Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wyclef- on NPR?

I think the word is way, way out there by now but if you haven't heard, it's true-- you can now hear Wyclef Jean on NPR as well as 102.7 KISS FM. And it's not because NPR is adding flavor to their afternoon lineup.

Wyclef is running for president of Haiti.  After decades of corruption and the massive earthquake in January, his announcement sounds like it could be a bit of positive news.  But maybe that's just me confusing what sounds like A TON OF FUN for good political news.  I am a big fan of the Fugees. Even as much as I would have liked every day in Congress to be like a giant Fugees concert, I have to admit we probably would get even less done than we do now. (What am I saying? We'd probably have more bumping across the aisles. All SORTS of stuff would get done.)

But the LA Times expressed skepticism as well. The article discusses Jean's candidacy and quotes some Haitian policy experts who question Jean's experience, his knowledge of the system, and his political savvy.  I have to say, it does give me pause that he'd officially announce his candidacy on Larry King Live.  Why not on a Haitian show?  Or at least on Haitian soil? This isn't, of course, a deal breaker. It's only one step in a long journey of candidacy. But that first step indicates the direction that one will take.

The article also quotes Haitians who support him, expressing their very real desire and need for change, and identifying Wyclef Jean as the change they need.  Further, Jean himself, and through his Yele Haiti nonprofit, communicates a deep understanding of his homeland and of the human rights situations there.

I suppose the cringing for me came when I heard his NPR interview with Michele Norris on All Things Considered, where she really pushed him on his finances, back taxes owed, knowledge of Haitian politics. He could not answer any question straight. Every question she asked, he backed away from it, saying something like, "Before we consider X, we must look at Y!" Totally removing the focus of the question.

This is a beef I have with a lot of politicians, but especially when you're a candidate running for office: When an interview asks you a simple yes or no question, and you've got thousands of listeners waiting for your answer, you better keep it simple and respond YES or NO and then follow up with your explanation.

For example:

NORRIS: I want to ask you also about your taxes. It's been reported now that you owe the federal government more than $2 million in back taxes. This is based on tax liens that were filed against you. It's not the first time that you've owed back taxes. What is your explanation for that, again, since you're calling for good stewardship of the country and calling for someone who can handle good finances and will battle corruption in Haiti?
Mr. JEAN: Well, the first thing is that I am not running from the IRS. That's the number one thing. The number two thing is I make a lot of money a year. And the number three thing is my accountants and my business people are handling the IRS. But going into this, its an open book, meaning I didnt go into this knowing that everything is public information.

What? What does that even mean??? This isn't looking good for someone who wants to be this country's president. Wyclef Jean has done a ton of good work raising consciousness around Haiti's people and the issues they face, but it doesn't mean that translates to being Haiti's president.  I am impressed with his work as an artist and as an advocate, and I hope he doesn't lose momentum in those areas with this presidential run.

For a more informed and articulate opinion piece on this, click here. :) Would love to hear other's musings on this one.