OPINION

Clinton, and our political poverty

Last Friday night, I had the great opportunity to sit opposite former US President Bill Clinton, to ask him questions and to listen to him. It made me remember why he is such an important leader. He is a person with an unlimited thirst for knowledge, able to talk with ease about the environment, about AIDS, Iraq or Serbia. The important thing is that he does not just talk incessantly but focuses on practical solutions. For example, he was particularly interested in the first genuinely energy-efficient building in Athens. When I left the hotel where the former president had spoken, I had a bitter taste in my mouth. I realized that Clinton is an example of the best thing that a large country, with exceptional universities and respected think tanks, can produce. On the other hand, I thought of the terrible scarcity of ideas and debate in my country. Clinton inherited a bankrupt political party and, with great effort, managed to re-establish it. He put the unions in their place, launched a crucial dialogue about how to win back the middle ground and proposed new models for the health and social welfare systems. He didn’t wait until he had won the elections to prepare policies but prepared himself for years, attending seminars and discussions. It is interesting to compare the way that Clinton changed America’s Democratic Party to what is happening today with PASOK. In the first case, experienced experts from Harvard and renowned institutes joined the procedure; in PASOK’s case, the process of assessing election results resembled the Big Brother reality television show, with everyone discussing who said what to whom. Who really cares about the autistic microcosm of PASOK if the party cannot offer answers to burning social issues? I cannot understand how a country with exceptional, well-educated people can be trapped in such a provincial microcosm. There are very few politicians who have something new to say: Theodoros Pangalos, Anna Diamantopoulou, Michalis Chrysochoidis, Giorgos Alogoskoufis, and a few others. Ruling New Democracy has not managed to become a party of new ideas and reforms because it thirsted for power without preparing for it. PASOK is now making the same mistake: frittering away its energies in a sort of extended group therapy session, adopting laughable ideological stances, and managing not to tell us anything new whatsoever. Clinton, former British Premier Tony Blair (and probably his successor Gordon Brown) and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are all leaders who have read, thought, researched, taken bold initiatives and, finally, proposed new – but viable – changes. Who is going to do that here?