Wyclef Jean, as the world now knows, is running for the Haitian presidency. He’s doing so despite a complete lack of political experience, a checkered financial past, major accounting and tax problems with his NGO, Yele Haiti, dubious Haitian residency, and the lack of an endorsement from fellow Fugee Pras, who is voting for the other musician in the burgeoning race. (Sean Penn is also not on board.)
In Jean’s first campaign video, he mounts an SUV and generally basks in the love of a Haitian crowd who are clearly excited to have him there. Why wouldn’t they be? Jean is an international celebrity. There are no words at all in the clip, let alone much of an explanation of whatever will end up being Jean’s presidential platform, though it seems we now know his campaign slogan, since it’s plastered over t-shirts and signs throughout and on the title card at the beginning: Fas a Fas.
Yesterday, Jean sat down with the Wall Street Journal‘s Lee Hawkins to talk about his candidacy. In the interview, he throws a few stray shots at Penn (“Sean Penn went into Haiti 6 months ago… Wyclef Jean has been in Haiti for a very long time”), Pras (“not having conversed with him in dialogue in the past 10 years of a conversation for more than 30 seconds, he’s entitled to that opinion”), and lays out some basic tenants of his campaign: exports, and education, the latter of which seems to be designed to appeal to the youth vote Jean hopes to capture.
Hawkins also asks Jean about all the allegations of financial malfeasance in his NGO, Yele Haiti. Wouldn’t that kind of disqualify him from managing a complicated, financially desperate country (for which even a person as respected as Bill Clinton is having trouble getting countries that have already pledged to actually deliver)? Jean responds:
Once again, I am not the minister of finance. I think the minister of finance has to be the best guy for the job, when it comes to politics. But what I have learned with my NGO is governance, which means that if this is not the right person for the job, get the right person for the job. I think that the scrutiny that we have undertaken with Yele Haiti is a great thing. Because what it did was it showed me, when you start a grassroots organization and create an NGO, what are the mistakes and how can you learn from the mistakes when moving it forward?
He goes on to say he plans to “reach out to every celebrity that I’ve ever worked with on the planet earth” and to set up an “energetic website.” Which sounds great!
But this whole argument that I’m a natural leader, and I will surround myself with top-notch policy experts, as he told the New York Times when he declared his intentions to run, is still as bankrupt as it was last week. Every politician should be surrounded by experts. Every leader of a country should retain an intelligent and capable financial minister. But if you’re aspiring to lead Haiti–or anywhere, for that matter–you should be competent too. Or, at the very least, not be currently deluged in evidence of your own administrative incompetence, as Jean–who, beyond Yele Haiti, was hit with tax liens by the IRS as recently as May of this year–most certainly is.
Look, Clef, you’re an inspiring dude. Your heart is in the right place. But for a guy so enamored with the redemptive power of experts, you have to know that you aren’t one, right?