11/16/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Time for Statesmanship

Here's a novel idea: how 'bout we consider electing states(men/women) instead of politicians. Now this is not to say we cannot have both, but foremost among our thinking, regardless of the severity of the current economic crisis confronting us, ought to be the thought that we need to turn to leaders who exercise vision and wisdom, not merely leadership qualities.

Let me explain further. For most of my life I have listened to men and women extol the virtues of their leadership qualities, and in times of crisis I constantly hear folks talk about the need for leadership. Our elected leaders are leaders by virtue of their election. This, however, does not mean they are effective leaders. The thing about leaders is they can be either good or bad leaders.

I do not quarrel with John McCain's claim of possessing leadership qualities, he does. But to witness the rudderless direction of his leadership over the past week or so, or for that matter the past decade or so, is to question whether this is what is either needed or desired. John McCain is about change all right, but his backsliding, flip-flopping, reversal on principle is the worst kind of change.

Statesmanship, on the other hand, by its very definition entails possessing wisdom and vision. It requires one to think and act in a way that may not be popular in the short term, but required in the long term. It requires a steady hand on the rudder to guide the ship of state through perilous shoals. It also demands a steely resolve to execute a long-term plan for achieving desired goals. As a military man, McCain ought to understand and accept this as a given. However, McCain's actions over the past week, reflexively darting from fundamental economic soundness to economic crisis, from suspension of his campaign to suspension of disbelief, casts great doubts upon his comprehension of either the problem or the solution. Mr. McCain does not understand.

And to those who have been critical of Sen. Obama's cool and calm demeanor as though it smacks of aloofness or elitism I would just offer that in times of genuine crisis this temperament is both needed and desirable. People need to seriously ask themselves who is better capable of making decisions and judgments that carry long-term consequences for the future. I believe that the answer is becoming readily apparent to more and more Americans, and the answer is clearly that Sen. McCain is a leader, but Sen. Obama is a statesman.

We need to restore confidence in both the economic and political system in this country. It will take someone with extraordinary foresight and the ability to make unpopular decisions. Such decisions, though unpopular, will be acceptable to people who have confidence that they will help us reach our goals. Leadership without statesmanship is a gamble, whereas statesmanship accompanied by leadership inspires to achieve great things. The past week very well may be a watershed event in the course of this election.