Thursday, October 16, 2008

Leadership: Ur Doin It Wrong

This summer, a couple friends came over from London, and I took them around Estonia. Showed them Russia from across the Narva river, etc. At one point we ended up in front of the Riigikogu building, and they asked if we could go in and look around. I figured it would need some sort of pre-registration, but actually the guard just gave me the number of the parliament's PR service and a very nice man came down to give us the tour. We were required to show ID... except one of my friends didn't have his passport with him. So they just asked him to write out his name on a piece of paper so they'd have the correct spelling.

This amused the Londoners greatly, but actually I find it a sign of a functional society. Nobody in Estonian government gets an armoured car. (The security service finally got one, for visiting dignitaries, after a decade of borrowing them from the Finns whenever necessary.) The President's motorcade is his stock Audi A8, with an SUV as a chase car - and maybe a police cruiser for special occasions. You may occasionally find the Prime Minister strolling down the quiet street that his Tartu house is on.

The reason I'm bringing this up is that apparently in America now, you cannot get into the White House unless you have a letter from your congressman - not even for the guided tour. And that's disfunctional. If you are a nation's leader and you need to be protected from that nation - ur doin it wrong.

Ah! I hear you say. But what if there is a nutjob out there who gets off on killing high-profile figures?

The answer is: this is the same misguided logic that leads to headscarves and burkhas in fundamentalist Islamic societies. And as a percentage of the population, I imagine there are far more nutjobs out there who get off on raping women.

If you want to kill a president because it gets you off, you are insane and most likely unable to function in society, so odds are you will have been caught long before you actually pull the trigger. If you want to kill the president because he is destroying the country, well, you shouldn't, but I still want the president to be worried about you. I want that possibility to influence the president's decisions.

But isn't a "good" leader to some, a "bad" leader to others?

No. That's not a good leader; that's a good ideologue. An enormous and vital part of a leader's job is doing things which are unpopular, but necessary. A measure of a good leader is not getting assassinated over it.


Kristopher said...

Why should the public be able to get into the White House? That's a residence. Does Joe Blogg traipse thrugh 10 Downing Street? I don't think so; but there is an interactive tour available.

One answer is to build another similar-looking palace near the White House that would serve the public. Have an Art Museum in it etc.

For tourists with other interests, there are always historical sites of note like Ford's Theatre and the Washington Hilton.

antyx said...

The residence is part of the 2nd floor, if I remember correctly. Otherwise it is a government office building, with significant quarters dedicated to the reception of foreign dignitaries, filled with the sort of design and memorabilia meant to reinforce the mythos of America. This is what has been attracting tourists to the White House up until now. If I found myself in DC for whatever reason - yeah, I'd go, because it's a cultural landmark.


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