Totally independent of the upcoming elections, when it comes to leadership, there are certain individuals in the history of our country who would have made for excellent Secretaries of State, but were disastrous in serving as president. The same holds true for other countries as well.
Aspirants for the presidency or the position of Prime Minister need to realize that not everyone is cut out to be leader of a country and that by filling the number two role, they can often leave a far greater legacy than had they been elected leader.
Number two’s must come to terms with reality. Their destiny is to serve as number two and they can do a most admirable job in filling their role, provided they never seek to preempt or circumvent number one. Should ego ever get in the way of number two, and number two begins taking one tasks or projects that are clearly designated for number one, then results can be disastrous not only for them as well as the leader they serve under, but for the entire country as well.
Number one’s need number two’s. Although I am far from being both a political analyst as well as an arm chair historian, I feel that it’s accurate to speculate what the Kennedy presidency might have been, had John Kennedy not had his brother Bobbie at arm’s reach serving as Attorney General. October is Cuban Missile Crises month as I reminded those present at second day Rosh Hashanah services and I for one feel that one should never underestimate the role played by R.F.K. in heading off the crises, when he drove over to the home of Anatoly Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador to the United States and spoke to Moscow’s man in Washington as father to father (their children attended the same school).
Last week, Israel bid a final farewell to Shimon Peres. While many may disagree with my analysis, he was clearly a number two man in the history of Israel. From the very birth of the country, Shimon Peres was referred to as one of Ben Gurion’s Boys. It didn’t take long for Israel’s founding father to dispatch a young Shimon Peres to the United States (at the time, Mr. Peres did not speak a word of English, but embarked on an intensive three month course of study). In addition to studying at Harvard and N.Y.U., Peres began to acquire arms for the fledgling country to defend itself. Shortly thereafter, Peres was sent to France. It was Shimon Peres who was instrumental in Israel being able to construct Israel’s Nuclear Reactor in the city of Dimona, southeast of Beer Sheva. Thanks to the efforts of Shimon Peres, the miraculous victory that was Israel’s during the Six Day War in June, 1967 was achieved in no small part with French built Mirage fighter aircraft.
Shimon Peres’ political life was one of ironies. He served twice as Prime Minister, but was never elected to office. Prime Minister Menachem Begin was able to successfully make peace with Egypt and Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was able to successfully make peace with Jordan, but Shimon Peres’ peace with the Palestinians remains elusive at best (here I’m being extraordinary kind to Mr. Peres, in that one should never speak ill of the dead) despite the clandestine meetings held between Mr. Peres and Chairman Arafat while Yitzchak Rabin served as Prime Minister.
Among Shimon Peres’ many quotes, one finds: “The Jews’ greatest contribution to history is dissatisfaction… Whatever exists, we believe can be changed for the better”. Perhaps Mr. Peres wasn’t just speaking collectively; perhaps he was revealing something about himself knowing deep down that throughout his career he would always be number two.