Fred Thompson

However, it is a legitimate issue and should be taken seriously. I especially take seriously the criticism of people such as New York Times columnist David Brooks who I consider to be an insightful analyst of the political scene.

He recently wrote that governance is hard. It requires acquired skills. Most of all it requires prudence. What is prudence? Among other things, it is the ability to absorb information and discern the essential current of events – the things that go together and the things that will never go together. It is the ability to engage in complex deliberations and to understand which arguments have the most weight. How is prudence acquired? Through experience. Experience allows a leader to judge what is important and what is not. He added, “Sarah Palin has many virtues. If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she’d be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter.”

One can hardly disagree with the desirability of our leaders having the qualities that Brooks describes (putting aside the question of how many of our leaders who are not Sarah Palin have demonstrated these qualities). But there are other important qualifications, such as will, courage, and determination. Frankly, an infusion of these qualities into our body politic is desperately needed – not just to raise hell with the establishment, but to speak the hard truth about unpleasant choices facing our country. To push for choices that will, in the long term, benefit our country, our children and our grandchildren. In other words, things which “prudent” leaders are all too often reluctant to do.

For many years we have failed to address looming problems that will prove catastrophic to our nation. It’s not because we are bereft of leaders with great experience. And it is not because they do not understand the “essential current of events.” They know these things all too well. It is because they do not have the political courage to do anything about it.

Recently, a Washington Post editorial pointed out that even before the recent financial crisis on Wall Street, the Government Accountability Office issued a report declaring the federal government on an “unsustainable long term fiscal path.” This was primarily due to the projected cost of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, brought on by an aging population. We will be spending $41 trillion dollars more on these entitlements in the next 75 years than we will receive in payroll taxes and premiums, although the crunch will actually begin much sooner than that. And we already owe Japan and China about $500 billion each.

David Walker, the former Comptroller General of the United States calls this problem much larger than the recent financial rescue plan. In fact he calls it the “super sub-prime crisis.” Which bring me to the current sub-prime crisis.

Wall Street and Washington were full of people who were “qualified and experienced” in the field of finance. Sen. Barack Obama, for one, has a great deal of experience in the housing field. So do many of his closest advisers. I would have traded some of that experience for a few more leaders with less experience and more courage to buck the establishment and tell the truth about what was happening.

This brings me back to Governor Sarah Palin, and why I say that courage and political will are at the very top of the “qualification” requirements for today’s leaders. So the question is, how does Sarah Palin compare on that score with Biden and Obama, for that matter? Very well, I’d say.


Fred Thompson

Fred Thompson has been a lawyer, actor and United States Senator. He writes exclusive analysis and commentary for Townhall Magazine.

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