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Thursday, April 3, 2008

3 AM

I try to avoid subjects with a short shelf life, but the current spate of "3 AM, Who do you want answering the red phone?" ads has called up a fit of pique that will not be quelled. If there is a 3 AM call to the president, and these calls do happen, the decision should have already been made, or the administration has not been doing its job. Any scenario that is foreseeable, from giant meteor impact to a clandestine nuclear attack should have already have been vetted and responses delineated. Enacting the response should be almost automatic. The decision should have been made months, if not years ago. Any surprise could be made with minor modifications to existing plans. The role of the president in a disaster is one of public re-assurer. Hand holder in Chief. Sure he'll have to give a "GO" on any major action, but the action will already exist. After the 9/11 attack, within three days, CIA boots and suitcases full of money were on the ground in Afghanistan. This was a plan designed in the middle of the Clinton administration, that was sitting on the shelf, waiting for implementation. The men were in place. The contacts with the Northern Alliance were ongoing. 

There is no emergency that cannot be anticipated. We have the strategic oil reserve to compensate for a collapse of the Middle Eastern supplier states. FEMA should be capable of responding to natural and domestic disasters, and not a repository for political hacks. 

Judgement is where a president's fortitude and bravery come into play. As Russia slides back into her preferred default historical authoritarian mode of government the next president must thread the road between a new cold war and isolationism. Nobody is going to call the president and breathlessly tell him or her that there had been a tenth of a degree global warming in the last ten months. The solution to this problem requires fewer flag draped mission accomplished photo opportunities, and more hours of sitting with government leaders who may well need to deliver unsustainable rates of growth to their constituencies for the leader's survival.

I, for one, would rather have a leader who had less hair trigger decisiveness, and more appreciation of the nuances of every situation.

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