Tuesday, June 19, 2018

[Column] Has the U.S. gone bananas?

By on January 11, 2018

On Sunday, January 7, 2018, at the Beverly Hills Hotel, at the 75th Golden Globe Awards ceremony, a new President of the United States was born.

Oprah Winfrey.

The woman is beloved by everyone in the U.S. and around the world. Receiving an award, she gave an emotional, inspirational speech that the media immediately celebrated as “presidential.”

Instantly, “Oprah for President,” as they say, went viral. A political bomb. The first great story of the New Year. Across the front pages of the major newspapers: on TV screens in all the new shows. A light at the end of the tunnel. The end of the Trump nightmare.

Can she beat Trump? It seemed that every political leader, and every celebrity, gave his or her opinion. President Trump assured the nation and the world that he would beat her – but added that he did not think she will run. Winfrey herself said she was not thinking of running, but this had no effect.

Now, I have a question. Have the Americans gone bananas?

They elected Trump seeing with their eyes and hearing with their ears that he is unfit to be president. And throughout 2017, every day, seeing and hearing that he is, as some have called him, a “pathological narcissist,” and others a “pathological liar.” Either way, pathological.

But most of all, seeing every day the consequences of electing a person who has zero experience in government. A nightmare that I think even the Republicans who say they support him ask themselves: When will this end?

So Oprah for president.

She is, of course, one of the great success and inspirational stories in American history. One can argue, the greatest ever.

Born into poverty in Kosciusko, Mississippi, a victim of sexual abuse by members of her family at the age of 9, pregnant at 14, losing her premature-born son, she went on to movie stardom and the highest-rating TV “confessional host.”

She is today the world’s richest African-American.Her net worth, according to Forbes, is $2.8 billion. She is described as the “Queen of all Media,” and often as the “world’s most powerful woman.” It was reported that when she endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, it delivered one million votes.

And she did it all on pure talent.

Her speech, mostly on sexual abuse and the #MeToo movement, ended:

“So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”

Didn’t this sound like Martin Luther King’s historic “I have a dream….” ending?

There was an instant, explosive standing ovation. That instant, she became, in the U.S. media, the candidate for President in 2020.

But wait. She does not have a day of experience in government.

This is, after all, the toughest job in the world. The President leads the most powerful country in human history. Indeed, is the most powerful man or woman in the world.

So it would seem obvious that American voters would ask a simple question. Can she do the job?

For most jobs, a rather important question. If you are being wheeled into a room for heart surgery, can the surgeon do the job? Or as you walk into a giant aircraft: Can the pilot fly this airplane? Or into a taxi: Does the driver know how to get me there?

But not for the President of the United States.

President Clinton’s experience was questioned in 1992, consisting of being Governor of Arkansas. After eight years in the White House, Hillary Clinton knew how vital experience is. How difficult it was to deal with the 435-head monster that is the U.S. Congress. To move the bureaucratic monster that is the Federal Government. Not to mention to deal with scores of world leaders.

And not to mention the nuclear button.

In the 2008 primary, she tried to warn the American voters. Barack Obama also had little experience: served in the U.S. Senate one term and in the Illinois Legislature. It is dangerous, she said, to have an inexperienced President when the phone rings at three in the morning with a life-or-death crisis.

But it is evident that that question – can he or she do the job – is not decisive in American politics. Obama, with little experience, elected twice. Trump with none.

(Screen capture of www.whitehousemuseum.org)

The same in Puerto Rico. In 2016, the New Progressive Party (NPP) knew it was going to win in 2016 and that the new Governor would step into the worse economic and fiscal crisis in island history.

A candidate for the nomination was the highly experienced resident commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi, who had dealt directly with the economic and fiscal crisis in Congress and the creation of the Promesa fiscal board, and was also a former Justice secretary.

Instead, the NPP nominated Dr. Ricardo Rosselló, a stem-cell laboratory scientist with no government experience.

In the media frenzy over Oprah as President, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Anne Applebaum cautiously asked in the the Washington Post: If she wants to be president, shouldn’t she first serve in the Senate, “learn to turn emotion into issues and issues into law?” Since this is a job like nothing she has ever done, isn’t it a good idea to first learn if she likes it, and if she is good at it?

Doesn’t this seem obvious? But it isn’t.

In the old days, it was the function of the political parties at their national conventions to deliberate and precisely ask the question. But now, candidates are selected, not in “smoked fill rooms,” but in primaries and caucuses.

No one, of course, can know today if Oprah will want to apply for the toughest job in the world. That the voters are saying “no experience necessary ” is, I think, yes, bananas.

–A.W. Maldonado was a reporter and columnist for the San Juan Star, executive editor of El Mundo, and editor and publisher of El Reportero.

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