Sunday, January 21, 2018

Portrait of a President


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What are the qualities needed by the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago? He must be a manly man and have good bladder control, obviously, but what else?

In attempting to answer this question, we can review past presidents, except for Noor Hassanali, who was President from 1987 to 1997 and who, according to leading politicians, represented a dark time for the Office of the President. During his tenure, Hassanali disrupted the affairs of the nation by banning alcohol in the President's House. This meant that officials who came to conduct official business there either had to have their Scotch and sodas beforehand or cut their visit short in order to go straight for their Johnny Walker Blue straight. If they arrived drunk, Hassanali was able to take advantage of their inebriation to stop them passing laws which would make it easier to tief from the Treasury and, if they arrived sober, they were usually so anxious to finish their business that they quickly agreed to his choices for key posts.

This issue never existed with Ellis Clarke, who presided as president from 1976 to 1987. Sir Ellis, as he was known by persons who saw no contradiction between a knighthood and republicanism, enjoyed cocktails, horse-racing, and cocktails at horse-racing. He was also opposed to sex outside marriage, which pleased persons who believe it's not horning if you don't have sex with your wife on the same day, month, or year. "Right is right and wrong is wrong, and they have no privilege to choose what is wrong," said Clarke back in 2006, when beauty queen Wendy Fitzwilliam announced at a Catholic girls' school that she was having a child outside of wedlock. This was why, when he created a Draft Constitution to make Patrick Manning an executive president, Clarke included a clause that gave legal protection to a woman's egg once it was penetrated by a spermatozoa, but didn't try to change the law which allows the foetus to be hanged by the neck once it becomes a fully developed human being without money.

In similar fashion, Arthur NR Robinson, who succeeded Hassanali in 1997 and occupied the office until 2003, placed great store on "moral and spiritual values" and, unlike his predecessor, understood that spiritual values should never trump spirituous ones. That is why some people feel that, while Robinson may not have been thinking straight when in 2000 he cited moral values as a basis for installing the PNM after the 18-18 electoral deadlock, he should have used even more chaser. Robinson was also known for using presidential delay in order to protest the appointments of certain government senators, but it is not known if he ever used this power to make women happy.

Given these antecedents, George Maxwell Richards was the perfect choice for President in 2003. He was immediately hailed as "the people's President" since, as principal of the St Augustine campus of UWI, his major accomplishment was hosting a fete which only well-off people (and those who took loans so they could appear well-off) could afford to attend. Max was also described as the wining President, and demonstrated his open-mindedness by not displaying any preference for Pinot Noir over Sauvignon Blanc. Among his several presidential accomplishments, Richards showed that the Oxford English Dictionary has the wrong meaning for "integrity"; never cut short his vacations as a matter of principle; and proclaimed Section 34 even though he had to leave an Independence cocktail party to do so.

So now, as the time to choose a new President draws nigh, the nation has the examples of all these eminent men (except Hassanali) to draw upon. It may be argued, however, that in the second decade of the 21st century, the past may not be a sufficient guide to the demands that may be made of a new president. Given the names which are being touted to replace Richards, we can extrapolate what qualities the ruling UNC, which will choose the President, are looking for. These include, but are not limited to: experience in being a token; a preference for laws which reduce noise, especially from Section 34 marchers; a liking for jobs where you can earn a large salary for doing nothing; and the ability to nod your head 50 times in one minute without getting a nosebleed.

Overall, however, a president should accurately represent the nation which he represents. So the first requirement of a T&T President is that he believe in the "supremacy of God", since the Constitution's preamble excludes any citizen who thinks that God is not supreme or Diana Ross. A President must also have the ability to speak for between 20 minutes to an hour while saying absolutely nothing. His nouns should be proper, his verbs active but not sweaty, and his delivery sonorous without being gay.

This is the President we deserve.