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09.06.2007 Feature Article

Arthur Kennedy’s Politics of Exceptionalism

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Following the publication of my article titled “Merit-Based Succession: An Unimpeachable Tradition” (Accra Daily Mail 6/6/07; 6/7/07), Dr. Arthur Kennedy, a contender for presidential nomination on the ticket of Ghana's ruling New Patriotic Party, wrote back, hotly challenging my factual assertion that since 1960, actually 1961 (when one reckons it in terms of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's official assumption of the U. S. presidency), no American has been elected President who did not have any mainstream political experience.
In his riposte, Dr. Kennedy listed the names of Generals George Washington, Zachary Taylor and Dwight David Eisenhower as exceptional examples of American presidents who defied the norm, and even implied that his list of the preceding names were only the tip of the iceberg, as it were. And for good measure, Candidate Kennedy also added to his list the name of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, of California to, supposedly, prove beyond any iota of doubt the wrong-headedness of my argument against the strength of the writer's candidacy.
Well, not being one to readily shy away from facile and disingenuous ripostes, yours truly went to the record files, and here is exactly what he found. First of all, the common thread linking Generals George Washington, Zachary Taylor and Dwight David Eisenhower is the fact that each of these distinguished individuals was drafted by a political party, although one or two of them had not belonged to a political party.
Interestingly Candidate Kennedy, who chooses to liken his campaign for President of Ghana to those of the above-listed Generals, is not known to have been drafted to state-side, as it were, by either the rank-and-file members of the ruling New Patriotic Party or those of any of the other political parties registered by Ghana's Electoral Commission (EC) to contest the 2008 general elections.
Secondly, it amounts to sheer mendacity for Dr. Kennedy to brazenly maintain that General Washington, prior to his election as President of the United States, had had no political experience whatsoever. To be certain, as early as 1758, when he was just 26 years old, the future General and first President of the United States had been elected to serve as a Representative of the Virginia Provincial Legislature, then popularly known as the House of Burgess (see Joseph Ellis' His Excellency, George Washington). Needless to say, the latter's Ghanaian equivalent is membership of the National Assembly, or being an MP. And prior to that, Washington had also served as Virginia's Ambassador to the French Traders and Native Americans resident in the areas of present-day Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio State. It also bears recalling the fact that as foremost Founding Father of the United States of America, General Washington had led, for 8 long years, the U. S. Continental Army (1775-83) that crushed the British Red Coats – or colonial army – thus gloriously ushering into geopolitical reality the independence of the United States of America.
But, perhaps, the most significant observation worth registering is that both Generals Washington and Taylor lived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, whereas Fourth Republican Ghana inhabits a twenty-first century geopolitical milieu. It is equally significant to also point out that General Dwight David Eisenhower, whose old Mitchell Field Air Force Base residence is overlooked by this writer's office window, is the only distinguished American non-politician to have been drafted and/or courted by a political party – actually both the Republican and Democratic parties – for President of the United States in the twentieth century.
Interestingly General Zachary Taylor (1784-1850), who had had forty years of military experience prior to being drafted by the Whig Party for the U. S. presidency, died only 16 months after his inauguration. And in case the reader desires to know of President Taylor's terminal circumstances, it was a radical bout of cholera, though the records also give us to understand that Taylor's type of cholera was of the “aristocratic” kind, not to be confused with that which is routinely associated with impoverished Third-World countries of today.
We also hasten to add, for the general benefit of our readers, that General Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, had also served as the first Supreme Commander of what later became known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as well as having served as President of New York's prestigious Columbia University.
Finally, in the case of California's 38th Governor, Austrian-born Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the plain and simple fact is that the man is not running for President of the United States, and so it is not clear why Dr. Kennedy decided to wedge him into the fray, as it were. Could it be out of desperation or sheer vanity or both? Or even abject disrespect for the political acumen of the proverbial average Ghanaian reader?
Interestingly, however, it is also widely known that staunch supporters and sympathizers of the “Governator,” among them United States Senators and Congressional Representatives, are enthusiastically campaigning for the U. S. Constitution to be amended to enable the Austrian-born “inexperienced” governor to run for President of the United States in the near future.
But here also, it is significant to point out the fact that Governor Schwarzenegger's governorship has precedent in the late former California Governor and U. S. President Ronald Reagan, a kindred Hollywood soul of Mr. Schwarzenegger's. Top the preceding off with the fact of Governor Schwarzenegger being an in-law to the famous superpower Kennedy political clan, and the entire Schwarzenegger phenomenon, at once, becomes a veritable accident according to plan; or doesn't it?
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (, 2005). E-mail: [email protected]

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., © 2007

The author has 5094 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

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