The RPs Debate Presidential Leadership: The RP Rebuts

Rebuttal #1: The RP 

John Y.’s provocative piece had me ruminating for hours.  Probably as much as when I first watched that particular episode of The Sopranos — one reason why it’s my favorite television series of all time.

Then, in a telling irony (Mrs. RP assures me that there are no coincidences), I clicked on an email from my rabbi who was sharing with his congregants his thoughts about this week’s Haftorah portion (readings from the Prophets that amplify the Torah portion from that particular week).

To quote Rabbi Klein directly:

This final Torah portion [from the Book of Genesis] deals with the end of the patriarchy and creation of a nation. This final Haftarah seems to tell the same tale in a different generation, but its subtle and difficult side message cannot go unnoticed and unexamined.

On his death bed, the wise and beloved King David admonishes his son Solomon (whose ascension to the throne was not intended), to make killing all of David’s enemies his first royal act. “I go the way of all the earth; you shall be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man (1 Kings 2:2). To show himself a man, Solomon must remember the people who wronged David and kill them. And the descriptions of these deaths are violent. “And you shall do according to your wisdom, and do not let his hoary head go down to the grave in peace (2:6).

The very same message — from King David to Tony Soprano.  Literally, from the sacred to the profane.

And certainly, it was a lesson taught many millions of years before Biblical times. Among the animal kingdom in the wild, the survival of the fittest is not merely a metaphor. The alpha dog (or lion, or dinosaur, yadda, yadda, yadda) is the one who demonstrates the greatest strength, often at the expense of the weaker members of the tribe.  Even in today’s modern culture, our evolutionary instincts remain ever-present.

My disagreement with John Y., however, is with his selection of presidential candidate.  I don’t think Romney’s problem with the GOP electorate is a lack of strength or killer instinct.  He demonstrated pretty clear with his ruthless TV-ad destruction of Gingrich the past few weeks. (I realize it was “uncoordinated” super-PACs that did the actual dirty work, but that’s a worthy debate for another day.) Romney’s problem, I believe, is the apparent absence of any moral compass — he seems like the prototypical politician who would say anything or do anything to win.

I think the candidate whose most in need of a lesson from the Jewish King and the Crime Boss is the President himself.  Obama came to office with a worthy, but misguided notion that he could change the way Washington works — that through his personal popularity and lofty rhetoric, he could put sufficient political and public pressure on the GOP leaders in Congress to work with him to identify bipartisan solutions.

He was wrong. Very wrong.  Until No Labels fixes the institutional problems within the system that foster hyper-partisanship (OK, sorry for the self-serving plug.), Obama must — in the minds of many of his base — start bloodying the noses of his political enemies (non-violently, of course).  That may be the only way to get their respect.  And if that fails (and probably will in an election year), it could recharge the base for the fall election.

Perhaps that was what Obama was thinking with his provocative recess appointments this week.  Next time, the GOP goes on recess, they better not slam the refrigerator door.


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