Friday, December 21, 2007

Why are we writing checks our grandchildren can't cash?

With the amount of money we've been spending, you'd think we'd have a little more to show for it. Better roads, schools, healthcare, something. Because right now, our national debt is approaching $9 TRILLION dollars. That's a lot of zeroes and it sure as hell is a lot of interest — somewhere in the neighborhood of $400+ billion annually to be exact.

Since George W. Bush has been in office, this shared tab of ours has gone up a staggering $3 trillion (for perspective, the ENTIRE debt never reached $4 trillion when his old man was in charge.) Why is this? Because we've had to pay for little line items like the war in Iraq and tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans. What gets me though is that of all the issues on the table, all the flubs this guy's made, this one seems to get the least amount of attention. People, he turned a budget surplus into a budget sinkhole. If this was a business, the CEO would have been shown the door a long time ago. And that rapidly accruing interest I just mentioned? It's not being paid to banks in this country. It's going to foreign lenders, like China, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Contrary to popular belief, this isn't Monopoly money. It's cold, hard cash and the vig is running. Yet we don't seem to give a second thought to what this might mean for future generations. They may very well wake up one day to the realization that they don't own their own country anymore. We'll have gone from the richest nation in the world back to being somebody else’s colony.

So what do we do? Simple. It starts with sacrifice. We cut out programs we don't need. We stop spending money we don't have. We don't back tax cuts we can't afford. We quit putting billions into pork barrel projects. And we start slowly paying down that debt. We've done it before. We can do it again.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Name your team: A challenge to the presidential candidates

Knowing what I do about the importance of a good team, I’m baffled about the way we run presidential campaigns as though they were one man (or one woman) bands. As I consider the ever-growing list of presidential candidates I have to wonder: who are their teams? Doesn’t it strike you as a little bit strange that we don’t demand that a presidential candidate introduce his key players before we vote? Who’s going to be running foreign policy? Defense? The Justice Department? Everyone acts like it’s such a big secret, and that’s a little scary. Can’t they at least give us a hint?

For example, would it make a difference to primary voters if they knew that Rudy Giuliani was planning to make Bernie Kerik Secretary of Defense if he won the White House? How about if Hillary Clinton wanted to bring Madeline Albright out of retirement as Secretary of State? What if John McCain thought Joe Lieberman would make a great Attorney General? These suggestions may seem wild, but who knows? The point is, we don't know. And that's a big problem.

The myth of the solitary hero riding to the rescue is still pretty strong in this country. But if we’ve learned nothing else from George Bush’s presidency, we’ve learned that it matters whom a president surrounds himself with. The key players on his team—Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Gonzalez—have made a huge difference. Some people think they’ve been the most influential gang in White House history. It’s fair to say that without Cheney and Rumsfeld, we probably wouldn’t be in Iraq. Yet back in 2000, when Bush was first running for president, he acted like the Lone Ranger. You may recall that Cheney was actually the guy in charge of vetting Bush’s possible vice presidential candidates. Cheney interviewed them, studied their strengths and weaknesses, and finally presented Bush with his verdict. The best person for the job was... Cheney!

I strongly believe that if the voters are going to make an informed decision about who will be our next president, we need more information about the other players. So here’s my proposal. In the next debate, the candidates should be asked the following: “If elected, who will be your vice president, secretary of state, secretary of defense, and attorney general? And if you haven’t made up your mind, give us the short list for each position.” This should also be asked whenever a candidate appears in public, whenever he or she gives an interview, whenever there’s a discussion about foreign policy or domestic issues.

Being president is a pretty tall order. It’s not a job you can do alone. We have a right to know before we cast our vote for president who’s going to be responsible for actually getting the job done.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Bill Richardson is my guy.

From the beginning, my intention has been to get people actively involved in this election and get them thinking about the candidates for themselves. While that hasn't changed, I've come to the conclusion that this race is too important for me not to publicly endorse the candidate I feel is best qualified for the job of President. And whether I'm examining their priorities, using my 9C's Scorecard or simply listening to my gut, Bill Richardson is the one who always comes out on top.

Richardson's been a successful Governor. He's been a successful CEO. He's demonstrated that he knows how to negotiate with foreign leaders and lead on issues like global warming. Unlike others on the stump, he’s offering bold plans, not just pandering talk. I like his job plan, his health care plan, his energy plan, his education plan and his plan to get us out of Iraq. I also just plain like the guy.

While I believe every citizen should vote their own mind and conscience, I'd encourage you to take a long hard look at Bill Richardson for yourself. With his experience, character and vision, I believe he's the President we need right now.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Who’s got a real idea for immigration reform?

One of the most important topics in this election is illegal immigration. The impact this crisis is having on our national security and economy isn't up for debate. What is up for debate are the "solutions" the politicians are throwing at it. Ever since it's become a hot button issue, I haven't heard anything but a whole lot of hot air. The most absurd plan I've seen is from Republican Presidential candidate Tom Tancredo, who wants to deport all illegal aliens – that's something like 11 million people! Be practical, Tom. And then there's everybody's favorite fallback: the wall.

I don't know whose bright idea this was in the first place, but as far as I'm concerned, it goes against everything this country stands for. America doesn't build walls. We tear them down. Didn't we learn anything from Ronald Reagan?

Walls are built when countries lack the creativity to solve problems head on. I believe the problem of immigration demands a multi-faceted solution. Tightening and beefing up security for one thing. Maybe a national ID program. Maybe working with employers to ensure they hire documented workers. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I have all the answers on this one, but I will tell one thing: the America I know doesn't build walls.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The 9C's of being 83

With today being my 83rd birthday, I thought it'd be a good time to take stock of things with my 9C's of leadership. Hell, wouldn't be fair if I didn't put myself to the test from time to time, too.

You may think, "Hey, what is there to be curious about when you're 83?" Henry Ford said, "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether they're twenty or eighty." I agree. I don't try to be a know-it-all. I still have a lot of questions. I'm still capable of being surprised. Hey, I'm surprised every day when I wake up and realize that George Bush is still president.

Which would you prefer-the guy who has a lot of ideas and gets some of them wrong, or the guy who sits like a lump and has no ideas at all? He's never wrong, but so what? I've had a lot of ideas in my life-a few of the real doozies happened in the last ten years. But I'd rather be wrong than be a potted plant. As I've said many times, I flunked retirement.

I make it a point to talk to a lot of people on the phone and in person. I talk to my daughters every day. I talk to my grandchildren. I talk to politicians and car guys and business experts and an occasional priest. What I don't do is email. You can keep your emails. They're mostly a waste of time. I read somewhere that the average office worker receives more than 100 emails a day. I figure about a quarter of those are jokes. A quarter are to cover-your-ass. A quarter are people trying to suck you in (also known as spam), and maybe on a good day a quarter are legit. Here's my rule of communication: Pick up the goddamned phone.

I know people have often accused me of being a character. Do I have character? I hope so. Here's the test: When I stand at the pearly gates and St. Peter asks, "Did you leave the world a better place than it was when you got there?" I hope I can say yes, although I'd be the first to admit to Peter, "Mistakes were made." Fortunately, as I grow older I make fewer mistakes. I don't worry so much about avoiding temptation. Temptation has started avoiding me. (Oh, and I hope Peter doesn't blame me for global warming or the performance of the Angels.)

When you're 83 you have to consider the difference between courage and just plain crazy. That distinction can be somewhat difficult to make. But I think it takes more courage to do just about everything at 83, because with age comes the diminishment of arrogance. It didn't take much courage for me to write Iacocca in 1984 because I thought I was a pretty big deal. Now I know better, so it took some courage to write Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

You've got to have passion and a fire in your belly. It isn't true that passion belongs to the young. It's got nothing to do with age. As Ben Franklin once observed, many people die when they're twenty-five and they just aren't buried until they're seventy-five.

You know what makes a man charismatic in later life? Optimism. It's what made Reagan so popular. At 83 I try to stay optimistic. My doctor advised me I shouldn't let aging get me down. It's too hard to get back up.

A lot of people think competence comes with age and experience. That's not necessarily true. Sometimes it's just the opposite. People get the crazy idea that they've earned the right to be incompetent. We see a lot of that in politics today. People get medals for messing up. I guess I come from the old school: If you're going to lead, you should stay away from the cliffs. (And read the manual prior to assembly.)

Everyone always encourages me to be careful, be sensible, don't strain myself, don't take on too much. In other words, use my common sense. I'm not a kid anymore. But what is common sense at 83? Maybe it would be staying off the California Screamer, but I'm not so sure about that. I don't think it's bad to shake up the old brain cells every so often. I've always been a great admirer of Norman Vincent Peale, so I guess my basic philosophy boils down to something he said: "Live your life and forget your age."

Friday, October 12, 2007

67 years behind the wheel, and counting...

Well everyone, thought I’d let you know that the old car guy just passed his driver’s test. And with flying colors I might add. Now all I need to do is make sure that flawless driving record stays intact!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Good riddance, Rove.

With the recent departures of Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzalez — just the latest in a long line of Administration officials to jump ship – President Bush is left as the lone cowboy standing. You almost have to feel a little sorry for Gonzalez, who was clearly in way over his head to begin with. But Karl Rove is a whole different story. I always thought “the Architect” was an ironic nickname for someone who made a career out of tearing people down. Did you catch that tearful farewell on the White House lawn a few weeks back? I don't imagine too many other Americans were welling up at the departure of a man who single-handedly swift-boated some of our finest heroes. John Murtha, John Kerry, John McCain, Max Cleland, the list goes on. The guy could smear Mother Teresa – he's that devious.

Karl Rove personally reinvented what it means to play dirty politics and I, for one, couldn't be happier to see him go. I just wish he could take some of his failed policies with him.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Let's get it right this time.

Here it is. My first official blog entry. Since I intend this to be an honest discussion about the state of this nation, I’m going to start this thing off by being blunt — I screwed up. In 2000, I supported and even officially endorsed George W. Bush for President. Seven years later, we’re in a war we can’t get out of, the deficit has nearly doubled, the energy crisis is coming to a head, and as I write this, our stock market is experiencing a serious case of the jitters. And don’t even get me started on healthcare.

So needless to say, while I can’t undue the past, I have every intention of making sure we do the right thing for the future. Let the blogging begin.