Crossposted from my Real History Blog.

Okay – he’s still alive. But there’s got to be an award for this. Someone on Kos suggested calling it the “George W. Bush” award, which seems fitting.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the first directly-elected leader of Indonesia, gave out his private mobile phone number, urging people to call with issues. But the media started sharing it. Want the number?
+62 811 109 949. Just don’t expect to get through. So many calls came in that his phone is now unusable. Gee, how did that happen? Bad Idea Jeans!

I’d ridicule this even more if we didn’t have a president whose stupidity didn’t just crash a cell phone, but crashed the lives of thousands of families around the globe who are now suddenly without a loved one due to the war in Iraq.

And I have to say, I applaud the Indonesian president’s heart, if not his intellect, on this matter. He believes, rightly, that a leader should never separate himself too far from his people. Bravo, good man, bravo. In fact, as Jared Diamond writes in his recent book Collapse, it’s important for the elites to participate in the same reality the people under them share, so they can see problems coming and head them off. In this interview, he explained, “in societies where the elites do not suffer from the consequences of their decisions, but can insulate themselves, the elite are more likely to pursue their short-term interests, even though that may be bad for the long-term interests of the society, including the children of the elite themselves.”

In other words, if I had to choose between a president who wanted so much to talk to his people that he’d naively give out his private phone number, or a president who sends the children of others to kill and die to promote American imperial interests, hmmm, it’s a tough call.

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