Much – probably too much – has been said and written about the sudden appearance of Donald Trump on the political scene. Much has been said about his positive qualities, and a great deal more about his negative qualities. But I would like to approach the question from the opposite direction: What is the one problem he appears not to have?
Earlier this year, Oliver North was discussing the Middle East situation with Greta Van Susteren. North declared that we are suffering from “Leadership Deficit Disorder.” This sums up things beautifully:
● Our impulsive withdrawal from Iraq, leaving a power vacuum that ISIS was only too happy to fill.
● Our ostentatious snubbing of Israel, causing our other allies to wonder how soon their turn will come to be abandoned.
● Our abject appeasement of Iran, emboldening their sponsorship of terrorism – for example, Hezbollah.
● Our deal with Iran lifting economic sanctions, giving Iran hundreds of billions of dollars with which to fund more terrorism.
● Our inspection regime that allows Iran a virtual veto over where inspectors can go, a scheme that gives new meaning to the word “feeble.”
● Our tacit encouragement of other Arab states to go nuclear, in an effort to balance the threat of a nuclear Iran.
● Our open declaration that we will “lead from behind,” leaving friends and foes alike to wonder whether our brains are also located in our behinds.
North knew very well what he was talking about when he spoke of leadership. No one rises to be a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps without a clear understanding of what leadership entails.
The attributes of a leader are competence, courage of conviction, and care of subordinates.
− Bing West, author, former Marine
For his service in Vietnam as a platoon commander, North was awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with combat V, and two Purple Hearts for being wounded twice. That takes ample care of competence and courage, but what about care of subordinates?
Here North rises even higher in my regard. He learned that an enlisted man who had served under him had been charged with massacring civilians – an event that occurred after North had left Vietnam. North knew that involving himself in this messy affair could wreck his career. But his loyalty to his former subordinate exceeded his desire for advancement.
North asked for leave and, at his own expense, returned to Vietnam. There he obtained evidence clearing his friend of all charges. Why neither the defense nor the prosecution had bothered to obtain this evidence was not clear. In any event, North’s career was not derailed. Someone in authority must have agreed with West about care of subordinates. North proved himself to be the boss we all hope to work for, but rarely do.
So when North talks about leadership – or the lack thereof – we should listen carefully. Is this relevant to the current Republican candidates for president, specifically Donald Trump? I think it is.
Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
− Peter Drucker, economist, author
To a greater or lesser degree, most politicians seem to me to resemble would-be managers, not leaders. They talk endlessly about nuances of policy. They speak as though they were being interviewed for the position of assistant manager of a company that manufactures widgets. And in peacetime, this may be close to reality.
But this is very far from peacetime. We found that out on 9/11. Many of us forgot again, but we were reminded repeatedly by acts of terrorism, at home and abroad. And if that were not enough, our economy is hardly running smoothly. Perhaps the clearest indication that we are in serious trouble is that when the media use the word “trillion,” they are referring not to a NASA space mission, but to our ballooning national debt.
And where is the leadership needed to rally our people and overcome our difficulties? Where, indeed? Instead of a leader to get us out of the hole, we have a president who keeps digging us in deeper. In instance after instance of inter-racial strife, the president either remains silent or adds fuel to the fire. President Obama as a 54-year-old appears to have the same dim view of police that he had as a pot-smoking college student. Some of us mature. Others just get older.
But if the police officers and federal agents who protect the president are willing to give their lives for him, one might hope that some of the loyalty that flows uphill might flow downhill again. One would be disappointed. Obama exhibits only antipathy to law-enforcement officers. And if a fence is useful – and is being made higher – to protect the White House, why would a fence be useless on the border? Some of us try to be consistent. Others assume their listeners are gullible idiots and contradict themselves to push their agenda.
But perhaps the most essential attribute of a leader is credibility. Eloquence is no help when we cannot believe what is being said. No matter how smoothly it was expressed, we were left with, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor; if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” And if we listen closely, we are now hearing, “If you like your allies, you can keep your allies,” and, “If you like your armed forces, you can keep your armed forces.” But if we are not careful, soon we will hear, “If you like your country, you can keep your country.”
So where does that leave us?
First, whoever the new president may be, I hope to see Oliver North as either Secretary of Defense or National Security Advisor.
In regard to presidential hopefuls, should we choose Donald Trump? He appears to have strong leadership qualities. But on closer inspection, he may merely speak with a loud voice, use broad gestures, and make frequent use of “I” and “me.” Besides, even assuming Trump is a real leader, he leaves us in considerable doubt about where he intends to lead us. He was pro-choice; now he is pro-life. He wanted to defund Planned Parenthood; now he wants to defund only its abortion activities. He was for single payer; now he wants to repeal ObamaCare. Yes, he is strong on immigration, but is that sufficient reason to support him?
On the other extreme, should we choose Dr. Benjamin Carson? He has a crystal-clear vision of where our country should be. But has he the experience and strength to lead us there? Too much bravado and flamboyance are annoying and possibly dangerous, as Trump shows us. But too little can be equally disabling for a leader of a great nation in dangerous times.
Or should we go with Jeb Bush? He is not much of a leader, but he is a competent manager. It appears that he merely intends to manage us better in the downhill direction we are already going.
Or should we pick Scott Walker, John Kasich, or Mike Huckabee, who have been governors; or Marco Rubio, who has been a senator; or Carly Fiorina, who has been a business executive?
Or should we prefer Ted Cruz? He has the leadership ability but not the flamboyance of a Trump, and the clear vision but not the charm of a Carson. Nevertheless – we hope – he has enough of both to get the job done.
At this point, I’m not yet sure which candidate to support. But of one thing I am certain: Our country – and the world – may not survive another four years of Leadership Deficit Disorder.
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