Playing The Blame Game

The historic election of president-elect Barack Obama is complete. Jockeying has begun for positions in the new Cabinet and the new administration – which will take oath of office in early 2009. Democrats who have worked hard for Obama’s success are lining up.

On the Republican side, the blame game continues on who was responsible for the disastrous showing of the Republican Party in the recent elections. Not only did a relative newcomer to politics, but an African-American on top of that, manage to beat a far more established political rival John McCain, Democrats also increased their significant majority in Congress and now even the Senate. It’s going to be a difficult 2-4 years for the Republicans.

While the Republicans are still licking their wounds, they are still not an agreement on whether the defeated vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was an asset or a serious liability.

There are some who admit that Sarah Palin was a terrible selection. Even the unofficial mouthpiece of the Republican Party, and the ultra-right-wing as well as neo-con movements of the United States, Fox News Channel, had one of its reporters rattling off a litany of Sarah Palin weaknesses.

Of course this was done after the election. This included apparently amazing, and downright scary, facts like the candidate for vice president of the United States, one heartbeat away from the presidency if the physically challenged John McCain was to die while in office, could not name the three countries that make up North America! Canada is to the North of us Americans, and Mexico is to the South. She did not know that! She did not know that Africa is a continent and not a country. The list goes on.

What is even more shocking than such an apparent moron being a major political party’s candidate is that some people still do not seem to have learned a lesson from this defeat. It appears that some part of the Republican Party still does not get it. There are people who are already positioning Palin for a presidential run in 2012. They seem to think that extreme right-wing ultraconservative bible thumping hockey mom small town Christian mentality is what America needs. Heaven forbid!

These people are quite clear in their thinking that she was a great candidate who was simply defeated because the media did not like her. Blaming the media is nothing new, as we know in all countries. Most parties and candidates do it, especially if they are falling behind or defeated.

However, even as a writer who worked for a newspaper (Jang Group & MAG Weekly) in Pakistan that was constantly attacked by the left and right asking for greater coverage than the other side, I find the Republican Party’s blaming the media laughable.

I am all for being fair and balanced, for real, unlike just as a dumb slogan, and giving equal coverage to all parties – especially at the start of the race.

The media’s job is not to be a mouthpiece of either party, nor should it try to influence people in one way or the other, when the choice is between two equally strong candidates.

But, it is ridiculous to assume that the media should be giving equal coverage, or writing equal number of "positive stories" if one candidate is running an awesome campaign and the other just cannot seem to get his foot out of his mouth.

Another amazing thing that is happening now, post-election, is that the same Sarah Palin who was unavailable to do any interviews, or take any press conferences except with carefully chosen friendly journalists, is now all over the media.

One of my favourite TV anchors is Campbell Brown over at CNN. She is bright, beautiful and bold. That is why it is great to see her run a show called "No Bias No Bull". In a recent episode I loved it when she declared that during the elections they could not get Sarah Palin to speak to them and now, post-election, Palin does not ever seem to "shut up!"

Suddenly the same Republican Party that was attacking the media elite, while not making its candidates available to speak to them, is actively courting the media.

John McCain made his first TV appearance after losing the election on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno". To his credit McCain has been a gentleman in defeat. He has been gracious and even funny. He told Jay Leno that after losing the election he has been sleeping like a baby. He sleeps for two hours, wakes up crying and goes back to sleep.

In the meantime Sarah Palin, who was calling Barack Obama a socialist, is now gushing with praise and kind words for him and his family. The same man that she was trying to label a terrorist-friend is one she is suggesting should be selecting opponent republicans to be members of his Cabinet. Nice try.

Only time will tell if the Republican Party will continue down this destructive path of courting the ultra-right-wing, fundamentalist Christian, extreme elements of American society.

I, for one, am hoping that the American public and the American media will continue to keep an eye on what and how the Democrats do in the next two years. If it looks like they are foolishly squandering the historic opportunity that American voters gave them, it would be an opportunity for the Republican Party to find its footing, and its place in history again. But that cannot be done just by playing the blame-the-media game.

As a member of the media, I also feel it is our responsibility, to now report accurately, fairly and with an eye to the future. America, and the world, stand together on the brink of disaster but with great and bright future days still within sight. It is up to us to work together to make that brighter future a reality.

[Continued…]

Imran Anwar is a New York and Miami based Pakistani-American entrepreneur, Internet pioneer, inventor, writer and TV personality. He can be reached through his web site http://imran.com and imran@imran.com . You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/imrananwar

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New Day, New Dawn, New Era, A Renewed Nation

There are dark clouds on the horizon, as the damp chill of an early November rain looms over Washington DC. It is unlikely that anyone awake at this dawn hour will see even a single ray of light of sunshine. Yet, Washington, DC, as well as all the United States of America are bathed in a warm glow and bright light. It is the sunshine of a new day, a new dawn, a new era, and a new chapter in the history of a great nation renewed.

To paraphrase a recent advertisement, published by CNN in The New York Times and other reputed newspapers, the United States, as well as the rest of the world, were caught in a magical moment on the night of November 4, 2008, as the US elections came to a close.

The past was leaving, but still threatened to continue into our future. The future beckoned, the hope of a new day, but the dawn had not yet arrived and could still elude us. For a brief moment in time, you, I, the United States, as well as the whole world, were caught in a moment of curiosity, wonder, concern as well as sheer, innocent, daring hope.

Yesterday the nation stood at a crossroads, the brink of expanding disaster or a new beginning. As the election results came in, it became obvious that Hope had won the day. The past was going to be sent far into the past. In that brief period of time, between the end of polling in the United States, Senator McCain conceding defeat and President-elect Barack Hussein Obama giving his victory speech, many amazing things happened which many of us had not expected to see for a long time.

Americans themselves appeared to close the door on the jingoistic, brutal and bullying faux but failing empire that George W. Bush and his henchmen had tried to build over the last eight years. Americans of all colors, ages, races, religions, ethnicities and backgrounds came out in larger numbers to vote than at any time in the recent history. They also found that they had made a dream come true surprisingly quicker than they themselves had expected.

Dr. Martin Luther King, the black slain civil rights leader, was killed for his preaching equality for whites and blacks. His amazing "I Have A Dream" speech is known to all Americans, and I urge readers of this column to read, or even better, to hear it for themselves. (It is easily available on the Internet). Many Americans can even quote words from that speech. But few had believed it possible that they would see parts of Dr. King’s dream come true in such a real and shining manner.

Americans found their country once again beginning to be the bright beacon of light, hope, equality, justice, greatness and ideals that the rest of the world looks up to. Above all, Americans themselves woke up to realize that from being a good, yet imperfect, country overnight they had matured into a renewed nation, achieving greatness again, surprising themselves and the world in unison.

Let there be no delusions. We have not suddenly achieved some racial-nirvana, some miracle of overnight solutions to eons old human emotions. The results from various states, and parts of the country, including so-called redneck areas, show that despite the massive failure of George W. Bush, and his friends, voting for a black man was still too much for the Bush-supporting people to do.

No society in the world, at least in our lifetimes, can achieve the Utopian ideals of having no racism at all. However, with this vote Americans resoundingly proved that if there is any country in the world that can come close to living up to its own ideals, and the ideals of most human beings, it is the great nation of United States of America.

The country that had a history of slavery, abuse and even murder of black people today elected its president who is not only black, but is the son of a Kenyan immigrant, raised by a single mother, with an extended family of Africans, Christians and Muslims. And they did not install this man by some technical election, or by some narrow margin. They did so in such a resounding manner that there was no doubt left in anyone’s mind. It was clear. America had come back to its rightful place on the world stage – as a nation to be respected, admired, looked up to and – perhaps one day soon – loved again.

The irony is that this next to impossible election of Barack Obama was made possible by the disaster that was George W. Bush. It was hastened by the brink of disaster faced by the United States as well as rest of the world. Yet, the challenges that Barack Obama faces on taking the oath of office will make his getting elected seem like a walk in the park.

One of the interesting elements of United States elections is the significant time period between the results of elections and the new government taking over. In most circumstances it is a good thing – as it allows for a smoother transition from one administration to the next. However, in today’s serious geo-political and socio-economic meltdown situations, Barack Obama faces a new dilemma.

On the one hand he cannot be overly aggressive in pushing for his own policies while lame-duck George W. Bush is still in office. On the other hand, he cannot simply wait for 2 months for the situation to get worse, or the wrong policies or "solutions" from being applied or tested – by an administration already having seen itself rejected to the dustbin of history.

The major challenge that President-elect Barack Obama is sure to face is the issue of unrealistic expectations.

Being able to inspire people to believe that solutions are possible, being able to suggest that change is coming and getting people out to vote are far easier than solving the actual problems in some miraculously short timeframe. On top of that, as can be seen in any country where the party comes back into power after a long time, it’s supporters (jialas), power players and constituents expect to be rewarded for their support. The thing that can save Obama from this problem is the huge turnout in the elections and the very broad range of people who swept him into power. That makes it easier for him to resist the pressure or blackmail tactics of any particular constituent or support group.

An additional challenge that he and his Administration will face is that there are no easy solutions to the problems that are faced by the United States economy, as well as the global economy. Nor is it very easy to get out of the war in Iraq – if that is what people expect to be a short and easy fix to all problems.

Another thing to keep in mind is that one of Obama’s strengths is his ability to think coolly and rationally about issues, analyze the situation, make a decision and communicate his plan. The problem is that it can also lead to analysis paralysis, especially for a relatively young, inexperienced, new leader.

It is possible for Obama to also try to please as many people as he can and end up displeasing a lot more. Even worse, being someone who appears to want to be liked by everybody, it is possible that he may want to tiptoe around some of the tough decisions that need to be made. That, in my humble opinion, would be a disaster.

The biggest strength, the biggest advantage, the biggest opportunity that Obama can leverage is the huge mandate he was given in this landslide victory. It is for this reason that his first 100 days will be far more important in real terms than in the usual symbolic terms that they are looked at for new presidents.

If he’s smart, and a man of action, he will find a strategic way to have Congress, with its Democrat majority further strengthened in this election, influence and force George W. Bush’s outgoing administration to embark on the path that Obama would like to follow. This would enable him to get the ball rolling even before his inauguration, avoid the impression of imposing himself before he assumes office and also save him from any blame that can come about from George Bush and his team still screwing things up.

Another advantage I see is that this clear mandate, given to a visionary leader with the ability to inspire his nation, is just the right shot in the arm needed by the US consumer, business and stock markets.

As I have written in these pages before, there are serious threats to the United States and global economies, but the biggest threat is a crisis of confidence. Obama’s ascension to power is sure to help revive that confidence.

As I write these lines at 5 AM on November 5 in Washington DC, I am confident that, barring any external economic events, an economic resurgence, including a stock market rebound, shall start soon. More credit will start becoming available, thawing the economic freeze that had left Main Street shuddering and Wall Street with pneumonia. I even hope that a recovery and expansion may be on the horizon as happened when the last great American President Bill Clinton came into office replacing another weak economy under another weak Bush.

So, economic recovery will be of paramount importance to Americans and the whole world. The weak economy is what helped Obama get elected, but the biggest challenges before, during and even after an economic recovery will be foreign affairs and undoing the damage done by the Bush Administration.

My advice to President Barack Obama would be to therefore embark on aggressive efforts to resolve the Middle East and Palestinian, as well as the Kashmir issues. I would also encourage him to immediately start dialogue with Iran and other countries that George W. Bush was busy burning un-built bridges with.

But Obama has to do so in a friendly yet firm manner. It is time for America to assume its place as leader of the free world, willing, able and ready to use its power and influence to do good and effect real positive change around the world and achieving things that no past American President had the willingness or courage to do. That is the audacity of my hope for President Barack Obama.

Imran Anwar is a New York and Miami based Pakistani-American entrepreneur, Internet pioneer, inventor, writer and TV personality. He can be reached through his web site http://imran.com and imran@imran.com

Voter, Voter, In The Hall; Who’s The Brightest Star Of All?

I have always found it interesting the way politics and show business have mixed in recent years not just in Pakistan but also in America.

In the good old days, for example, when John F. Kennedy was President of the United States, the tendency was for politicians to have secret affairs with movie stars. Over the years the relationship between movie stars, TV actors, show business personalities and political leaders became more open.

It started with politicians getting married to show business personalities and eventually to movie actors entering politics and running for office.

One would have assumed that developing or so-called Third World countries like Pakistan were more likely to have movie stars, cashing in on their popularity and name recognition, become successful politicians. One would also have assumed that a supposedly more educated country, or society, like the United States would be less likely to allow such cashing in of fame and celebrity, especially at the national leadership level.

So it is interesting and ironic to see that in Pakistan, in general, movie stars, or even renowned celebrities (who also happened to be great people), like cricketer Imran Khan, were not truly able to make a successful transition to politics at the highest level and at the highest office.

Sure, respected and popular people like the late actor Muhammad Ali, did run for seats in parliament. Cricketer Sarfraz Nawaz, with his relationship to a movie star, also made a play for a seat in an Assembly seat.

Maybe there are a few other examples. But I do not recall anyone who was able to make a serious play for the highest office in the land, whether Prime Minister or President of Pakistan.

In the United States, on the other hand, the same forces of celebrity, fame, name and face recognition, as well as hero worship were at work – but surprisingly at a much higher level.

One does not have to see too far back into recent history to see how quickly American politics moved from having a president having an affair with a movie star (like JFK and Marilyn Monroe) to actually electing Ronald Reagan as president of the most powerful nation on earth.

On top of that, the same Ronald Reagan, that many people claimed to despise during his presidency, considering him nothing more than a talking head, all recognize that he ended up being one of the most powerful American presidents ever.

To this day almost every single American candidate for the presidency, especially from the Conservative or Republican side, has always gone above and beyond to prove how much like Ronald Reagan he or she is – even if they themselves had nothing in common with Ronald Reagan, or even having been closer to a movie studio than a visit to Universal Studios theme parks!

This hero worship was also apparent when Arnold Schwarzenegger, also known as The Terminator, was elected "governator" of California. The reason this is important to note is that California is more than just one of 50 states in the United States. Even as a stand-alone economy it would count as the 12th largest country/economy in the world. And Schwarzenegger is still running that state. So, quite clearly it is more than just a temporary bout of celebrity worship that puts and keeps people like him in office in America.

Of course, there are other cases of movie stars dabbling in a political activity, but more as activists than as candidates. Some of them do this even at great personal cost.

After all it is the public that gives them their wealth, fame and career, and the public can take it away. That is why I have such immense respect for showbiz personalities like George Clooney, Sean Penn, and others, like Oliver Stone. They have boldly spoken out against George W. Bush and his idiotic policies which have turned a global superpower like America almost into a Third World country, on the brink of economic ruin.

Who can forget the lovely, and talented, Dixie Chicks, a wonderful trio of singers from Texas, who apologized to the world for the idiotic Bush being from their state and country, USA. They lost Millions of Dollars in record sales for their bold action from the rednecks that used to buy their CDs.

One also has to acknowledge some of these movie stars and even their producers who not only speak their opinions boldly, they even put their money where their mouth is. Oliver Stone‘s latest movie, "W" is a clear attack on Bush and exposing his inner circle of crooks and cronies. I plan to watch that movie after the elections.

Most recent examples of such personal and business risk-taking in movies include the movie Syriana, in which George Clooney exposed the evil so-called foreign policy that the oil companies and Washington use to control regimes in the Middle East.

I am surprised that more Americans, more Pakistanis and more Muslims/Arabs have not seen that movie. If you haven’t I strongly urge you to rent it out on DVD. Your viewing it will not help the producer make his money back, but it will give you a great appreciation for such creative people who risked their personal, financial and career assets on the line for their beliefs and to speak the truth.

Coming back to the topic of politicians and their connection to movie stars or showbiz, by the time you read these lines a new president will already have been elected in the United States.

I wish I could predict right now the words I will be saying on November 4 while covering the US presidential elections for Geo TV and MAG. But one of the interesting things to see will be what role, if any, movie stars’ supporting presidential candidates will have had.

John McCain appears to be on the losing track. But, I do not trust the American masses to look beyond Barack Obama’s race and skin color, as well as Muslim sounding name, to elect him president.

To get more of that so-called redneck vote out in his own support, the Republican’s latest rally brought out Arnold Schwarzenegger to root for John McCain the white candidate.

On the other hand Barack Obama is no slouch in the celebrity endorsement department either. Not only does he have the support of movie stars like Mark Wahlberg, several of the above-mentioned celebrities, Oprah Winfrey, as well as having his own star power – he also has the charisma of Bill Clinton now apparently on his side. That does not even count the increasing number of renowned Republicans like non-movie star but multi-star General Colin Powell endorsing Obama. 

And, in another illustration of how things can go full circle, Bill Clinton’s "boring" vice president, and democratic party candidate in 2000, Al Gore, has gone from being almost the President of the United States to almost being a "movie star" himself  – with his very popular documentary on global warming. As you can imagine, Al Gore is also rooting for Barack Obama.

We will wait and see which candidate’s ideas, personal magnetism, or movie star support wins this election. So we have to ask the "VOTER, VOTER, IN THE HALL; WHO’S THE BRIGHTEST STAR OF ALL?"

We’ll find out on November 4, but stay tuned and follow my coverage on GEO TV November 3-5, 2008, live from Washington, DC!

Imran Anwar is a New York and Miami based Pakistani-American entrepreneur, Internet pioneer, inventor, writer and TV personality. He can be reached through his web site http://imran.com and imran@imran.com

Barafee’s Law: How To Lose Friends & Be Despised By People

Part 1: How To Lose Friends & Be Despised By People

By Imran Anwar

I think it was not too long ago when I had written about the way the American Democratic Party could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, much like Pakistan could find a way to destroy any opportunity to promote itself.

Quite frankly, I was quite aghast at the prospect of the Pakistan People’s Party, cashing in on the death of late Benazir Bhutto, electing Asif Ali Zardari as President of Pakistan. I am not even sure it could be called electing him, as it was more like confirming instructions given to them by the party, and not their own minds and consciences. (Talk about figments of my imagination).

It was my stubborn belief in thinking “I’d rather have a crooked elected leader than a crooked incompetent dictator,” that I continued to cling to, and, sad to say, still do. But, if events of the last few weeks, and most recent days are any indication, Pakistan has provided, and continues to provide, all kinds of reasons to the world to show how bad Democracy can be, in the hands of the wrong people.

I was in Islamabad for the oath-taking of Mr. Zardari. I will not even bore readers with a rehash of the weirdness of the whole event. It was painful to see a person like him take “oath” of office of President, and that too from a “Chief Justice” that by his own previous policies was considered to be not even legal.

Then to have the repulsive, even despicable, behavior of the PPP workers, who were chanting Bhutto and PPP slogans, during the national anthem on that surreal yet historic moment. I know they have no sense, but have they no shame either, is what I thought?

Then to see more PPP jialas and jialis actually phalang-ing the gates to the supposedly most-secure civilian location in the country was too funny even for words.

I recall some American journalists asking me how could it be possible that some totally unidentified, thuggish people claiming to be PPP workers actually climb over the walls to get into an event unhindered, where almost the entire civilian and military top brass were present? All I could do was give a “What can I tell you,” shrug to hide my embarrassment and amazement. I bet AlQaeda was watching that video clip. (The same pathetic and shameless “Party above Pakistan” mentality was displayed by Zardari supporters, in New York, this week).

Anyway, as if that was not enough, for the Government of Pakistan to actually give a seat and joint press conference opportunity to a puppet from next door, Hamid Karzai, who barely rules over his own palace’s dining room, was just one more moment of amazement.

I did tell my friends and listeners that it was not by accident, but by design, that Zardari had Karzai there. The whole idea was to have a distraction, and to find an additional tool, on top of Mr. Zardari’s obvious deflection of EVERY single important question asked of him.

I was still scratching my head wondering if this whole charade of “elections” was worth the country suffering or Benazir being murdered in very mysterious circumstances, as I flew back to New York. (Don’t even get me started on telling you the stories of having flown PIA, the national flag carrier -, OK, OK, if you insist, maybe in a subsequent article in these pages.)

Being an eternal optimist, I decided to ignore all the above observations and give this new government in my original homeland, Pakistan, a chance, to prove me wrong in thinking I was wrong about democracy in Pakistan.

Yes, yes, I know I am using a double negative. But, if I can’t openly disagree with myself, who else can I disagree with! (LOL)

During this time, as you have read my previous columns, my fellow American politicians were not really doing much to make me feel more confident in the kind of democracy that is practiced in my American homeland.

In America I was crying for 8 years at history’s biggest moron, George W. Bush, as President. Pakistan decided to go one up, and elect a President with admitted mental problems.

It was not enough to have to see Bush stealing one election, incompetently watching 9/11 happen, letting Bin Laden continue to roam the wild lands, start a wrong war in Iraq, meltdown the American economy, help oil buddies and Hailburton make Bilion$ in profit with VP Dick Cheney pulling the strings – while melting down America’s global goodwill.

I then had to see Pakistanis elect a man called Mr. Ten Percent to President, riding on the “dupatta­”-tails of his murdered wife, having his shameless supporters dishonor the national anthem at nothing less than the Presidential oath taking.

How much worse could it get, I wondered. After all, Mr. Bush is only in office a few more months. Zardari sahib and his jialas will finally settle down from the indigestion of getting more than they can handle, somewhat like a starving man coming to a dinner buffet at The Village restaurant in Lahore and eating until finally full, or sick.

No, my fellow Americans, especially the Republicans, had to shove the mindless, inane, hypocritical, almost comical, highly-ridiculed Sarah Palin as the VP candidate under 700-year old John McCain. You already read my opinion on her. By the way, I read somewhere that McCain was bottom of his class in his student days (something like #894 out of 899 students) making him even more scarily similar to George Bush.

So, I am thinking, OK, this is not so bad. My Pakistani President only embarrassed me by being elected, actually taking oath, breaking signed agreements he has, going back on his word, mismanaging the relationship with China, and others, and so on. Bush and then McCain-Palin, as candidates, means the Republicans have embarrassed me as an American even more.

Phew, at least things can’t get worse or more embarrassing for Pakistan, I assumed.

I said to myself, “I mean, what else could go wrong?”


Part 2: Welcome To The World Of Barafee’s Law ™

By Imran Anwar

In the previous column, I had been discussing about how my two homelands, America and Pakistan compete to amaze and embarrass me with their politicians. First we had the moronic George W. Bush for President here, TWICE.

Then Pakistanis elected a man called Mr. Ten Percent and having medical records showing mental problems. (Well, at least, as they say, “paagal hai, baywaqoof naheen“, {‘He’s crazy, but he ain’t stupid!’}).

Then the Republicans among my fellow Americans selected John McCain (aged 72 or something) and Sarah Palin (with an IQ of about 72, which is a step up from Bush) as their nominees for elections in 2008. And, I said to myself, “That’s got to be it. How much worse could it get?!”

Darn! Spoke too soon. As if to prove Murphy’s Law applies to politicians and Pakistan’s reputation Mr. Zardari actually showed up in New York.

This led to my version of Murphy’s Law, which I will call Barafee’s Law. This is based on a new recipe for the sweetmeat (Barfee) and ice (Baraf).

My newly announced Barafee’s Law basically states that “If there is any opportunity to embarrass and harm Pakistan’s interests and reputation, our “sweet” politicians (or worse, Presidents), trying to be “cool” will use it to the fullest.”

I had always squirmed seeing how Dictator Musharaff used to “visually undress” well known celebrities, like Angelina Jolie, if they showed up in Islamabad. Mr. Zardari did one better. He made President Dictator Musharaff look like a refined gentleman.

He came to New York, found himself in the same room as the ridiculed and reviled Sarah Palin, and started hitting on her (flirting, pathetically trying to seduce), again, and again, and again.

That is not done, even in a socially liberated (read, very azaad khayal) country like America, where 50% marriages end in divorce, where secret affairs are also common, where dating is a social norm, where the American “conservative” VP candidate Sarah Palin’s own underage daughter is pregnant out of wedlock. There is one thing no one does, at least publicly – and that is to hit on (to try to charm or seduce) a married woman.

Yes, it happens, but it is highly frowned upon.

Doing so publicly is considered nothing less than despicable, and the lowest of lows. It is not to be done, period. It is especially not to be done in public and, especially, especially, especially not as a head of State of an ISLAMIC Republic.

Yes, it is not done especially as a “grieving widower” whose own wife was murdered supposedly by terrorists (or some other conspiracy that can well be imagined after seeing such behavior).

It seems like Mr. Zardari would get along just fine with the notorious American ex-movie-actor football-star thug O. J. Simpson, who got away with killing his wife and who still claims to be “searching for her real killers”!

But, I digress.

I am not perfect. Far from it.

Yes, I am “Happily Single” (see http://happilysingle.net ) and will never claim to be “mukkamal kanwara” like a well known Playboy cricketer of the same name as me did many years ago. I am not a paragon of virtue. I am not without sin. I am most definitely no moral authority. So, believe me, I am not thumping some faux morality Bible on Asif Zardari’s head (skull!).

I am human, and I have said words without thinking in meetings or conferences. I am certain I must have made more than my share of inappropriate remarks (Sorry anyone who was hurt!!)

But, I am also not the President of my country. And, even after making some accidental, or shamelessly deliberate inappropriate comment, and realizing my mistake, I (and almost no one) has gone on to keep making the same remarks embarrassing the speaker and recipient of the Barafee (being cool and being extra ‘sweet’) gift.

Mr. Zardari left no doubt in anyone’s mind that while he was making speeches about working to avenge his wife’s killing by improving Pakistan and its future, in fact, he is nothing more than an out of control aging desi-Playboy who does not have any sense of decorum.

By making his comments to Sarah Palin, in full view of cameras, political operatives, Pakistan-haters, he showed he was not using his head for thinking but had something else in mind. He embarrassed Pakistan, Pakistanis, and the memory of the late Benazir Bhutto. Maybe he was missing her too much. (I am reminded of a Country Music song from some years ago. It was titled “Honey, I Miss You {But My Aim’s Getting Better!}”).

We had always been taught to “Win Friends And Influence People”, by our thoughts and actions, as I had been reading since I was a pre-teen going to St. Paul’s English High School in Saddar, Karachi.

It appeared Mr. Zardari was hell-bent on publicly making a fool of himself and doing maximum harm to Pakistani interests just to get a japhee (hug) from a married woman, who could one day (Khuda na Khasta) become VP or President of the USA.

I am serious. Sarah Palin’s candidacy is a joke but it can be a bigger joke for Pakistan.

Do a Google search for “Tina Fey As Sarah Palin On Saturday Night Live” or use http://tinyurl.com/IMRAN-MAG-TinaFey-SarahPalin to see how she is perceived. This woman herself was the biggest laughing stock in the world – until Mr. Zardari showed up in town, and in her tow, and apparently under her ‘sehr‘ (magic).

We have a serious national crisis in Pakistan, with terrorists intent on destroying the country (and killing its leaders). Obama and McCain both now consider Pakistan, not Afghanistan, the new front in their war on terror. They have their eyes on Pakistan’s nuclear assets, and terrorism statistics. President Zardari is more interested in Sarah Palin’s vital statistics.

She is highly unpopular even among educated and sensible women who supported Hilary Clinton, and there is a good likelihood that McCain-Palin will be an election disaster. But, by making comments about her popularity, Zardari has interjected himself, in a manner destructive to Pakistan, as officially supporting Republican candidates.

It was a lose-lose proposition, and Mr. Zardari not only took it, he played his cards on the same bad bet over and over. If Obama is elected President, his handlers may think Pakistan supported Republicans just because of the Pakistani President having several repeated moments of “tharak”. If McCain-Palin are elected by some remote chance, they will surely not have a high opinion of Pakistan.

With what face can a Pakistani President panting to hug a married VP candidate go to her boss and demand that the US administration not shoot missiles into Pakistan?

All Palin has to do is flash her eye-lids and maybe we will exchange giving them access to all Pakistan’s tactical assets in exchange for a glimpse of her strategic assets.

Is that what our nation’s reputation in the world has come to? Mr. Zardari wrote the book on it… “How to lose friends and be despised by people.”

The writer is a New York and Miami based Pakistani-American entrepreneur, Internet pioneer, writer and TV personality. He can be reached through his web site http://imran.com .

Sex Appeal, Sax Appeal, American Idol, Idle Americans & The President

It is hard to imagine it was nearly 16 years ago that a brash, bold politician named Bill Clinton put his media-savvy personality, charm, good looks and sax-playing ability to good use on American television.
He showed up on TV as a guest of the now-defunct show with Arsenio Hall. (You remember him as the guy whose face flashes in the hit song “Straight Up (Now Tell Me)” by singer-dancer-choreographer, and now a judge on the hit TV show “American Idol”, the cute bundle of energy, Paula Abdul). Clinton did not do this while running for Mayor of some small town, but as a Presidential candidate of the United States of America.
Political analysts, and pundits, diverged in their views on the move. Some thought it cheapened the Presidency, making Presidential candidates act like actors or musicians hawking their latest books on late night shows of Jay Leno or David Letterman, or showing their tender sides on Oprah Winfrey’s show. Others thought it was a brilliant move. It enabled Clinton to connect with a politically disconnected youth population that was more interested in how high Madonna’s skirt was than in how low global opinion of America was.
In the end, Clinton won. This was partly for his savvy moves, and partly because George H. W Bush (father of the current lame-duck American President George Bush) was a clueless President who oversaw the US economy sliding into recession. (Like father, like son?)
And in the long run, American politics became even more inextricably mixed with show business, and the selling of candidates as products not leaders.
The victory of style over substance was visible all through the current Presidential election campaign now taking place in America. Despite not having too much experience, Barack Obama was able to use his star power and personality, his eloquence and some great ideas, to build a campaign. This has enabled him to overcome even the challenges of being inexperienced, Black and having a Muslim sounding name! He was able to beat out Hilary Clinton (who should possibly have learnt to play Guitar or Saxophone like her husband). Obama made a far more experienced and well-known Senator John McCain have to play catch up throughout the campaign.
But what advantage show-biz type political exposure giveth, so does it taketh away. John McCain’s campaign was in dire straits (some say it still is). But, more than any specific problems, it suffered the worst malaise in the world of politics today – it lacked “interestingness.”
There was just nothing exciting about a Presidential candidate who, despite being a war hero and long term senator, was seventy-something years old, and totally boring.
He had sided with George W. Bush in his disastrous policies on Iraq, and had no clues on how to solve Americans’ other major concern, the failing economy. On top of that he was jumping around from issue to issue.
He was weakly trying to appear relevant in a world driven by the star power of Barack Obama. His old guard Republican money machine, often selling out American interests to oil companies and the military industrial complex was being beaten by Obama’s money and public awareness juggernaut on the Internet. Youth was lacking in McCain and his campaign, while it was central in Obama’s campaign.
To make matters worse, McCain actually tried to cut into Obama’s mass popularity by implying that he was a mindless celebrity. In a now infamous TV commercial, McCain ridiculed Obama by comparing him to blonde bimbos like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton (previously my target of ridicule in another article). The only thing was, the technique backfired.
Paris Hilton (“famous for being famous” and infamous for her interesting “home videos”) was the wrong target to poke fun of. Not only was Paris Hilton’s mother a donor to McCain’s election campaign, to her credit, Paris Hilton played along and turned the tables. Enjoying being the center of attention, she turned that into her own political ad. You can see it on YouTube ridiculing John McCain, his campaign and so-called energy policies.
During all these McCain blunders, Hilary Clinton kept fighting Obama for the Democratic nomination. This time around, though, her very popular husband, Bill Clinton lost his groove, and was not able to swing support in her favor. Maybe it is because he said politically incorrect things while tooting his and his wife’s horn, but he also did not show up on TV to play the saxophone. That may have worked better than some of the things he said. Result: Hilary lost to Obama.
It seemed like a done deal for Obama to beat McCain. To top things off, Obama, whom the Republicans accuse of being inexperienced, chose quite a good candidate for Vice President. Senator Joseph Biden, while even more talkative than me after having four drinks of Pepsi and coffee, has vast foreign policy and Washington experience.
That is when the Obama campaign seems to have lost some momentum. Instead of building on this great candidacy they appear a bit rudderless right now.
There is also the question of race. When someone asked the question “Is America ready for a Black President?” one of my favorite TV personalities in America, John Stewart, reportedly said that before Bush’s election “No one asked if we were ready for a moron President!” But, whether Obama can turn his dynamic rise into a historical election remains to be seen.
That is when John McCain did the dumbest thing in the world – which just may put him into the running again to be President.
After ridiculing Obama for his lack of experience, seeing that Hilary’s loss had upset some women voters and people wanted change – he picked a very inexperienced woman governor of Alaska to become his Vice President.
How poorly selected was this woman, Sarah Palin?
After she was nominated it came to light that, despite the Republican’s often holier-than-thou attitudes and anti-choice agendas, Mrs. Palin’s underage daughter is pregnant. Now the Republicans are trying to sound more “open minded”. Instead of Palin’s daughter’s boyfriend being arrested for the crime of statutory rape, he was sitting front row at the Republican National Convention. What a joke.
But, wait, there’s more! Candidate Sarah Palin’s selected was so poorly vetted, it has now also been found that her husband belonged to some sort of militia or anti-USA organization that wanted Alaska to secede from the USA. Good old Sarah Palin also had used office funds for her personal use. On top of that, she used State funds to hire the lawyer to defend her in the case of that corruption. And we complain about Pakistani politicians!
You would think all these reasons would be enough even for a corrupt Pakistani political party to throw out the candidate in question. But, for the Republicans desperate to breathe new life into a comatose candidate like McCain, she is nothing short of a miracle.
She is not Virgin Mary, but she is their Hail Mary pass at scoring a touchdown this election. Sarah Palin is very attractive, as is McCain’s wife Cindy. This may be an election in which these two women’s looks may well decide the election.
Just like selling a new shampoo, the selling of the Presidential candidate to the American public now requires sex appeal, even more than sax appeal!