I’m old enough to remember a time when we didn’t have to wonder whether or not the Kremlin has a secret video of the President of the United States paying Russian hookers to urinate on a bed in his Moscow hotel room.
First off, Rod Dreher’s lede above may turn out to be the single line that best sums up the through-the-looking-glass world in which we have lived Donald Trump declared his candidacy on June 15, 2015.
Second, though, the entire issue demonstrates the craven cowardice of POTUS 45. A courageous person would defy the Kremlin to release the tape, and face the music rather than live with the implication that Putin could hold him by the leash of blackmail.
Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly,) the current occupant of the Oval Office has proven himself a coward of the worst order, morally unfit for any position of responsibility for human life, much less the responsibility of command, much less the responsibility of Commander-in-Chief.
The White House’s response to this situation is a litmus test of the character of its current tenant. The grade thus far is an F-.
If Corey Lewandowski proved nothing else in the course of his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, he proved this:
The man is a thug in a suit, and nothing more.
There were days when his diction and demeanor would have seen him charged with contempt of Congress. I’m glad he was not so charged: to have done so would have made him a martyr. Now anyone outside of the Trump Base can see clearly that the best place for the man is in a cell at Leavenworth alongside Roger Stone and Paul Manafort.
Think of this: even the members of the Cosa Nostra called to testify before the Kefauver Committee showed more courtesy and deference. Even the hostile witnesses in the McCarthy hearings were more dignified and polite.
Corey Lewandowski deserves aught more than the contempt of every self-respecting conservative, and the deepest pit of ignominy that history can find for him.
The Pacific Bull Moose endeavors to refrain from gratuitous displays of partisanship. We prefer to eschew tossing spitballs across the aisle, choosing instead to develop principles upon which the nation should be governed, approaches to its challenges, and policies rooted in both.
“President Obama said Thursday that the problems that have plagued the first couple months of the health care law rollout are not an indication that he needs to change his management style, Politico reports.
Obama instead pointed to larger issues with the federal bureaucracy.”
As a matter of principle, POTUS is being disingenuous. Anyone who has taken a high school civics class can tell you that the President sits at the head of the bureaucracy. His constitutional role is to lead the executive branch of government, which includes the bureaucracy. An inability to lead the apparatus of government, to implement programs, is, prima facie, a management problem.
Implementation issues come part-and-parcel with any effort to bring about major change, and they have dogged every modern president for the past century. Dealing with the inertia of large bureaucracies comes with the job of President of the United States along with the house, the plane, the salary, and the benefits.
Bureaucracies do Stink, Regardless of Size
At the same time, those of my fellow Republicans who would jump on this issue and suggest that the president’s lament is a proof point for small government had best hold their horses. The problem here is not size, it is effectiveness.
Management guru Tom Peters once noted that “any organization larger than five people is a hopeless bureaucracy.” Big organizations come with big jobs. The question is whether those organizations are properly constructed, staffed, budgeted, and led to make them effective and efficient at those jobs.
Where the Buck Stops
Giving President Obama the benefit of the doubt, it is entirely likely that the Department of Health and Human Services is not properly constructed, staffed, budgeted, and led to enable it to effectively and efficiently implement the Affordable Care Act. But if that is the case, the failure still lands on the White House for not seeing – and adjusting – to that.
A fish stinks from the head, as my father once told me. We hold CEOs and boards to credit for the successes of their companies, and we hold them accountable for their failures. We do the same for leaders of non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, sports teams, and vessels at sea. The same is true for the Executive Branch of government
No sitting President of the United States, Republican or Democrat, can dodge responsibility for the actions and behavior of the constituent parts of the government. Harry Truman, a Democrat like Mr. Obama, understood as much, and made it a mantra of his administration rather than resort to blaming a bureaucracy largely created by and for his predecessor.
It should mystify even the most impartial observer of American politics that a Democratic president, blessed with a Congress dominated by Democrats and elected in part on his environmental stances, would be unable to oversee the passage of a moderately robust law on climate and the environment. It certainly bothers Columbia University’s Nicholas Lemann, and in the pages of The New Yorker he goes searching for the reasons for The Big Fail.
This is well-trod ground, even for The New Yorker: Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza won deserved plaudits for his 2010 story describing how the White House and the Senate committed a series of errors that led to the failure of a bipartisan bill backed by Lindsay Graham, Joseph Lieberman, and John Kerry. (“As the World Burns.”) Lemann, for his part, wants to compare the success of the environmental movement in the 1970s with its modern failure.
In “When the Earth Moved,” Lemann suggests that the failure has come from a change in tactics:
Even as the environmental movement has become an established presence in Washington, it has become less able to win legislative victories. It has concentrated on the inside game, at the expense of efforts at broad-based organizing.
Lehmann describes the efforts of the environmental movement to play the Washington Game, depending on lobbying, contributions, and corporate alliances. For whatever reason, the movement has failed in this effort. There is only one place it is likely to go: back to the grassroots.
Lehmann’s conclusions should serve as a wake-up call to all who shepherd political initiatives through the Washington maze, even if the left has discovered it first. The winners of future political contests in a nation increasingly fed-up with moneyball politics will not those best able to gin up some ersatz populism, but those who concentrate on getting people to care enough to act.
Regardless of your political stripes, you should regard this as a good thing. Change through the empowerment and activation of the individual is, after all, at the heart of democracy. The only people likely to hate this are Bill Gates, George Soros, David Axelrod, and the Koch Brothers.
James Fallows was a speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter for most of Carter’s single term in the White House. More than just a technically adept writer, Fallows came to his job in January 1977 a true believer, someone who saw in the clearly intelligent Georgian a leader who could lead the nation into the future.
Fallows’ disillusionment was gradual, apparently without rancor, but was utter. After citing a long list of Carter’s political, intellectual, and managerial failings, Fallows offers a telling comment that gives illuminating background both to Carters character and to his recent activities.
These clues told me part of the answer, but there was one part missing, the most fundamental of them all. Carter’s willful ignorance, his blissful tabularasa, could—to me—be explained only by a combination of arrogance, complacency, and—dread thought—insecurity at the core of his mind and soul.
The arrogance of willful ignorance, according to Fallows, led Carter to treat history as Henry Ford did – as so much bunk. Even in the White House, Carter felt that the lessons of history beyond those of Watergate and Vietnam were irrelevant. At best, this led him to repeat the mistakes that others had made before him, in energy, in tax reform, in his hollowing of the U.S. military, and in his fateful mishandling of his Cabinet.
That same arrogance lies at the root of Carter’s misunderstandings about Israel and the Palestinians. Whatever the virtues or vices of his views, they were based less on a full apprehension of the facts than on opinions. Given Carter’s history in and with the region, the ignorance can only be willful.
All of this is important not because it is necessary to pull Jimmy down a peg, but because in the story of Carter’s failure as president lie lessons that are essential for the entire American electorate. While we may debate whether it is correct to judge a presidential candidate by his extracurricular behavior, we must recognize that good character alone is insufficient qualification for the highest office of the land.
Fallows’ review Carter shows us that we need a president who is a great manager as well as a great leader; who can work with the Beltway establishment without being subsumed by it; and above all who is prepared to learn from history to avoid the mistakes of those who have gone before.
Cicero once said “To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be forever a child.” Fallows’ retrospective of Carter, published even before the Iranian hostage crisis and the election of 1980, suggests a slight modification of that. “To be ignorant of what happened before you came to Washington is to be forever a failure.”
It is a harsh verdict, but it serves every voter to heed it.