose office. And all because it's a popularity contest designed to pick the person we like best, rather than the dude who can deliver on the best set of promises.

As for the link, I just like to brag that I have bloggers for readers. It makes up for the fact that I have so few readers. It's like I'm influential or something.

whig said...

Well, first of all you are influential, so be careful what you advocate in jest, which is why I warn about irony. I'm serious, it's dangerous. Some toolboxes will take it literally and then you have to go all Stephen Colbert on them and they still don't realize he's making fun of them.

As for promises, I remember George Bush the first, Read My Lips, No New Taxes. And he wasn't impeached or anything, but it surely did help him lose support in the next election so you have a point there. Anyhow the lesson that anyone's taken from that is not to make promises.

In seriousness, though, what value are promises from someone without a record you can trust? If Hillary Clinton says she cares about women's issues, do you believe her because she promises it or because it's just self-evidently the case that she is interested in the issue. Of course, that might not be a sufficient reason to vote for her, and other candidates might care sufficiently about women's issues to be more trustworthy all around. I'm just making an example.