The long and short of the ugly way we pick our leaders

Five hundred thirty-two dollars per character, or about 3,700 bucks a word. That’s what a new MBA candidate at the University of Iowa received in scholarship money last month for his Twitter-length answer to why he’d be a good graduate student and eventual employee.

Iowa’s Tippie School of Management offered a $37,240 tuition scholarship for the best, ahem, essay using no more than 140 characters — the standard on the popular social networking site. The winner was selected, the school said, for combining the Twitter format with that of a haiku in only 70 characters.

And you never know when that skill will come in handy.

Tippie isn’t the only school experimenting with byte-based brevity to help it distinguish between applicants. Columbia University, the Wall Street Journal reported in a story this past week about evolving college admissions processes, asked prospective students to explain their “post-MBA professional goal” in no more than 200 characters. Which is downright verbose by comparison.

I have nothing against Twitter; my AJC colleagues and I use it regularly to connect with readers and share our articles and columns with the world. It can be a very effective tool.

But the Iowa and Columbia examples got me thinking about the merits of selecting the future captains of American industry a couple of dozen words at a time — and how else we might be erring in the way we choose our leaders from business to politics.

During the past several years, quality leadership has been lacking in too many aspects of American life. The people at the top have let us down. Rather than asking too much of them, I wonder if the problem is that we ask too little as we select them.

On Wednesday night, several Republican candidates will debate one another in California. The next night, President Obama will unveil his plan to boost jobs and the economy. How many people will remember more than a few sound bytes?

Putting style or form above substance is rampant in our slogan-obsessed politics. Complain all you want about the vagueness and vacuity of “hope and change,” but Obama didn’t invent the bumper sticker.

Staying with politics, the problem may be not only how we select our leaders but how narrowly we cast the field.

In an op-ed last week, also in the WSJ, the British historian Andrew Roberts took Americans to task for our insistence that potential White House occupants “look presidential.”

Gravitas is one thing, but Roberts argues mere appearance plays too large a role.

Lincoln, both Roosevelts, Taft, U.S. Grant, even Jefferson, Jackson and Washington — all would have trouble passing visual muster in today’s America, Roberts suggests. (Although he concedes the wheelchair-bound FDR might get a pass thanks to political correctness.) Bald men like Eisenhower and, on Roberts’ side of the pond, Churchill, two giants of the 20th century, needn’t apply.

Have you ever asked why there isn’t anyone better running for any given executive office in any given year? Could it be that the best people don’t run because they’re fat, short, ugly or bald? (I omit legislators here, since statehouses and Congress are both full of folks who don’t exactly look like Harrison Ford or Martin Sheen.)

I’d like to think we’re above all that. But if not, then as Roberts wrote, we deserve everything we get.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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225 comments Add your comment

Eric

September 2nd, 2011
6:31 pm

Yes, indeed, the rush to “newer,” “faster,” and “more condensed” technology is ruining American culture and diminishing our political leadership. Sadly, appearances rather than substance, rules the day for many people. I’m sick of it all!

Jefferson

September 2nd, 2011
6:31 pm

You can call it a debate, but it is far from that. More like a high school slam session. Ron Paul, too old to rock and roll will be the only one with ideas. The rest is a peeing contest.

Hillbilly D

September 2nd, 2011
6:38 pm

Today’s world has the attention span of a gnat.

Michael H. Smith

September 2nd, 2011
6:56 pm

Putting style or form above substance is rampant in our slogan-obsessed politics. Complain all you want about the vagueness and vacuity of “hope and change,” but Obama didn’t invent the bumper sticker.

Yeah Kyle, style or form… or substance, or the lack thereof !
Can you say zero jobs created?

That about wraps-up the obumer style, form, substance or his great lack thereof in each of your ascribed categories. But not to worry Kyle, ” Zerobama “ will easily fit on a bumper sticker.

I’ll go along with the comment made by one of the Republicans during a past debate: Anyone on that stage would make a better President than obama – and his ZERObama SUM GAME.

RPaul

September 2nd, 2011
7:08 pm

Mr. Wingfield -

I find it very hypocritical on part to ban anybody who call any Republican a name. Yet, in most of your blogs, there are supporters of the GOP who call the President names like “Idiot Messiah,” “Obozo,” “Odumbo,” “Obummer,” e.t.c and you give them a pass. Why is that?

You need to enforce decorum for all people who log on to comment on your blogs, not just a select few just because they support Democrats or Independents. You sir, are a hack and need to be ashamed of yourself for allowing certain people to denigrade the President while banning others who do the same to Republikans.

carlosgvv

September 2nd, 2011
7:22 pm

There are two main things wrong with our political system:

1. As you correctly pointed out, more and more we put style above substance. When it comes to having quality leadership for our country, we are dangerously lacking.
2. Unfortunately, we can only vote for the people on the ballot and cannot force the quality politicians to run for the Congress and the Presidency.

This situation is far more serious than most people realize and dire consequences are already happening because of it. I wonder how much longer it will last?

Rafe Hollister

September 2nd, 2011
7:25 pm

RPaul, your complaint about name calling was voided when you called Kyle a “hack”.

Rafe Hollister

September 2nd, 2011
7:26 pm

Kyle, this is getting out of hand, the next thing you know, we will be selecting our leaders based on how well they read a teleprompter.

@@

September 2nd, 2011
7:40 pm

I would DEFINITELY go for bald! A massive brain pushes the hair out. My husband has an impressive brain.

schnirt

Hillbilly D

September 2nd, 2011
7:48 pm

@@

I must be getting smarter by the day then. (IW&SH)

@@

September 2nd, 2011
7:48 pm

@@

September 2nd, 2011
7:49 pm

Hillbilly:

You were born to run.

(ISH)

hsn

September 2nd, 2011
7:50 pm

RPaul,

You made an EXCELLENT observation.
Kyle is a Republican cheerleader.
He is turd!

@@

September 2nd, 2011
7:53 pm

Hillbilly:

Since you’re here, I have a question. First, let me apologize to the others for going off topic.

Are the nights cooler where you live. My garden has suffered the heat. I’ve heard tell that gardens do better where the nights are cooler.

Oh…and I just got thru canning 16 pint jars of lady peas. My framer friend did some work for me but wouldn’t let me pay him. Lady peas are his favorites.

@@

September 2nd, 2011
7:54 pm

hsn:

Are you the poopy-pants fella?

Hillbilly D

September 2nd, 2011
7:54 pm

You were born to run.

I’ve been able to outrun the buckshot, so far, but I ain’t quite as spry as I once was.

Hillbilly D

September 2nd, 2011
7:56 pm

@@

A tad cooler, it’s getting nearly bareable now, after dark. Lack of rain is hurting everywhere, I think. Been at least 2 weeks since any rain here. The garden is pretty well petered out. Still getting a few tomatoes and waiting on the peanuts to come in.

hsn

September 2nd, 2011
8:03 pm

@@ said, “are you the poopy-pants fella”

No, are you? Or maybe it’s your boy Rick Perry?

@@

September 2nd, 2011
8:05 pm

Alright…nobody else is around so what the hey. I’m in a chatty mood.

Peanuts? In the mountains?

What do peanut seeds look like? Do you plant the peanut in or out of the shell?

(ISH)

I just pulled all my green tomatoes and made relish. Waste not, want not.

@@

September 2nd, 2011
8:06 pm

hsn:

I won’t engage you, just chat around you.

Hillbilly D

September 2nd, 2011
8:09 pm

@@

Yeah, people been growing peanuts here since they been here. Peanut seed is the peanut, what’s in the shell. Just plant the peanut but make sure it doesn’t split, it won’t come up.

hsn

September 2nd, 2011
8:11 pm

@@ said, “I won’t engage you, just chat around you.”

LOL !!! Same here, but it’s still ill-advised.
You will be better off picking on your equals.

@@

September 2nd, 2011
8:17 pm

Hillbilly:

Yeah, people been growing peanuts here since they been here.

What came first, the peanuts or the people?

(ISH)

Hillbilly D

September 2nd, 2011
8:24 pm

I don’t know. Don’t know if the Cherokee and the Creeks or the ones who came before them grew peanuts or not. Peanuts are supposed to have originated in Central and South America, so they very well may have. In early references I’ve seen to them, (1800’s diaries, etc), they were referred to as goobers. I’ve also heard them called ground peas, which is really what they are.

TryNelle

September 2nd, 2011
8:25 pm

“Could it be that the best people don’t run because they’re fat, short, ugly or bald?”

Well there are exceptions. Sonny Perdue leaps to mind. Never met the man but I understand he’s about 4 feet tall and he’s not what you’d call photogenic.

To be fair you were talking about the “best people”, so Sonny’s probably not a good example. Never mind.

TallaDawg

September 2nd, 2011
8:25 pm

To Mr. Smith @6:56 –
Your name-calling is a clear sign of ignorance and a lack of substance. Otherwise, you would have made a logical argument. Before long, true Independents will control our electorate.

@@

September 2nd, 2011
8:39 pm

Hilbilly:

Ground peas indeed. Legumes, they are. It’s why I love pink-eye peas…they taste like boiled peanuts. I never eat boiled peanuts unless I’m in Alabama. The minute I cross into Alabama, I buy a Coke (which I NEVER drink any other time) and a two bags of salted peanuts.

Take a swig of Coke and empty the peanuts into the bottle. It’s a childhood thing…June 24th celebration in Florala, AL.

In 1818, Andrew Jackson stopped at the Lake with his soldiers, and thus Lake Jackson is named after him. Since 1870, the City of Florala, through Florala’s Fidelity Masonic Lodge #685, (beginning with Chapel Hill and Lake City Lodge #377), and Chapter #441 of the Order of the Eastern Star, has served as the home of the World’s Oldest Consecutive Annual Masonic Day Celebration. The Celebration is in honor of St. John’s Day, June 24, 1717, when the first Grand Masonic Lodge in England was established. Each year on the Friday before the 24th of June and concluding on the Saturday after the 24th.

I never knew it was a Masonic Day Celebration. No wonder we travelled all the way from California to Florala every summer. Dad, along with my uncles, were all Masons.

Learn something new every day.

Hillbilly D

September 2nd, 2011
8:44 pm

@@

I prefer my peanuts parched but to each their own. Cokes are good for taking grease off a car windshield, by the way, but don’t let it get on the paint.

Have had lots of Masons and Eastern Star ladies in my family but I don’t know a whole lot about them. I know about their charity work, which is considerable, but that’s about it.

@@

September 2nd, 2011
8:47 pm

Oops! Dropped an “l” in Hill.

@@

September 2nd, 2011
8:50 pm

Cokes are good for taking grease off a car windshield

O-:MG! Wonder what they do to your stomach. I knew there was a good reason for not drinking ‘em. Normally, I don’t but my nose in other people’s business, but when I see them consuming sodas, I tell ‘em they’re poison to the body.

Now with Ten Percent More Flavor

September 2nd, 2011
8:52 pm

We should start charging more for less… oops, never mind.

Hillbilly D

September 2nd, 2011
8:55 pm

I’m down to drinking pretty much nothing but water but never from a plastic bottle. It’s tastes like plastic, contributes to our dependency on foreign oil (to make the bottles) and isn’t good for the environment. Plus I’m just too cheap to pay for water.

(IWH)

Hillbilly D

September 2nd, 2011
8:56 pm

We should start charging more for less… oops, never mind.

Notice how “quarts” are often 29-30 ounces now?

@@

September 2nd, 2011
8:59 pm

Hillbilly:

There are those who believe Masons are the reason for today’s ills. “The Illuminati”.

Everybody’s a member.

(ISH)

Now with Ten Percent More Flavor

September 2nd, 2011
9:01 pm

Notice how “quarts” are often 29-30 ounces now?

I sure hope that’s not part of the new math they’re teaching in schools. :smile:

Hillbilly D

September 2nd, 2011
9:03 pm

Some of my folks have always wanted me to join the Masons but I’m not much of a joiner. The Masons, or at least the ones I know, won’t ask you to join, you have to ask them.

Hillbilly D

September 2nd, 2011
9:06 pm

Now

I don’t know what they’re teaching in school but look closely when you’re in the grocery store. You have to be careful about 12 oz. packs of bacon, too.

Now with Ten Percent More Flavor

September 2nd, 2011
9:08 pm

Of course, if the gas stations were to catch on to redefining the size of a gallon whenever they wanted to charge more, the price of a “gallon” could stay the same for a long time. I sure hope they don’t read this post and get any bright ideas.

Now with Ten Percent More Flavor

September 2nd, 2011
9:10 pm

Hillbilly,

My wife won’t hardly let me eat bacon any more. She says that particular type of fat is bad for me. I have to sneak off to the Waffle House or Huddle House every once in a while though when I get to missing real food.

@@

September 2nd, 2011
9:14 pm

‘Ya know, Hillbilly, if you could grow coffee beans in YOUR mountains, you’d be a rich man. $13.00+ for 1 lb. 11.8 oz. I don’t know if that’s 1 lb. plus 11.8 oz. or if a pound is now equal to 11.8 oz..

I’ll often catch myself complaining out loud in the grocery store. I turned to a woman nearby when examining a product on the shelf “Does this container look smaller than before?” Her answer? “No.”

She’s hasn’t been paying attention.

As the dollar shrinks, so shrinks the containers.

Hillbilly D

September 2nd, 2011
9:14 pm

Now

Been to Canada a few times. Between converting gallons to liters and greenbacks to beaver bucks, I had no idea what I was paying for gas.

Speaking of Waffle House, this is pretty interesting:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/01/waffle-house-hurricanes_n_945756.html?ncid=webmail4

@@

September 2nd, 2011
9:18 pm

Heeeyyyyyy, my Illuminati link misappeared.

Somebody…

doesn’t…

want us…

to know.

schnirt

Hillbilly D

September 2nd, 2011
9:18 pm

As the dollar shrinks, so shrinks the containers.

Just think if they would cut the size of the boxes, for things like cereal, so the box would actually be full. They could put twice as many boxes on a truck, cutting fuel costs, among other things. Not only is it an underhanded shell game, it increases our dependence on foreign oil, and is downright un-American.

(IW&SH)

Now with Ten Percent More Flavor

September 2nd, 2011
9:25 pm

Hillbilly,

When the Waffle House locks its doors, you know things are getting bad. It likely means that the National Guard trucks can’t make it through to get the cook to work.

Michael H. Smith

September 2nd, 2011
9:32 pm

Mr. Wingfield

I don’t find it the least bit out of line the criticize a President for any number of reasons, beginning with the fact that he is a politician. Which means I can call him “obumer” or any other politicians anything including calling them a baloney sandwich. Such is the political arena.

In regards to this preposterous stupid notion now being inferred that “obumer” is somehow owed respect because he was elected to the office of President, it is worth mentioning that “NO SUCH OWED RESPECT” was recognized nor did any come from the leftwingers on these blogs including particulars like Jay Bookman, Cynthia Tucker and this present hypocrite (who I’ll not call by name) withhold any belittlement of then President George W. Bush when he was the elected President. In very point of fact, Mr. Wingfield, Ms. Tucker wrote in her column at the time George W. was president of Teddy Roosevelt’s instance that criticizing sharply, in not so good terms, the President’s performance where deemed necessary was the duty of an American. Furthermore that is exactly what Ms. Tucker did as an American. Not only she but yes, leftwing colleague Jay Bookman had to get his American dig in as well by marginalizing George W. Bush in name to the use of all lower case spelling, as I do in like American manner now.

To these to leftwing name ascribing ninnies now whining ban, sir, let it be known. If you can’t take it, they never should have dished it out; and to quote one of your very own: “If can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen!”

ZERObama :)

Now with Ten Percent More Flavor

September 2nd, 2011
9:36 pm

Ah yes, the “they did it too” defense. Or is it an offense. Who cares! Good night folks. Have a pleasant holiday.

Michael H. Smith

September 2nd, 2011
9:36 pm

TallaDawg, read my 9:32 in regards to your ignorance and what I & others have to say to you and yours.

We’ll see where the independents as they will speak for themselves without your voice of no authority. BTW, obumer has lost a great deal of the independent vote and stand to lose a great deal more.

ZERObama

Michael H. Smith

September 2nd, 2011
9:39 pm

Now with Ten Percent More Flavor

Suit yourself it really doesn’t bother me does your conscience bother you?

ZERObama sweet zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz :)

JDW

September 2nd, 2011
9:49 pm

“Could it be that the best people don’t run because they’re fat, short, ugly or bald?”

It could. It could also be because they are too smart to subject themselves to the indignity of the process. I had the unique view of the Clinton/Lewinsky matter from “across the pond”. The running joke in Europe at the time was…What is the difference between the affairs of an American President and a French one.? Answer…an American President leaves a semen stained dress while the French one leaves a professor.

You see Mitterrand had numerous extramarital affairs. He and his long-standing mistress, Anne Pingeot, had a daughter together, Mazarine who holds a Phd. The story goes, a reporter once had the temerity to raise the issue during a press conference. Mitterrand’s response…what the f&*# has that to do with this?

On the other hand we tied ourselves in knots because the President had a dalliance…no one with any sense whatsoever wants to subject themselves to the level of scrutiny involved in politics today. So instead Sam Nunn goes into private life and Bill Clinton becomes president. Colin Powell sits on the sidelines and we get George Bush. In the last cycle we had to choose between an inexperienced and unknown in Obama and John McCain who for all his service had the poor judgment to choose Sarah Palin to be his choice to stand “one heartbeat from the Presidency”. Look at the challengers for the Republican nomination today…are these our “brightest and best”

We are driving those could and should serve away and are left with those that hunger for the power and notoriety. Sometimes you get lucky and the result is 1992-2000 sometimes it is 2000-now. We have prosthelytized ourselves into a corner that we will be lucky to escape.

@@

September 2nd, 2011
9:51 pm

The Illuminati killed Tupac!!??!!

LAWD AH MERCY!!!!

Conspiracy theorists! Where would the world be without ‘em.