Throughout his political career, Rene Preval has portrayed himself as a regular guy. He forgoes most of the formalities associated with the presidency. He is more likely to wear a Polo shirt and jeans than a Brooks Brothers suit unlike his predecessors.
In an interview with the Miami Herald, Preval said: “Those who are interested in a political career, you would have seen them going to a hospital kissing kids and sick people with a camera crew,” he said, adding that his focus is to “ease the pain of those suffering, instead of trying to be photographed with people who are suffering.”
His chief backer, Edmond Mulet, acting chief of the U.N. Stabilization Mission, commends Préval for his actions in the aftermath.
“He’s not the type who is going to use this tragedy for demagoguery or political purposes. He’s not using the media to portray himself as a savior.”
“Rather than talk about their pain, I rather help them come out of their pain,” he told The Miami Herald, as he surveyed dozens of just erected tents from the back seat of his bulletproof Land Cruiser SUV.
The Herald went on to describe Preval actions: “He’s everywhere — and nowhere. In recent days, he has given more interviews in the last weeks than he has in his entire two presidencies combined.
And he quietly visits hospitals, campsites and even the crumbled National Palace. He dismisses his closest advisors, who have asked him to take a more public role. Unlike the stream of celebrities who have arrived in Haiti with cameras in tow, he is not into the photo opportunity.”
That may be good. But not enough. Preval has to understand that a president is not a bureaucrat. He is a leader elected by the people to provide guidance and leadership, particularly under the biblical tragedy that Haiti is experiencing right now. We’re not advocating demagoguery, rather sound leadership.
As much as we do not support Rudolph Giuliani, Preval could learn a thing or two about leadership, Giuliani style. In the aftermath of the World Trade Center bombings in 2001, he rallied New York City and the nation by walking through the debris. He reassured New Yorkers that we will pull out of this tragedy and he kept visiting people. He became a different man at that moment. Compassionate and Caring. We don’t know if he was doing this for the benefit of the camera or not.
We don’t know if Giuliani was sincere or cynical. What we do know, he provided leadership. He didn’t immerse himself in the micro. He has deputies to do that. His primary job was to communicate with the public and he did. That’s what Preval failed to realize. He’s a president and he owes the people who elect him comfort.
We’re not surprised at his leadership because he has shown precious little in his two stints as president. This is a man who confuses democracy with anarchy and has failed to rule democratically. It is only fitting that he would mix leadership with demagoguery. He will be remembered as yet another failed leader in Haiti’s long, sad governance.