Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Leadership Matters in Modern America - why DC is failing American Citizens

As a blogger, I have fallen into the trap of just amping and repeating what other have written, and I have leapt down that rat hole more often the I care to admit. I do it because 1) someone else writes something that's far more coherent then I can on an issue; 2) they are paid to do it, where as I have to shoe horn this thing in when and where I can; 3) I am, sometimes, intellectually lazy.

Hopefully that admission won't dissuade you from reading this latest missive from the Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein (emphasis mine):

This Presidents' Day week, we celebrate the leadership of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, who confronted far worse division and dissent in their times. The reason we remember them as great presidents is that they threw off the yoke of party loyalty, defied popular opinion and used the full weight of their office to do what had to be done. They understood, or came to understand, an important truth: that only after they had demonstrated that they were willing to lead, and lead boldly, were the people willing to follow and drag Congress along with them.

It turns out that successful political leadership is not about this strategy or that tactic or where you place yourself on the left-right ideological spectrum. What it's mostly about is character.
You see, a lack of genuine leadership is why the Republicans lost first their majority in Congress in 2006, and the White House in 2008. That same lack of real leadership will be, as my friend Mike rightly notes, why the Democrats MAY loose their Congressional majority in 2010. Sadly, that lack of leadership is NOT just about what politicians do or don't do in D.C. - its also about we, as citizens do or don't do in the heartland.

And while we're at it, how do you show leadership by RUNNING AWAY from a public confession of the commission of a war crime?

Dick Cheney went on ABC News this weekend and boasted of the role he played in ordering the waterboarding of detainees. Andrew Sullivan has written several posts accurately describing this statement as a "confession of committing a war crime on national television." Harper's Scott Horton identifies the specific criminal statute Cheney confessed he violated, makes clear that -- as the Attorney General himself previously said -- there is no reasonable debate possible regarding the criminality of waterboarding under U.S. and international law (notwithstanding the efforts of Politico and friends to pretend otherwise), and then asks: "What prosecutor can look away when a perpetrator mocks the law itself and revels in his role in violating it?"

I've written before about a clear and reasonable "laymans" interpretation of the law on this issue - and I still think the Obama Administration engaging in criminal "aiding and abetting" behavior here. We, as Americans, need to stand up to this moral outrage, or Mr. Bin Laden wins, in that the America he loathes will have destroyed itself from the inside.


On a slightly different, but very much related track, Ezra Klein blogs about Senator Evan Bayh's latest missive to the New York Times. Two things stand out for me - first, that Mr. Bayh is making a reasoned, rational response to the childish. leadership-les Senate, and second, he waited to do so until AFTER he announced his resignation. Actually, that second point makes Mr. Bayh's essay all the more sad - if the Senate is so broken that he can't say this while remaining inside the chamber, how in the world can we the people expect it to do our business?


jg said...

Most of the news I get from other media do the same thing, but if I'm not listening at the time, then I miss what they thought was important. Not so with a blog. Thanks for mentioning reports you find important.

I have to agree with the leadership issue. When they stop leading and try to ride by anticipating where the horse will go, they lose their credibility, Republicans or Democrats. One problem, however, you can't ride roughshod with your majority. I remember a poll asking whether Bush II united or divided the country: half replied "united" the other half "divided". How does one tell the difference between doing the right thing for the public vs doing the right thing as viewed by their base?

Philip H. said...

It's a tricky question - I think doing right by th epublic will most oftne do right by your base - but only so long as you acknowledge from the outset that your base may not, in fact, represent the majority of the public.

The real issue is that we, as a nation, are becoming sound bite kings. We want all our information - including our political discussion - short and sweet. We don't want to analyze; we want the finished product presented to us. That prevents nuance, and forces politicians to stake out positions that don't do anything becaus ethose ar ethe easiest to articulate in 30 seconds.

And as to riding rougshod - that only happens when you don't provide the public with a fair listing o fall the pros and cons and tradeoffs of an issue.