Picard for President!

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By Ari Rutenberg

I have to begin by saying that I am an unabashed Star Trek fan, specifically the Next Generation. I have always thought of the show not only as a geeky indulgence but also a fantastic set of allegories for both the large and small scale problems we face on Earth. So I was really happy to see the following post from the Huffington Post laying out the case for why Captain Picard would make not only a better President then our current one, but indeed would be an ideal candidate for the job if he were only real.

From the Huffington Post:Picard for President: Why the (Other) Bald Captain of the Enterprise is a Better Leader than Bush
by Marty Beckerman
This week marks the 20th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which charted the adventures of the U.S.S. Enterprise a century after Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. The Emmy-winning TV series, created under the supervision of Trek mastermind Gene Roddenberry and syndicated on numerous cable channels today, lasted from 1987 to 1994 and served as the launching pad for four feature films. In addition to vastly improved special effects, TNG surpassed the original series' hokey '60s politics (such as the episode in which a race of half-white/half-black aliens loathe a race of half-black/half-white aliens -- get it?) with a nuanced political worldview that often explored the tactical necessity of choosing the lesser of two evils, the proper time for diplomacy to devolve into warfare, and other unpleasant shades of gray. (Does sex with an android count as emotional lovemaking or futuristic masturbation?)

At the moral center of these realist quandaries was Captain Jean-Luc Picard, whom Patrick Stewart played with Shakespearean gravitas (and without the use of William Shatner's signature toupee). The French-born, tea-drinking Picard, who popularized the catch phrase "make it so," was far more of a refined interstellar emissary than a testosterone-oozing brawler -- the Tony Blair to George W. Bush's Kirk, or more fittingly his Zapp Brannigan -- but was hardly a pacifist in an emergency. Indeed, Picard was a literate, contemplative and judicious leader, the exact opposite of what America has had so far in the Twenty-First Century.

A handful of satirical Facebook groups nominate Picard for the highest office in the land. One such group declares, "In these trying times, the resolute leadership of Jean-Luc Picard and the masculine facial hair of [first officer] William T. Riker are just what this country needs." While these groups are farcical in nature, they raise a valid point: the fictional Picard is a greater captain -- and better man -- than the president of the United States of America for a number of reasons:

Diplomacy: Bush invaded Iraq as soon as the reactionary political atmosphere proved conducive; he did not take the time to plan strategies for occupation or exit. However, Picard has a far more cautious approach to foreign policy and greater skepticism of nation-building. "History has proved again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well-intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous," Picard says in the TNG episode "Symbiosis." Picard criticized "cowboy diplomacy" by name in "Unification," supposedly the first modern usage of this disparaging phrase. Instead of losing his temper and acting brashly, Picard follows the United Federation of Planets' Prime Directive of nonintervention unless a hostile situation has no possible peaceful outcome, in which case he would respond swiftly and ruthlessly, emulating Colin Powell far more than any neoconservative. According to Lieutenant Commander Data, a human-like android, Picard has an 83 percent likelihood of action when faced with such emergencies. He might not qualify as a battle-hungry Klingon but he certainly isn't a Kucinich voter either.

Freedom and the Rule of Law: In the wake of 9/11 the Bush Administration detained U.S. citizens indefinitely without charges, eavesdropped on citizens' conversations without warrants, spied on domestic antiwar groups and otherwise subverted the most hallowed tents of the U.S. Constitution. Picard has infinitely more respect for the pillars of Western Civilization. In the TNG episode "The Drumhead," an alien security breach on the Enterprise unleashes a wave of xenophobia and demands for security crackdowns but Picard has none of it, cautioning that "the path between legitimate suspicion and rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think." He proclaims, "The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." In the episode "Chain of Command," a sadistic Cardassian captures and tortures Picard, stripping and beating him for hours of interrogations; after being driven to the brink of sanity by such barbarism, it's unlikely that Picard would ever allow the same treatment of prisoners in his custody. (Stewart watched recovered interrogation tapes from Amnesty International before performing the disturbing nude scene -- disturbing for its content as well as the mental image of a nude Patrick Stewart.) It's a sad statement that a fictional space-faring atheistic Frenchman in the Twenty-Fourth Century defends the Bill of Rights more vigorously than the man who has sworn upon the Bible to do so.
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