Positive Presidential Politics


 A few partisans will broil at this one.  A few cynics will call me an idiot.  I promise you, you won’t hear the following from any candidate or party, and you probably won’t hear it from the “mainstream media,” the “right-wing media” or the “liberal media.”  But I think this election offers us cause for extraordinary celebration, and should call us to be the best darned voters and citizens this country has ever seen.  So, I’m calling for an “appreciative inquiry” about all the good that is possible.

 Think about this: after 230 years, which included a century of slavery, we have a man of African heritage nominated to be President.  Not just any man, but one raised by a single mom; he made it to Harvard Law School, where he climbed the meritocratic peak with grades that got him on the Harvard Law Review, and by fellow editors who made him president of that review. I could wax on about his commitment to public service and his courage in standing up against a war that most were afraid to resist, etc.  We should ALL be proud of a system that offers such a candidate.  But wait,

 We have a Republican candidate whose father and grandfather were admirals, who himself served admirably, and who couldn’t be cracked in a P.O.W. camp.  He has fought courageously in the Senate, at times crossing the aisle to work with Democrats to get great things done, often speaking his mind when it was not popular.  Yet we as citizens so often say “those politicians are all the same.” Although the opposing party in the Senate disagrees with what he stands for, very few challenge his integrity and character.  We should ALL be proud of a system that offers such a candidate.  But wait,

 The Republicans have put a woman in the second slot in their ticket, a woman who’s a mom as well as a governor.  People will argue about experience, but few can deny that the system has offered this real live person an amazing route into leadership, and you have to marvel at the way she has stepped up to the task.  But wait,

 Here comes a guy whose wife and young daughter were killed in a car accident just after he was elected to the Senate.  He was going to refuse to be sworn in, but was convinced he could serve his country and still serve his sons.  He commuted (and still does) 4 hours a day to tend to his home life.  He’s fought corruption, at times – unpopularly – supported the president during war, and is now the Dems’ choice for VP.

 We should ALL be proud of a system that offers such candidates.  We get so down on our system.  It’s true:  These candidates, parties, and their supporters will – if the pattern repeats – spend much more time tearing each other down, and defending themselves from attacks than talking about a positive future for us.  They are told by pollsters (who are just reflecting the numbers) that we pay attention to the negatives.  They are being attacked (Biden went after McCain as a Bush-clone, and Palin oozed sarcasm to demean Obama), and they will attack back.

 So here’s a crazy idea for us everyday leaders:  Let’s focus on the strengths.  Have discussions – you’ll need to start them – about whose strengths are really key at this time.  Not who’s evil and bad.  But who can shine the best for our great country.  Not, “whose health care plan sucks,” but who really has a great plan that could work.  By the time we’re done with campaigns, our winner has been so whacked and whittled and wasted that we almost ensure a divided country – where half is angry and skeptical, and the other half has to almost blindly support the winner.  McCain is not a demon.  Neither is Obama.  Nor Biden nor Palin.  The winners will need our help, not our ire.

 Dissent and debate we will have with us.  But we have power to uplift our dialogue, our reasoning, and our national mood, if we bring a civil tone and an appreciative mind, and

Lead with our best self,



    • Daniel Granholm Mulhern: I wonder if she knows what she is getting into. Jennifer ran when Jack was about a year old. But that was for attorney general in a little state called Michigan its like being a mayor of a small town in Alaska compared to the sweepstakes she is in now. I would love to hear more from her and especially from her husband to be honest with you. Because she’s got a 5 month old down syndrome baby, and a 17 year old daughter who is pregnant now, and what….

      Frank Beckmann: Whose going to have a husband by the way to take care of her.

      DM: Yeah, an 18 year old husband who on MySpace was swearing about how he didn’t want to be a dad, and uh you know ….

      FB: So the attacks continue from the democrats we have evidence of it hear from the husband of a governor who’s gone through this. I’m surprised to hear you say this I must tell you.

      DM: Frank

      FB: Your wife has gone through this she has lived this and she has done a terrific job with it, and you don’t want to give this woman the chance based on the same conditions.

      DM: Listen Frank you are the one who introduced the kids not me, I’m only talking about the mother’s perspective. Now you would be the first one to tell me that stuff that’s in the public domain is in the public domain. And that stuff was in the public space that this man who want to exalt as a good dad and I pray that he will be. I pray that he’s working is way through it…

      FB: Dan, I have not exalted anyone as a good dad. I simply said he was going to be her husband, I don’t know if he is going to be a good dad or not.

      DM: Ok, all I’m saying. This girl is going to go through a lot, and all I’m asking Frank is does she know what she is putting her family through. And you know its fascinating …

      FB: Are you telling me that your wife Jennifer Granholm regrets putting your family through her public service?

      DM: All I’m telling you this is an entirely different situation, Frank.

      FB: No its not, it’s the governor of a major state raising children, while doing a job how is that different?

      DM: Well number one our kids were much older, number two we didn’t have a teenage pregnant child, number three we didn’t have a child, an INFANT with down syndrome. Now I’m not saying they can’t do it Frank, I’m not arguing. I’m only asking a question and sharing my perspective, which is why I think you put me on the line. I’m not judging her I’m asking do they know what they are getting into and I would love to hear more from her husband. I’m not judging, I’m not saying he is not going to do it I hope to god he rises to the task for the family.

      DM: You know what Frank I think its really curious that you as a host are playing the advocate role, and I as a caller am really asking questions, that I think are really good questions for all of us. I’ll continue to be balanced and non partisan, when John Edwards ran I thought it was crazy, I had the same questions. He’s got kids, his wife’s got cancer and they are going to run around the country while they have kids. When Barack was going to run, I say do you really want to do this Barack, to your family. Now this situation is, how much further do we push it. You’ve had infants, a 5 month old child, neither of us have raised a special needs child. You’ve had teenage kids, a teenage kid who’s pregnant…

      FB: I’ve got to tell you it sounds if you wish your wife had never gone through the public life like this, I gotta tell you.

      DM: Not at all.

      FB: Why, deny someone else the opportunity to do that.

      DM: I’m not doing that.

      FB: It’s suggesting that she shouldn’t even be Governor now, that your wife could do it, and someone else’s can’t

      DM: I mean Frank there are 20 leaps of logic as usual on that conclusion.

      • We also want to love mom and apple pie and have no negative advertising. It’s funny though that I remember in 2006 there were all these commercials on about how Dick DeVos moved jobs to China played over and over again on my TV. I also recall a low-blow move in a debate where at the end of the debate the Governor tried to drop a bomb about some nursing home that Dick Devos invested in. He was left with no time to respond and the whole thing was a bunch of BS and a few pundits called the governor on it. So, it’s funny reading the choir saying “I agree” and “well said” and “we should have a law” and “you speak the truth.” The truth is that when the situation arose, you and the powers to be decided to go as negative as possible.

        • Paula,

          You’re right. We did “go negative.” And we also tried every which way we could to get people to look at a detailed plan and my wife’s character to get them to vote for her. It wasn’t “as negative as possible,” but I’ll spare you where and how we were restrained.

          I don’t think there is a major candidate anywhere who has “unilaterally disarmed.” I guarantee you there isn’t a WINNER who did so. That’s a shame.

          I remember our first decision to go negative. We hated it. And yes we chose to do it.

          It’s very hard to ask the combatants to tie a hand behind their back. Senator Obama has been showing a lot of restraint; perhaps you’d say Senator McCain is, too. But supporters of both, using their first amendment rights to throw verbal bombs, are doing so.

          That is a big reason why I’m saying that everyday leaders need to shape a different environment. OUr elections are decided by tiny amounts of poeple. The more we elevate the dialogue, the better the result in many many ways.

          Love to hear from you on this.


          • Note regarding the “no winner has ever not gone negative” department. Look to former Iowa representative Jim Leach. He won 15 elections in a row going positive. He lost the 2006 election when he refused to allow the national party to go negative on his opponant.

            Granted, he didn’t win his LAST campaign by going negative, but a 30-year career in the house of representatives based on positive campaigning is a wonderful track record.

          • If you want to see propaganda ads at heir lowest, look at McCain’s diatribe about the anti-establishment bucking that he and Palin have touted themselves as doing inhis latest “We are both Mavericks” ad campaign. What a crock of B***s***t that compilation of falsehoods are. If this country elects McSame for a third term, we are headed for hell in a handbasket.

      • Mulhern here:


        Thanks for publishing this. It’s interesting that you neither attack nor defend the comments. You simply let the transcript of the conversation stand. I think it’s interesting, because that lets people bring their own biases and assumptions to it. Folks can infer what they wish. But since you have put this up, let me amplify or repeat what I MEANT – what I was “implying” as my English teachers used to say, and readers can decide for themselves what they choose to “infer” from it.

        Let me say that the conversation took place very quickly. Frank is a forceful interviewer. I felt he was putting words in my mouth (and he points out where I put words in HIS mouth). I was genuinely trying to have a conversation – not a battle, but it’s hard to do that on radio and in the overall climate I wrote about this week that is so charged and adversarial. But having a cool minute to actually read what happened very quickly and confrontationally I would like to clarify:

        1. I absolutely believe that Governor Palin has EVERY right to run. I celebrate that. My actions speak for themselves in supporting a great woman in political life.

        2. Some have seen hypocrisy in my comments, as if I were saying it’s okay for Jennifer and me, but not OK for the Palins. (Or as Frank twice jumped to the conclusion: that we regretted Jennifer running and serving.) Neither are true. Having been through a challenging time raising kids while my wife was in a big job – which I can’t imagine compares to being in a presidential campaign and office -I was trying to share that this will be hard. Maybe that’s obvious, but I felt I could offer a semblance of an informed “what’s-it-really-like” perspective. (I wonder what the conversation would have been like if Frank inquired a little more and cross-examined a little less, but that’s not what happened.)

        I was not arguing AGAINST Governor Palin, but honestly WONDERING about how the Palins are thinking about this. There is a context for my doing this. I had called Todd Palin two years ago – as I have called other first spouses – when Sarah was first elected Governor to ask if I could help him in any way, to encourage him, etc. I didn’t care that they were Republicans. I wanted to help another guy think through being a good dad and a strong family.

        I raised these hot issues, because I think our whole society – men and women – have to look at what we are doing with our kids. I do have some regrets, to be honest – not in Jennifer’s running and serving, but in not doing enough to support my kids. I really didn’t know just how hard it would be for them. Frank seems to want to make everything black-and-white, and he assumes perhaps, because I am a Democrat, I was on the attack and see things in such a clear light. I don’t. I just worry that men – like Todd Palin and me – have to change more and faster, and women have to continue the dialogue they are having about the tough sacrifices they have to make, if our children are not to be punished. Maybe the Palins are a whole heckuva lot smarter than I, but I’m still not sure a mayor of a town of 6,000 or so, and short-time governor of Alaska, knew/knows the toll this could put on the family. Does it mean she shouldn’t run? Life has its tradeoffs all the time. She’s making her judgment, and I respect it. And to repeat I WOULD ask the same questions of a man.

        One last point about partisanship and negativity. I’m struck by the fact that none of the people who have taken me to task for my comments seem to have noticed that I asked the same questions of curiosity about the Edwards’ decision (and even Senator Obama’s decision). I appreciate that Paul left those comments in the text above. When political families – including ours – put our families up on the stage, we sure better do everything we can to keep them well. Our kids should be sacred to us, and we have to keep asking how we serve them.

        Finally, I repeat the word I think I used the most above: I pray for the Palin family, as well as the family of the Obamas (and the older children of the Bidens and McCains, whose reputations will also be called into question).

        Apologies to anyone who’s wondering why this major digression 🙂

        – Dan

    • In the past I have voted for both Democratic and Republicans for President. I have always voted for the person I felt was best for the country as have my close family members and sometimes we have negated each others votes. I only have two beefs: First I have no patience for those who do not vote and then complain. I plan to give my 100% support to whomever is elected in November regardless of whom is chosen. Second, when my personal vote is really none-of-the-above and I have to pick someone when I feel both parties have failed to give us competent choices. I agree with Dan this year America is blest with four strong capable leaders with different visions for the future. I admire all four candidates and am in agreement with the vision of two of the candidates and will be proud to register my opinion in November.

    • Thank you for the reminder about teamwork and our ability here to choose the right person(s) to lead our great nation. Everyone has strengths, some more than others.

    • Not only do I agree with what has been said, but I am going to move to action by sharing this article with all of my contacts inside and outside of government and with my family.
      I felt this was a message that I need to tell myself first and then go to others.
      Thank you for helping me to lead with my best self.

    • Regardless that I have already determined who I am voting for before either convention, I watched both conventions, and listened to all major candidates…just because this is such an historic election. I encouraged my coworkers in their 20’s and 30’s to watch them all, not just be be informed, but to watch history happen in their lifetime. But alas, I was much more excited that they were/are. But in general, this whole election is very exciting, even if it’s dating me (in my 50’s)!!

      • JJ –
        You are working to inspire enthusiasm and action. Don’t let their seeming indifference slow you down.
        Think of how many formal and informal leaders have made a point over and over again. Teachers do it. Parents do it. “Older” workers do it. It’s only years later that children or now-mature workers say, “You know, I didn’t get it at the time, but So and So really cared a lot, and s/he had an impact on me.”
        It’s our job in middle age to recall and speak our idealism – despite all we know about reality.
        Keep the faith!

    • Dan, Dan, Dan! What must we do to make you realize that you are “so right”, but so what! Until the negativism and in some cases corruption of the news media and candidates stop blatant lying and belittling each other, how can things change? I feel that I am in a minority of “open minded” people who judge candidiates on what they believe to be true and good for the country.

      I could give less than a “happy” about someones child being born with less than perfection, or a young teen that has been met with the unfortunate facts of life at such an early age, or that I agreed or disagreed with a bridge that led to “nowhere”, how are you going to run my country if your party wins and the president should be fallen with death?? What are your qualifications and skills to assist him in turning this mess around if he lives?? Are you just going to be another token on his arm or are you going to be able to respond to the many needs and causes we have?

      I don’t need you to reimphasize and make your platform, sabout something great regarding your running mate, that everyone has heard before. WHAT ARE YOU BRINGING TO THE TABLE?

      A good friend of mine said ” I can do bad by myself” I don’t need any help!!!

      Let’s make this election, one of the potential, spectacular marks in history, that it has the making of becoming.

      Let’s get off our fannys and have a “real election”, not a joke to be laughed at by our co-horts.

      • Betty,
        I think in this democracy, WE have to change the tone and the dialogue. We have to ask for it to be elevated. We have to say: “they’re not all evil, wrong and bad.” We have to call each other out – and not just our TV sets or the candidates or media – for getting in the ditch.
        It’s a slow, long, uphill battle. We love the prurient, the negative, etc. The Freep sold more papers thanks to Kwame than in years, I’ll bet. Negative sells.
        So, let’s at least foster a constructive and positive dialogue right next to it.
        I’m EXCITED about my guy. Won’t talk about it here, but I will in other places.
        You matter!

  • Well said. I appreciate people who can take an unbiased look at the situation and begin to discern the best decision. We too often demonize our opponents and glamorize our candidate. Let’s be realistic and not turn this into a professional wrestling sideshow. Thanks again for painting a clear picture of the beauty of our democracy.

  • WOW! I wish that the fighting and tearing down of everyone would stop! I totally agree with your view. More people need to hear, read, and follow! Why can’t we all just get along.

  • I wish us all the capacity to see this election through the lense of our country’s greatest gift: to provide opportunities for both likely and unlikely indiivduals to lead us and shape our future.

  • Thanks for bringing up this viewpoint. My dream for election reform would be that candidates would only be allowed to talk about themselves – their history and record, their stance on the tough issues, and their plans for solutions. I think everyone is tired of the negativity, and it doesn’t help us choose the best person for the position.

  • This is so on target, Dan. Thank you! What a great way to approch this election.
    It is also the attitude we need not just with our candidates but with our region. Here in SE Michigan we have so much healing to do. My hope is that we can bring this same focus on strengths and the positive to the leaders and challenges we face in the city and the region.

    • Marilyn,
      That is for shooting sure.
      One way to look at all the indignation expressed by Detroiters and others over the mayor’s situation is that there is enormous pent-up hope for the city.
      Let’s build on THAT!

  • This is an excellent editorial on the candidates and the process. We do need to focus on the positives more than the negatives of the candidates. We have so much division in this country, almost split down the middle, that very little gets accomplished. There is so much influence by special interests (on both sides) and somehow that needs to be curtailed, so that our candidates are working for “We the People” instead of others.


  • Thank you for this viewpoint. Politicians are well aware that when something is said often enough, folks will believe it. Thus, a positive slant, put forth often enough could go a long way toward uplifting and improving this country.

  • Good Morning Dan,

    Well said my friend. Now if all the political operatives and the pundits will follow your advice! It is hard to focus on the issues when all you see and hear is negative static!

    Best Regards,


  • Thank you for your uplifting and common sense comments which take us out of our fear and into our spirit of greatness and wisdom.

  • The very best comments I have heard! I do wish less money and effort was spent on negative ads that could be spent on education, health care, and the like. We should spend more time on the goodness and what great things we can do; wouldn’t that be so much better? Terrific thoughts, Dan.

  • The decline of loyalty has made politics less stable and predictable resulting in close elections. As Baby Boomers have aged over the past 40 years, close and unpredictable elections have increasingly become the norm. The birth of a post-partisan world is a huge opportunity for boomers to step up to political leadership in the next 60 days.

    Last summer while on vacation in Maine, I purchased a $.25 well-used book from the Great Cranberry Isle library. This best-selling book was written in 1972 and targeted to young Baby Boomers to help them understand the political health of their country and what they must do to get the country back on track.

    Here is the author’s Foreword to the bestseller “Captains and The Kings” in 1972:

    This book is dedicated to the young people of America, who are rebelling because they know something is very wrong in their country, but do not know just what it is. I hope this book will help to enlighten them. The historical background and the political background of this novel are authentic. The “Committee for Foreign Studies” does indeed exist, today as of yesterday, and so does the “Scardo Society,” but not by these names.

    There is indeed a “plot against the people” and probably always will be, for government has always been hostile towards the governed. It is not a new story, and the conspirators and conspiracies have varied form era to era, depending on the political or economic situation in their various countries.

    But it was not until the era of the League of Just men and Karl Marx that conspirators and conspiracies became one, with one aim, one objective, and one determination. This has nothing to do with any “ideology” or form of government, or ideals or “materialism” or any other catch-phrases generously fed to the unthinking masses. It has absolutely nothing to do with races or religions, for the conspirators are beyond what they call “such trivialities.” They are also beyond good and evil. The Caesars they put into power are their creatures, whether they know it or not, and the peoples of all nations are helpless, whether they live in America, Europe, Russia, China, Africa, or South America. They will always be helpless until they are aware of their real enemy.

    President John F. Kennedy knew what he was talking about when he spoke of “the Gnomes of Zurich.” Perhaps, he knew too much! Coups d’etat are an old story, but they are now growing too numerous. This is probably the last hour for mankind as a rational species, before it becomes the slave of a “planned society.” A bibliography ends this book, and I hope many of my readers will avail themselves of the facts. That is all the hope I have.

    Taylor Caldwell

    Now 35 years later, Baby Boomers are the best educated of all former generations. However, they need to read or re-read “Captains and The Kings” to better understand how their countries are being weaken through politically created wars and inflationary monetary policies.

    Boomers are valued and needed to exercise their responsibility, serious work ethic, “can do” attitude and competitiveness in stopping the bankruptcy of their country. They need to exercise their leadership capabilities in finding, promoting and voting for political candidates in 2008 who are for free markets, sound money, reasonable tax policies, and ready, willing and able to fight terrorism the way Canada, Sweden and Switzerland do.

  • Thanks Dan. This “novel” approach to modern current day politics needs to not just be hoped for, but mandated legislatively. rrest and jail the “swiftboaters”, on both sides, and disallow ALL negative press. Take it further and make it be a criminal offense. I do not feel that your idealistic and utmost in reasoning perspective will be adhered to. Carl Rove was too successful in his derisive tactics for it to not be levied again by at least one side! Just like we need REAL, not psuedo-real laws governing the lobbyist activities….one can look at both conventions to see how few teeth were implanted into recent ‘reform’ laws, for realization that the same old same old will continue to perpetuate a spiralling downward trend in ‘poilticing’ practices…..until laws force these actions upon incumbents, challengers, and of equal importance, these third party attack ad INSURGENTS!!
    I commend you though, Dan, for speaking the truth, something that needs to be integrated into the politics of the USA, at a 100% saturation level.

    • Mark,
      Our glorious First Amendment gives us this world. It allows people to speak, and depends on them to speak the truth – through interchange if not each and every one speaking their deepest truth. That is why I am speaking to each of us as everyday leaders. The Roves we will have. So our only defense is not just an educated but a positive and constructive electorate.
      Let’s have at it.

  • A great article. You should sent it to the four candidates, it might help them to tone down criticisms and to concentrate on what they want to achieve. Your are right there is absolutely a lot of good on both sides! A breath of fresh air.

  • Our problem is uninformed (by choice) voters. People do not take time to educate themselves (independently i.e without media’s help) with issues. Most political discussion and decision are based on what they heard on TV, Ads or syndicated shows. I wish people will take time to understand issues and apply independent thought process in validating what they hear or see on TV

  • Dan,
    Excellent thoughts and comments. After the past two weeks – I felt good about all of those in the top four slots for election and thought that there was some analysis to be done to decide my vote direction. But then I thought – wait, we have 8 weeks or so and debates are coming so everyone will tear them all down and they’ll all end up ‘looking like idiots/ogres/demons’ after all that and I’ll be back at now what do I do. I hope that doesn’t occur.

    In the meantime, I did just what you suggested. I had a 3 hour road trip to Detroit with two 20 year old women in my family (my daughter and my niece) and we threw out thoughts, pro’s, con’s, current situations needing addressing and strengths of each person and party (together and separately) to best help deal with those situations. Each of us gave our perspective and thoughts, and in the end, I, as the forty-something Mom came away with some more to think about and analyze, but also with a respect for these two girls and their perspective (as I think they also came away with a similar respect). I also came away with hope that more people – young, old, union, non-union, management, blue collar, etc. would have these discussions and at least feel that there are some good people in this race and we all can help to elect a great leader and do our share to support them over the next four years to help us all move forward and make gains for ourselves, our state, our country and our world.

    Thanks for the continued great comments. You make me hope it is possible!!!


    • Carol,
      Wow! I’m inspired.
      I’ll bet those young women will remember that car ride for a very long time. They won’t approach another election the same way . . . and perhaps neither will you!

  • In an era where political smear campaigns make us question the sincerity of any compliments paid from one candidate to another, thank you for highlighting the fact that these four individuals all bring tremendous skills and experiences to the table. They passionately seek positions which, let’s face it, most of us would never have the fortitude to pursue.

    This election is history in the making: we will have either an African-American president or a female vice-president. The youth of today will have a completely different paradigm with which to view the candidates of the future, based on the oucome of Election 2008. This is cause for celebration!

    The points you raise should be sent to the editorial pages of every newspaper in Michigan. We hear plenty of mudslinging, ranting, and sermonizing – let the people of Michigan (even those who aren’t RFL followers) also hear a dose of common sense and common courtesy, both of which permeate today’s column. Thank you for telling it like it is!

  • Keep the tone of this going. It is truly energizing. We can go much farther, much faster by working together and building on strengths.

  • Dan,

    As usual you are asking us to step up to the plate and acknowledge what drives us to do the things we do or think the way we think or vote the way we plan to vote.

    I intend not to weigh in on the positives or negatives of any of the candidates. Since they are all human they all have admirable traits as well as glaring faults.

    I weigh in on being an American who also happens to be an African American. I weigh in on Hope, Dreams, Challenges and Change. For the past 20 years I have taken a 3 month leave of absence to work for the candidate of my choice. I do so because I see that secret booth where I cast my ballot as essential to the future of my children and my future grandchildren. My hope for this election is that all Americans will become actively involved in the outcome. That we vote our Hopes and Dreams of a Better Tomorrow. But a tomorrow that we elected and determined because we showed up!

    In the final analysis when the final votes are tallied, regardless of who we cast our vote for. I want the people who vote to know that they will MAKE A DIFFERENCE to our future.

    • TIP Lady,
      What an everyday leader! To take time off like that to work on a campaign. Thanks for sharing such depth of love for our democracy!

  • I would be proud if I felt that my vote would count. The past two presidential elections have been rigged and this election will offer more of the same.

  • VERY WELL SAID! Thank you for writing this. While I am a Democrat, and will be voting as such, I can’t deny that there are some likable characteristics with the Republican candidates. Yet sometimes I don’t share my thoughts with others because they instantly want to talk negatively about his age, her family or some other aspect of their lives. Your message is a nice reminder that we should focus on the positive. I’ll choose to leave the negative talk to everyone else.

  • A great “Reading for Leading” now if this political line-up of diversity and choice can’t bring 60%+ of registered voters to the polls then we will truly know what’s broken in our system of government!

    “That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

    Abraham Lincoln

  • This weekend my college freshman son (who will vote in his first election) and his roommate were having dinner with us, and we discussed this very issue. He is a strong Obama supporter, and many of his comments about McCain/Palin were reflective of the negative ads versus seeking a diverse set of perspectives on what McCain stands for. We all agreed it was refreshing to have candidates you can respect on both tickets.

    We were left wondering what happened to the John McCain we have respected over the years, who stood up to his party, and reached across the aisle to sponsor campaign reform, and many other items. Is it the same issues that surface in Scott McClellan’s book about the bi-partisan governor of Texas he admired, who became the leader many (most) now despise?

    After reading Obama’s book I became convinced he brings a very refreshing perspective to the problems of hyper-partisanship and he will get my vote. I still worry whether he too will become driven away from his ideals, and pulled into the power grabbing practices of both parties, particularly the far right, and far left. In my opinion both are equally corrosive to our democracy.

    As is often the case, Dan is right on here and makes me reflect on my own thought processes and action. We all occasionally miss the mark, however. I heard the Frank Beckman interview with Dan mentioned above, and wondered what pulled Dan to make the comments he did. The conversation got off on the wrong foot, and it is probably best to acknowledge what was said is not what I have observed Dan standing up for over the years.

    With Kilpatrick pleading guilty last week, after months of an obstinate leader desperately lashing out at everyone else as the source of his problems, and now two respectable presidential tickets giving our country real choice, I feel better about our future than I have felt in months (even years). As Dan says, there is a lot to feel good about Obama as the Democratic nominee, and McCain as the Republican nominee. The choice for me is clear, but which ever wins, I can feel proud of the democratic process.

    ps. Our governor deserves tremendous credit for handling her statutory role in a highly competent manner. I am sure there was nothing pleasurable in holding a fellow member of the democratic party accountable for his actions. No matter how childish he was in blaming her for his predicament any objective person can see the problem. As parents we need to help our kids see both their strengths and weaknesses in finding their way in life. Enabling the type of delusional behavior witnessed last week has overshadowed the potential this talented man had as a leader. His parents and the supporters gathered for his farewell continue to do him a great disservice.

    • Jack B,
      Thanks for ALL your thoughts here.
      Discussions about candidates which we hold with our adult or near-adult children as such gifts. We pass on the tremendous gift we were given to have a vote – just one – but one vote!
      Thanks for your candid thoughts on my Beckman interview and your compliments about Jennifer’s handling of the Detroit crisis. She followed the law. That’s a pretty good start for all of us!

  • Aren’t you the same author who wrote that those who didn’t speak up against Iraq had blood on their hands?

    Yes, they need our help, and you’re 100% right to suggest that divisive venom does not serve us. You’re 100% right that we need to be aware of the humanity and strengths of our adversaries and allies. We also need to be aware of the challenges and weaknesses of our adversaries and allies and speak strong and clear when they are not truthful with us or do not serve our interests.

    I write about and while we need to be aware of the destructiveness of our adversarial ways of communicating, it’s also essential that we don’t make nice when our leaders need to be held to a higher standard.

    • Meryl,
      Leadership is full of contradiction, don’t you think? Mavericks are great, except when they don’t listen (Ralph Nader strikes me as one such). Moderate leaders are great, unless they won’t take a stand.
      I guess at this point, I am so overhwelmed by the toxic effect of the negative on our debate, our psyche, etc., that I think we can move away from it.
      If it’s Iraq we’re talking about, the candidates can boast about their two different directions to take this country. They seem quite different. So, we don’t need to attack either to see the contrast.
      Just a thought.

  • Ah! Sanity in politics. The AI approach is a wonderful concept, unfortunately,as discovered during the Rovian years, swiftboating works. To focus on the positive aspect of the issues would require politicians to fail to note that negative statements remain with people longer than positive ones. Senator Obama has been somewhat idealistic in that regard but he too has found it necessary to defend himself.

    • Dr. Riggs,
      I actually wasn’t talking about candidates. Indeed, see Paula’s accurate challenge to me and my wife above. I’m saying that WE, voters, everyday leaders should celebrate the good we have, and move to a higher ground. If we can pull some candidates along, great. If not, we will still have improved the dialogue and decision making.

  • Dan,

    I completely agree with you about the amazing choices we’ve got in the presidential race, and I look for the positives from the candidates.

    You may recall I told you that if Barack had picked the Governor of Michigan to be his running mate he’d be ahead in the polls and probably win and you’d be in the Naval Observatory in January.

    Well, I gave the same advice to my old friend, John McCain………Now watch what happens.

    • Peter,
      My wife, as you’ll recall had a constitutional problem.
      And Sarah Palin’s no Jennifer Granholm. Okay, guys. That’s just for fun, so you don’t need to start the attacks and counter-attacks. Leave it to Dan’s uxoriousness!

  • Great Statements from you Dan, and Wonderful comments from Your readers Dan.
    So who is it that only needs negative statemtents/comments?
    Who is it that votes on who has the least negative statements?
    Who is it that tallies the ads?
    Thanks for keeping us thinking outside the BOX

  • Dan, thank you for such a wonderfully uplifting piece.
    I read you religiously!

    After working in politics for so many years, I concluded that most politicians are the most courageous people I’ve ever met! How gutsy it is to weigh in with an opinion for all to see in the first place … and then be crucified if Heaven forbid you have to change your mind or opinion.
    Cheers to all those leaders who ARE so inspiring (including Gov. Granholm by the way) We all owe you a big THANK YOU!

  • With so much mudslinging and negative inquiry into the ways political candidates may be slightly less than perfect (like everyone else on the planet), it’s amazing that any fine upstanding people are willing to run for office! Thank God that some do, like Jennifer Granholm!

    The main point of your article, I think, was to challenge us to discover ways that we can focus on strengths and assets to appreciate, not deficits and barriers to mourn and bemoan. In the meantime,every caseworker in the state is called to identify barriers and strategies to address them, but only the savvy ones do it in the context of figuring out what the clients’ STRENGTHS are! So sad! Anything that Jen can do about that? Individual caseworkers can, if we’re willing to take the time, and what a transforming thing it would be if we could help our clients discover what they’re GOOD at, since everyone, everywhere, in every department they deal with, are so ready to tell them what’s wrong with them, and to repeat how they’re nothing but a loser / abuser / user who’ll never amount to anything…! Self-fulfilling prophecy! If you tell people that garbage often enough, they come to believe it. Like, oh, well, might as well start using again since “everyone” knows I can’t make it on the outside.” 🙁

    As for the presidential race, I find it ironic that Republicans can criticize the Democratic candidate for being relatively young and inexperienced, merely a good talker, someone who may be popular, but not necessarily competent… and then they name a vice presidential candidate who could be characterized as relatively young, inexperienced, a good talker who’s popular but not necessarily competent. I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…

    My theory is that they do this because they think that voters are stupid, that we vote by who we’d like to have a beer with, that experience and credentials that provide evidence of an ability to bring this country back don’t count with us. We only care if they look and sound good, like Ronald Reagan, while all the rest of the world laughs at us for electing a B-movie cowboy star. Are we stupid? Are they right? We’ll see in a few weeks.

    I hope enough of us are savvy enough to vote for competence that could come with being a good speaker, like Abraham Lincoln, whose wise words came from a kind heart–the kind I see in Barack Obama. God knows none of us would want people peaking into something that isn’t A-1 plus in our lives, so yeah, let’s focus on the positives, and the goodness that everyone has to contribute in any / every way.

  • [Note to Dan: If you want lots of posts on your blog, write about politics…]

    The idea that you (nearly) ended the column with, “The winners need our help, not our ire,” is fabulous. We may disagree on the politics of a given position or issue, but I wonder what leaders would be able to do without opposite-party opposition in everything they tried to do.

    I understand we’re a two-party system, and the opposing party often keeps policies towards the center, but it seems that just as often, the partisanship is personnally directed, not directed at the policy. As a centrist with views that are supported by both the democratic and republican parties, I fully support the concept that you were conveying.

    • Daniel B –
      I agree. I think there a lot of moderate proposals – even in Michigan at this moment – like a Renewable Portfolio Standard, which nearly 30 other states have – that suffer from the extremes. That’s why I think we – as everyday leaders – need to speak clealry to the positives of what we want. Rs and Ds want Michigan to be a leader in alternative energy (even the Michigan Chamber which is with my wife only very rarely). A couple on the far edge are keeping it bottled up.
      Thanks for weighing in.

  • Thanks for your wonderful comments. I wish we saw more of this. I am always amazed at election time. As a former school counselor, I think of all the time we spend talking to kids about respect, caring for each other, to avoid bullying which includes tearing each other down with words, etc. And then it is election time and the opposite of that is pretty much all they see from the the opposing parties. And I choose the word “parties” because I think that is where most of the negativity comes from, not the candidates. As individuals, they are all great role models. But why do we have to tear the one guy down to build up the other?

  • In your post you state, “We have a Republican candidate (McCain) whose father and grandfather were admirals, who himself served admirably, and who couldn’t be cracked in a P.O.W. camp.”

    According to McCain’s own words, he did crack in the POW camp.

    “When I said that, the guards, who were all in the room—about 10 of them—really laid into me. They bounced me from pillar to post, kicking and laughing and scratching. After a few hours of that, ropes were put on me and I sat that night bound with ropes. Then I was taken to a small room. For punishment they would almost always take you to another room where you didn’t have a mosquito net or a bed or any clothes. For the next four days, I was beaten every two to three hours by different guards. My left arm was broken again and my ribs were cracked.

    They wanted a statement saying that I was sorry for the crimes that I had committed against North Vietnamese people and that I was grateful for the treatment that I had received from them. This was the paradox—so many guys were so mistreated to get them to say they were grateful. But this is the Communist way.

    I held out for four days. Finally, I reached the lowest point of my 5½ years in North Vietnam. I was at the point of suicide, because I saw that I was reaching the end of my rope.

    I said, O.K., I’ll write for them.

    They took me up into one of the interrogation rooms, and for the next 12 hours we wrote and rewrote. The North Vietnamese interrogator, who was pretty stupid, wrote the final confession, and I signed it. It was in their language, and spoke about black crimes, and other generalities. It was unacceptable to them. But I felt just terrible about it. I kept saying to myself, “Oh, God, I really didn’t have any choice.” I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine.”

    (US News and World Report: John McCain, Prisoner of War: A First-Person Account By John S. McCain III, Lieut. Commander, U.S. Navy By John S. McCain
    Posted January 28, 2008)

    Senator McCain’s experiences reveal the depth of his character and an understanding of the hatred in the world and the horrors of war that few individuals comprehend.

    • You wrote:

      Senator McCain’s experiences reveal the depth of his character and an understanding of the hatred in the world and the horrors of war that few individuals comprehend.

      I ask:

      Then why, oh WHY, would this man, John McCain, who inflicted unbelievable death, destruction, and misery onto the Vietnamese people, by strafing the innocent with incendiary bombs …… do you remember that world famous photo of the young Vietnamese girl running naked down the street after getting doused with Napalm! 🙁 It was McCain who rendered these people such intense pain and suffering……if I was his captor, I’d have killed him in a New York Minute …….have a desire and willingness to continue with the GWB regime’s abhorrent manifestation of a greed focused “war”????? I tell you, it is because McCain has been bought, paid for by the blood of soldiers and citizens, all to support the fleecing of the US Treasury by the likes of Big Oil, Helliburton, et al. The only hope (in this election, for the future of our nation) is Obama……and I pray that Mr. Obama stays true to the idealisms that I feel strongly ARE his truths!

  • Thank you! I have asked for this for years! What would happen if both parties just stopped throwing spears at each other and just stated what they would do for the country?

    I would welcome THAT kind of politics!

  • A very stimulating passage for this latest RFL blog. I have examined the strengths of the issues raised by the candidates and ignored all the fabricated stories floating around on the Internet. As a result of my evaluation of where the candidates stand and their views on matters that will shape public policy I will be voting for the candidate who I believe shares the same vision of governance that I have regarding foreign policy, health care, international trade, energy, Social Security, jobs, and the forces that have sigficantly eroded our purchasing power and standard of living.

    • Jim,
      I’m going to leave this post in here, but if it spawns more I’m goign to remove it and others. I’m calling for a positive effort where informed people can inform each other about why they are voting FOR someone. You don’t have to guess where my loyalties lie, but this column should be a place where we lead with our best.
      I totally appreciate your frustration, but what do everyday leaders do with frustration? Let’s see if we can turn the direction.

  • Hi Dan,
    I commend you on your honest and thoughtful comments. If only there was some chance of improving the quality of getting the message across. My Mom complained to me during the last camopaign in Michigan because she was tired of seeing all the ads for Jennifer!

    I would be amazeed if we ever see the end of the negative bickering fest, media blasts that we call campaign ads. Candidates start off with the best of intentions (and I am being generous here) and pledge to avoid a negative campaign and sure enough a little time passes and they fold to the pols or the powers that be.

    John Ashcroft is the only candidate I can recall that kept his promise regarding no negative ads. He ran against Mel Carnahan for Governor of Missouri. Tragically, Governor Carnahan and his son lost their lives in a plane crash just before the election. John Ashcroft refused to cave when the pressure was on to campaign and push for the ads. Some say it cost him the election. I had to respect someone who stood by their word and give John Ashcroft credit for being a statesman.

    Some twenty nine years ago I read a study from University of Michigan on voter malaise. The study concluded voters were fed up because of negative ads. Sadly,not much has changed since then.

    It seems spin is in and there is no room left anymore for discussion of ideas. Many of the political ads remind me of children complaining “well he started it”. It’s just charge and counter charge with very little substance in the mix. Judging from the advertising, a person could conclude that our candidates are saints and/or the most corrupt, incompetent, money grabbing, special interest loving, individuals in the country. Couple that with the knowledge that our candidates do not live their lives or face the same challenges as your average voter does. It’s no wonder why so many people feel cynical and can’t wait for the election to be over.

    It’s suich a shame to feel so frustrated by political ads when some people risk their lives to insure we have the freedom and right to vote.

  • This was a great piece. What a wonderful moment in American history.

    It’s worth considering that negative campaigning is a great alternative to IED’s and bloody combat. Politics is a battle for ideas and for the power to put those ideas into action. Harsh words and character slams have been a part of every campaign since George Washington left office. Let’s just chalk that up to imperfections of our human nature, and enjoy an epic campaign featuring four great characters.

    Besides, I can go to a website and get the candidate’s views on every issue at the click of my finger. But I can better get a sense of that person’s character through a hard-fought campaign. Much worse attacks will come when the person becomes president–attacks on our allies or on our own shores–and the campaign gives the voters a sense of how they’ll make quick decisions under stress.

  • Good message, Dan. But the people that need to read it either won’t, or will pay little attention to it. Can you believe that we are discussing “lipstick on a pig”? Do the campaign planners really believe that the voters don’t know that there are more serious issues out there, or that the voters don’t care?
    Either way, I am offended.


  • It is always so wonderful to have a speaker that puts my thoughts so eloquently.
    It is time for all of humanity to raise the bar of tolerance and communication. After all, we are all in this together.Today we live in a global village.
    We are completely intertwined and interdependent on each other.
    Boastful and exclusive support of teams,nations,groups of people only breeds separation and alienation.
    What a wonderful world this could be if we all had to walk in each others shoes…actually…if you think about it …we are all walking in the same shoes.

  • I just want to add …that if one of the canidates had decided not to sling the mud back….that canidate would have stood out like a “NEW PENNY” and I have heard from many people, that they would have voted for that canidate reguardless of their party affiliation.
    It certainly would be an amazing experiment.

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