BILL Clinton the orator has always impressed me. But now, I think I also have to salute Bill Clinton the statesman … that is if I’m prepared and able to forget Monica Lewinsky.
On Wednesday, I watched the former president on television delivering a spirited defence of President Barack Obama’s handling of the nation’s struggling economy and giving him an enthusiastic endorsement as president for another term.
When he delivered a lecture in Kuala Lumpur several years ago, Clinton spoke in a low, soft tone. That too captured the audience’s rapt attention.
After all, it’s not every day that we have a former US president speaking before us in Malaysia.
The Bill Clinton on Wednesday in North Carolina was different. In a fiery speech formally nominating Obama for a second term, Clinton argued in his distinct, raised voice that the president has spent the past four years putting in place policies that will lead to a more vibrant and balanced economy and asserted that, despite problems, Americans are “clearly better off” than they were when the president was sworn into office.
Everyone present had only praises for Clinton, who at 66 now, projected the very image of an American senior statesman.
Indeed, Clinton is a statesman. Four years ago, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were political foes when Hillary Clinton and Obama were locked in a bruising battle for the Democratic presidential ticket.
But we can witness how top American politicians are able to move forward with pride and dignity and how political rivals could set aside their differences and come together to work in the interests of the nation.
The Democratic National Convention and Bill Clinton’s statesman-like endorsement of once-rival Barack Obama should compel us to draw comparisons back home.
The US presidential election is due in November this year.
It’s a fixed deal. Every four years, the Americans will elect a new president or re-elect the incumbent for a second and final four-year term.
The man elected president in November will be sworn into office the following January. It has been clockwork precision all along – November elections, January swearing-in every four years.
Unfortunately for Malaysians who favour a fixed election date like the US presidential polls, that’s not the case with the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy practised here.
We have elections every five years but then, elections can also be called anytime within the five-year period by the prime minister or the leader of the ruling party.
This has given rise to a lot of speculations, rumours, anguish and anxiety too.
For these reasons, I also favour a fixed election date.
Interestingly, last year the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform said it would study a suggestion for the date of Malaysia’s general election to be made known months ahead for voters to be well prepared for it.
Its chairman Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili said the suggestion, raised by the Penang PKR, had its merits and demerits.
Ongkili said while the suggestion could help reduce politicking, as people would know the election date much earlier without the element of surprise, some quarters might exploit the situation to start campaigning early.
It has been over a year with no new development on the matter.
This is disappointing.
This week, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak gave the strongest hint yet of the election date. Like the US presidential election, he pointed to a November polls.
Speaking in Sabah, Najib brought his favourite number 11 into prominence, saying that the double digits were “significant” this year because 2012 is the 66th year of Umno, with Malaysia marking the 55th year of Merdeka and Sabah Umno notching 22 years.
“All these numbers could be multiplied by 11,” he said. “Six times 11 equals 66, five times 11 equals 55 and 2 times 11 equals 22. The factor of 11 appears in all. It is unique and good.”
Even though I pay little or no attention to astrology and feng shui, it’s interesting to read what one astrologer has to say about Najib’s electoral hint.
According to astrologer Master Yuvaraj Sowma of Tamil Nadu in India, the “auspicious” election dates for Najib, based on Vedic astrology, are Nov 5, 14 and 23.
“The dates were regarded suitable when read with the Prime Minister’s date of birth – July 23, 1953,” he said.
Yuvaraj was quoted in a national daily as saying that the plus point for Najib was that he shared the same moon of Virchika (Scorpio) with Barisan Nasional, formed on July 1, 1974.
Yuvaraj said November and December appeared to be the most favourable period for Najib to call for the general election because the planet Jupiter would have a strong positive influence on his zodiac sign.
“The good period continues until May 2013 and the Prime Minister should take advantage of the favourable planetary position,” said Yuvaraj.
He said that although Barisan was expected to face a tough challenge because the planet Saturn would also have some similar influence in November, the ruling coalition would emerge better than in the last general election.
“This is simply because the ruling stars governing Najib’s horoscope are strong and favourable,” he said. Yuvaraj said the 11th month symbolises “gain and divinity” and would also be the best period to woo voters because they would be in a more cheerful mood. Whatever hint, whatever astrology may predict, one thing is certain – the 13th general election must be held before June next year.
Another issue which bugs me is how unforgiving our Malaysian politicians can be.
Unlike Bill Clinton who let bygones be bygones (and certainly not because Obama appointed Hillary as Secretary of State) and supported President Obama because he was a good man to lead the nation, our politicians seem to bear grudges against each other forever.
I need not mention names here because these examples involve prominent personalities. We have a former prime minister who is still unable to forgive his deputy whom he sacked 14 long years ago.
Now and again, he would remind Malaysians of the personal weaknesses of his fallen but ambitious deputy so that he would not be elected to lead the country.
I feel sad and pity the octogenarian for being so unforgiving. After all, people make mistakes and many could turn over a new leaf. But this man could not forgive, nor forget.
Then, we have a sitting PM and an aspiring PM, once buddies in the same party but now sworn enemies and bitter to the core.
You can feel that every day, one would be waiting for the other to make a wrong move so that he would be surprised with a lethal punch to end his political career.
We have only heard all too often how they tried to run each other down with allegations and accusations of intimate details of their personal life.
This juicy material may be media fodder but is hardly what we need and expect from our top political leaders. If the top guys have such negative characteristics, what can we expect from the others below them.
A wise man once said, “A politician thinks of the next election while a statesman thinks of the next generation”.
It wouldn’t be difficult for us to choose the category the majority of our Malaysian politicians belong to. Hey people, still anxious about the elections? Are you sure you know the type of politician vying for your vote?
Is he a mere politician or do you think that one day he would make a statesman?
Comments can reach the writer via columnists@theborneopost. com.