Entry to politics does not require a test of intelligence, or even political savvy.

 
The best most recent evidence appears in reports associated with Tsipi Livni and John Kerry.
 
Livni--along with Shimon Peres--advised John Kerry to postpone action on the Palestinians' request of the UN Security Council to grant it statehood free of Jews until after the Israeli election in order to avoid helping Netanyahu and other right of center parties.
 
Then the word got out that Kerry told EU diplomats that Livni and Peres urged him to postpone action in order to avoid helping Netanyahu and Bennett.
 
Which is all Bibi's supporters needed to sharpen their barbs in defense of the man said to defend Israel against Livni, Peres, and Kerry.
 
Leaving Shimon Peres out of the picture, due to his long service and advanced age, who is dumber than who?
 
It's not an easy choice, insofar as these are not the first gaffs associated with either Livni or Kerry.
 
Livni was roasted after associating herself with Yitzhak Herzog's proclamation against the egos at the current peak of the Israeli government, while demanding the position of Prime Minister in the second half of their hoped for joint government in exchange for an affiliation that in current polls was worth four seats in the Knesset.
 
Then she went a step too far while appearing on a comedy show and stating that Netanyahu was "zero" and "trash."
 
Israel does not operate at British standards of lese majeste, but "zero" and "trash" were too much for main line media.
 
Prominent on John Kerry's cv is his persistence (some say obsession and messianicism) in pressing Israelis and Palestinians to do what some of both say is counter productive.
 
With all the criticism directed against Netanyahu and Abbas for their bobbing and feinting in the international arena, the best explanation of their behavior is that both are trying to avoid the persistent Secretary of State of the world's most important country without actually saying so.
 
There is also Kerry's association with Barack Obama and their back to back speeches on Syria that began with condemnation and ended with appeasement, and having something to do with failure on Russia and Ukraine. The jury is still out on their combined roles with Iran's nuclear program, but the expectations are not positive.
 
"Dumb" may be extreme, and risk charges of being unprofessional. However, sanctions against me are not likely. There is no sign that these notes circulate in North Korea. Although some of my American correspondents have demanded that I give up my US citizenship due to occasional criticism of the United States, I learned and taught there about the value of criticism and the right of free expression.
 
The weakness in all of the above is that politics is simple. It's government that is complex, and politicians--no matter how high on the pecking order--are no more than marginal to government. We should expect occasional dumb remarks from politicians without worrying to excess. They are not likely to affect what is really important.
 
While the myth is that elected officials make policy, that is rarely true. If they don't listen to their advisers, or chose advisers who are in tune with the professionals, then the professionals who do the work in the military, foreign affairs, and various domestic departments are likely to ignore or modify what the politicians appear to decide.
 
Leadership ranks high on the symbols proclaimed by politicians and those who support them. It would be wrong to deny all value to the claims, but the complexity of government, especially in democracies, is designed to minimize the power of any one individual. Call it separation of powers, or being in touch with the people, both of which are political symbols of high value. 
 
There is also that often quoted line, in various formulations, about the dependence of leaders on their followers. 
 
Aristotle is credited with "He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander."

Gandhi's contribution is “There goes my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.”

The Jewish equivalent appears in any number of Talmudic passages indicating that the rabbis are limited in their view of the law by what their people can accept. One can argue that chickens should not be kosher given their tendency to eat insects, but who can deny to Jews the cheap, tasty, and healthy soup and all else that comes from the dirty birds?

The best British contribution to this thread is in the long running television show, "Yes, Minister."


Fans will say what they will about Nixon's (or was it Kissinger's?) opening to China, the Begin-Sadat-Carter deal at Camp David, Obamacare and the recent opening to Cuba. However, all were joint efforts, extensively discussed before being put forth. Presidents and Prime MInisters could have vetoed each, or withheld their support. Obamacare is a classic example (some say a bad example) of a work likely to be in progress for some time to come, combining what Americans want with what they will accept.


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The ultimate test of leadership is the next election, but that is also more a platitude than insight. There are as many elements determining electoral success as policymaking. There are also a few "rules" derived from past experience, with all the qualifications necessary for statements that may hold most of the time but not always.


One in the policymaking field is that the status quo rarely changes in a major way. An American electoral norm that has held all but once since World War II is that the same party does not capture the presidency three times running.


There are no guarantees, but things are looking better for a Bush dynasty than a Clinton dynasty.


Left hanging is the question of what brings about a major change in a government's policy. 


The simple answer is that we really don't know. Somewhere in the list of explanations is random chance, or good luck in the confluence of numerous conditions that facilitate going forward with a long pending change. No one should claim to know if such an explanation ranks high or low among other efforts to understand what has happened. 


More certain is the holiday season. Tasty, but not all that healthy if there is too much of it. Enjoy with moderation. Politics will wait.




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