Pol­i­tics is, thank­fully, not gov­er­nance

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Syl So­bel Syl So­bel is the au­thor of chil­dren’s books on U.S. his­tory and gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing “Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tions & Other Cool Facts” and “How the U.S. Gov­ern­ment Works.” His email ad­dress is syl.so­bel@gmail.com.

Pol­i­tics is a tough and some­times dirty business, and no one prac­tices it harder, colder and of­ten more ar­ro­gantly than the Clin­tons. They run tough cam­paigns, they play clever word games to skirt the truth, and they change their po­si­tions de­pend­ing on their au­di­ence and on what their polls and fo­cus groups tell them. They are cal­cu­lat­ing and in­su­lar, and they of­ten play by rules that don’t ap­ply to the rest of us. That’s why I’ve never been a huge fan of the Clin­tons and have sup­ported other can­di­dates in pri­mary cam­paigns.

But pol­i­tics is not gov­er­nance. Gov­er­nance takes knowl­edge, ex­pe­ri­ence and over­all com­pe­tence — es­pe­cially at such a chal­leng­ing time in the world.

Gov­er­nance re­quires the abil­ity to process com­plex in­for­ma­tion, to un­der­stand the risks and ben­e­fits of pro­posed cour­ses of ac­tion, and to pri­or­i­tize and choose among them. Gov­er­nance re­quires a fa­mil­iar­ity with the var­i­ous play­ers in­volved in a par­tic­u­lar mat­ter — be they at home for do­mes­tic pol­icy mat­ters or abroad for mat­ters of for­eign pol­icy — to rec­og­nize their re­spec­tive in­ter­ests and how they might be af­fected by var­i­ous ac­tions, and to form con­sen­sus with­out sac­ri­fic­ing im­por­tant U.S. in­ter­ests.

Gov­er­nance re­quires good in­tel­lect, judg­ment and tem­per­a­ment, along with ex­pe­ri­ence in gov­ern­ment and diplo­macy. Run­ning the most pow­er­ful na­tion in the world at the most dan­ger­ous time in his­tory since World War II is not a job for some­one new to the arena of de­fense, in­tel­li­gence and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions. What­ever the causes of the vi­o­lence and in­sta­bil­ity that plague much of the world to­day, the times de­mand some­one who un­der­stands the mul­ti­ple fac­tors that led to this point and the multi-faceted ap­proaches nec­es­sary to get out.

I think we saw this clearly on the re­cently tele­vised com­man­der-in-chief fo­rum. One can­di­date spoke in broad gen­er­al­i­ties, cliches and slo­gans. An­other gave log­i­cally or­ga­nized, mea­sured re­sponses to nu­anced is­sues that were so rich in de­tail the mod­er­a­tor kept re­mind­ing the can­di­date to cut them down for time.

One can­di­date’s re­sponses were de­liv­ered in the lan­guage of pol­i­tics. The other’s were de­liv­ered in the lan­guage of gov­er­nance; they made lousy sound bites and may not have fit into the TV time slot, but they formed the ba­sis for co­her­ent pol­icy.

So I’m go­ing to swal­low hard and vote for Hil­lary when Elec­tion Day comes, not en­thu­si­as­ti­cally, but con­fi­dently and with­out a doubt that of the choices we have, she is by far the best. She’s not — nor will she ever be — among my fa­vorite politi­cians. But I have no doubt about her ca­pac­ity to gov­ern.

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