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Nelson George is a novelist, cultural critic, and filmmaker. After receiving his degree from St. John's University in 1982, George first worked for New York's Amsterdam News, later becoming an[…]

George is wary of charismatic political leaders.

Question: Is the American political system broken?

Nelson George: I mean I’ve always thought that. I don’t think there’s anything new. I mean I’m not a huge . . . That’s why I mean the whole leader thing. You know I’m not a big fan of leaders – the idea of people being led by the great figure. And Black America has a long history of charismatic leaders – the charismatic, well spoken leader who leads the masses in revolt. And you know America has used that . . . Clinton was a charismatic leader. Obviously Reagan was a charismatic leader. I think that we have an addiction to leadership; to the idea of a powerful figure leading us with . . . who has the answers, but they don’t. The people who run all of this stuff are the bureaucrats. The Iraq war was designed by Scowcroft and a bunch of guys with pedigrees, you know, from different places who sat around making the _________ papers that led to people getting shot. That’s how the world really works. So I think that we . . . We’re addicted to leadership, and we don’t think about how people are gonna run things. My biggest critique of Barack, for example – Obama – is you know well who is gonna be his Secretary of State? Who is gonna run Treasury under him? I’m interested in that. I’m not as interested, actually, in his song and rhetoric. Because ultimately at the end of the day some guy runs this. And the thing about Bush . . . What everyone should have learned with George Bush eight years as president we’ll say is who’s actually gonna run the country? Who are the people who run the country? Who are the people he wants to . . . Who does he want to appoint to these positions? That’s what worries me, and that’s what I think people should focus on. Because ultimately it’s these other people who expedite and control on a day-to-day basis.