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Jewish World Review Nov. 28, 2000 / 1 Kislev 5761

Bob Greene

Bob Greene
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Consumer Reports

Send Bush and Gore to their rooms -- bring in the pros -- BUSH by a certified 537 votes as of Sunday night, and as the nation braces itself for the madness that will almost certainly come in the days just ahead, the thought occurs:

We have really blown a fine opportunity here.

Because no matter what happens by Inauguration Day -- if Bush's Florida victory holds up, if Gore is able to reverse the results, if the U.S. Supreme Court sends us all in a direction we haven't even thought of yet -- we had the chance to prove a point.

What do adults do when children won't behave themselves -- when children, despite every gentle explanation, continue to throw tantrums, to loudly misbehave, to resist all efforts to persuade them to act in a gentle manner?

Adults -- in these enlightened times -- softly advise the children that they must observe a "timeout."

A "timeout" is a quiet period when misbehaving children are instructed to go off, be by themselves, and think about what they have just done.

A strong case can be made that -- for what they and their associates have just put all of us through -- Al Gore and George W. Bush are deserving of a timeout. For either of them to be rewarded for the events of the last three weeks is a terrible signal -- it just encourages them.

Their timeout should last for four years.

And what should be done about the alleged constitutional crisis that would result from the Bush-Gore timeout?

If neither of them is permitted to serve as president, how shall we, as a nation, proceed?

The remedies provided in the U.S. Constitution are not very helpful. None of the branches of government seems ready to be entrusted with taking over the stewardship of the republic. The Congress -- at least most of its individual members -- has been as callow as the presidential candidates. There is not much hope to be found in the current Cabinet. The Supreme Court has yet to come to bat -- and to dangle in front of it even a hint of taking over the White House is too dire a notion even to consider.

No, none of the traditional players appears appropriate to run the country after these three demented weeks. There is no guarantee any of them would have behaved any better than Gore or Bush, given the chance.

So . . . what to do?

The answer is to do what many American cities have done -- cities that have become sick of petty political infighting:

Get rid of the mayor -- or at least strip the mayor of any genuine power.

Instead, hire a city manager.

City managers -- when the system works as it should -- are non-political. They have no politics-driven agendas: They are hired to get a job done:

Make the city work -- and make it work efficiently.

So, for the next four years, perhaps that is what we as a democracy should do.

While Gore and Bush are quietly sitting in a corner observing their timeout -- thinking about what they have put us all through -- a city manager, on the national level, can run the country.

The Congress can still make laws and set policy. The courts can keep everything legal.

The city manager -- all right, the national manager -- can, without a whiff of politics, run the United States.

Who should do this?

People not associated with electoral politics in any way.

If we want a person who has bright, forward-looking ideas, a person who can take the nation in creative directions that will make us look at ourselves in new and unexpected ways, then a visionary from the world of business -- Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of, comes to mind -- might be an inspired choice.

If that makes the country nervous -- after all, Bezos, for all his brilliant concepts, has yet to turn a profit -- we might pair him with a more old-line businessman who knows exactly how to make things hum on all cylinders and make big money at the same time. Jack Welch of General Electric would be a great fit.

Bezos and Welch -- or two people like them -- could look after the country -- manage it, guide us on a steady course -- while the standard-issue politicians are in the corner serving their penance.

Unheard of?

So have been the events since Election Day. Could we do any worse than we've been doing since Nov. 7?

Four years from now, if we want to, we can go back to the old way of presidential campaigns and presidential inaugurations.

But we may not want to. The national manager system may turn out to be the way we decide to live happily ever after.

JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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05/11/99: The answer was standing at the front door

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