Should we demand excellence from our leaders?
Should we demand excellence from our leaders?
By Roger Lippman
Was there ever a time when our leaders represented the very best in us? Are we so disunited that no one cares and today everyone is out for himself.
Actually, examining our history, it was filled with conflict, hatred and dysfunction. One may wonder how the United States actually came into being if it were not for the sacrifices of a few.
As mentioned in another article I wrote, the founding of our Union was never a sure thing and many were against it preferring a loose confederation of individual States. It took a lot of bargaining, back room dealing and agreeing to cede territory from one colony or newly formed State, agreeing to move the capitol of the United States to what became Washington D.C., dropping freedom for slaves from the document and other things to get them all to move forward or today we might have been part of Britain or some other country that took us over as the individual States were weak and disunited.
Today people don’t want to look back at our own history. History is boring and what can be more boring then old men you have to learn about in school. So kids suffer thought it like root canal and those not born in the U.S. cannot even associate with it anyway. You memorize dates, 1776, 1812, etc. and it means nothing.
However there are some things we can glean from it to learn why perhaps we are heading down the path we are.
One of our greatest patriots, Alexander Hamilton, who is the subject today of a powerful new play on Broadway, is about to be removed from the $10.00 bill because people think he is irrelevant and they think perhaps we should now honor someone of color, a woman or someone from more recent times instead of the man who pushed through much of the initial concepts of our country. Banking would not exist as is today without Hamilton and his ideas of a central bank. He was an avowed Federalist and although a U.S. citizen, he could not run for President because he was born on Nevis in the Caribbean. However it did not stop him from having a major role in the formation of our country—after also being an aide to general George Washington in the revolutionary war until he was killed in a duel by Aaron Burr who resented him and blamed him for much of his own decline in popularity.
Oh, if we could only have duels today, think of all the politicians we would get rid of in one fell swoop and not have to hear them sounding off on TV every night.
That is not to say that Hamilton was all good because when Thomas Jefferson, who was an anti federalist and founder of the Republican party, was elected our third president, Hamilton actually was considering a coup to remove him because the anti federalist arguments were so repugnant to his thinking. He felt we needed a strong central government.
John Adams, our second president was the first Federalist president because Washington did not believe in political parties. Adams was actually very good friends with Jefferson until they fell out due to their disagreement over where the country should go and their friendship only rekindled when Jefferson was no longer president. Before his death, Jefferson ordered that his personal papers to Adams that were negative, should be burned. The two men, then died within 6 hours of each other on the same day and year, July 4, fifty years after the start of our Nation. What are the odds of that?
Adams, when he was president, had problems with congress, as it moved towards the anti federalist position of weaker central government. Jefferson then had the same problems from the opposite end when he was president as the Federalists in Congress would not support him. All very similar to events of today.
Ironically on one issue, the establishment of a U.S. navy and protection of our country we see the good and bad that equates to our politics of today.
When he was president, George Washington, did not want to see the United States involved in any more foreign entanglements so he was against a standing army or a navy. Actually that was one of the reasons that led to the next war with England, the war of 1812 because England saw that our country was not strong and felt they could take advantage of us and assert more claims to territory here. France too, had the same belief. Weakness does not earn respect, a fact that some future presidents failed to understand.
When Adams, our second president, was elected, Jefferson was first appointed secretary of State and wanted some ships built to protect our merchants be cause trade was essential for our country, but there was no hurry, Meanwhile the American merchants were being harassed by Muslims in the Barbary coast and our ships were constantly seized and sailors imprisoned until large tribute in the form of bribes could be paid. The only remedy was to bribe the various rulers of the several different Barbary states which the young America did with disgrace. The rulers then kept part of the tribute and sent the rest on to the Ottoman Empire in Turkey. The belief at that time was that anyone nor Muslim was fair game and taking a crew from a ship after capturing it, and throwing them in a cell to be held as slaves was in their credo. They had no respect for any other religion and therefore any ship, not Muslim, and not paying tribute was up for ransom.
Now Jefferson, the one who championed a weak government, actually pushed to take on the cutthroats but then his own Congress, supported by the Federalists, would not approve the further building of ships even after Jefferson became president. This was because Adams had been against it although you would think that federalists wanting a more powerful central government would champion the issue. The parties just could not agree on working together. Adams wanted to pay tribute each time, while Jefferson wanted to end it with military might. Politics prevailed however.
After more cargoes were seized and more men imprisoned, some for almost a dozen years, America finally acted by sending some of the new ships to what is now Libya to enforce our rights and blockade the Barbary pirates. There was one small success by the U.S. and many failures as this went on for several years.
During the several years that this endeavor took, we were led by an admiral who brought his wife and young family along and was more interested in stopping off at friendly ports to entertain, then pursue the objective. Not too dissimilar was the conduct of a general of the army during the Lincoln term when George McClellan, who was to engage the confederates was too busy being popular. So when McClellan was eventually fired by Lincoln, just as the Admiral of our fleet in the Barbary coast, he ran instead for president because he was, after all, a popular person and the women liked him. This is true though he was totally incapable and was trounced in the election against Abe. So maybe the public finally did catch on and see Abe was the better man.
When finally due, to the huge sacrifices of a small group of dedicated men, led by William B. Eaton, our Counsel general to Tunis (who came up with a daring plan to replace the bey or ruler of Tunis with his brother Hamet whom he had thrown off the throne and imprisoned his family as hostages) including the new marines, they led a band of men along hundreds of miles of Barbary coast to engage the enemy with a huge success. They were then going to advance on the main enemy and overthrow the bey, put Hamet back on the throne and end tribute, all would be resolved as Hamet agreed to American terms for a treaty with no more kidnapping or tribute.
However Tobias Lear, the U.S. Consul General to the Barbary States, fearing loss of his own prestige, decided to enter into a treaty on behalf of the United States with the bey and offered him more tribute on behalf of America if they would stop imprisoning our men. The efforts of our small band of heroes was for naught as Eaton’s plan to continue the march on and overthrow the bey ended and our man Hamet had to flee the country from his brother as we left him high and dry. We got limited peace on the deal and it never ended the conflict as it arose again in years to come until we finally had a president who ended it. What about Lear? Well he was kept on as Consul General and not reprimanded for undermining the plan of Eaton. Again sounds like politics today.
What is to be learned here? Men of weak character were making decisions that ended badly. Congress never thought out its actions and wanted to punish the president and not be representative of all the people. There was poor choices in military men who were incapable and in the end the men who did most to help us succeed were overshadowed by a politician who undermined them and entered into a treaty on our behalf that gave up our success. Can you think of modern day politicians that fit into this mold?
A rubber stamp can be used to duplicate this many times in the years to come.
We have had many weak presidents, who may have been motivated by good intentions but were not up to the job. The war of 1812 was fought with the British, not many years after our war of independence, because we were weak and had no respect from anyone in the world—a fact that escapes too many in our government today.
Many people work for the government and are rewarded for failure and ineptitude and not for accomplishment. Think 9 11. The huge mistakes made by some in the FBI in failure to spot the terrorists ended with promotion of the people who failed – a remedy used all too often as we reward failure , not excellence.
So why don’t we demand excellence of our leaders? Does the public really care and who actuality is “the public”?
George Bush took the country into war with Iraq over the issue of Saddam’s building a bomb. Yet it can’t be denied that his central issue of Saddam buying yellow cake needed to build the bomb from Niger, never happened. Yes the pundits say he was getting it but the source, Niger, never mined and shipped it. Second, the aluminum tubes that were designed for the nuclear reactor that the administration claimed he had, were never in fact for that purpose and not the right size. The CIA had gone on record stating both these things but the white house decided that was not the answer they wanted to justify their actions and tried to find ways to dispute their own CIA.
The government at the time, entered into a huge conspiracy to block and undermine the CIA reports that there was no nuclear bomb being constructed. In an effort to make the public believe them, the administration, went after first our former Ambassador to Niger Joe Wilson, who knew Niger, visited there on behalf of the CIA to get the facts about the yellow cake and assured the CIA, no yellow cake material was shipped to Saddam and in fact, the amount claimed was not even produced.
Not satisfied discrediting our own Ambassador, the administration then went after his wife, Valarie Plame, and outed her as a CIA operative, which was against United States law and intimated she had done something wrong in sending her husband to Niger on behalf of the CIA, although it was not her idea to send him. Further they discredited her and claimed she was only a low level secretary. Several ongoing confidential operations that did not know she was an agent , as her true identity was not know in the field, were all foiled when her identity as a CIA agent was revealed, all to the detriment of our country.
Her cover was blown after her husband - former ambassador Joe Wilson - criticized the Bush administration about the Iraq war. Was it retaliation? Administration supporters said no, dismissing her as a low level analyst. One congressman even called her "a glorified secretary." Finally, five years later she was quoted as follows: "When I was outed on July 14th, 2003, I was, until that moment, covert," Plame Wilson said.
Asked what that means by Katie Couric on “60 minutes”, "That means no one outside of a very small circle knew where I really worked." She believed her identity was leaked in a newspaper because her husband publicly accused the president and others of lying to justify the invasion. "We understood that he would be criticized deeply. I never once considered that in fact this administration would betray my identity as payback for his criticism," Plame Wilson said.
When both Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie were finally exonerated after a full investigation by congress, Scooter Libby, a top administration official was convicted for his part in the operation, only to be let off by the president with a pardon. However it was the Vice President Dick Cheney, who was the one insisting originally on the CIA report being changed. What really happened here? Was this any different from the Nixon scandal and the break-in at Democratic headquarters?
More importantly, does the public really care any more about these things and is it just another day at the ranch? So if Hillary uses her own E mail and asks who cares or if she is indignant that our Ambassador was murdered in Libya and we might question her as former secretary of State as to why no help was given to him, do we really care?
The democrats are not immune from criticism. Today the world admires former President Carter as a decent and honorable man. True, he was so honorable that when the Iranians captured our embassy and imprisoned the staff, Carter volunteered to say to the world that he would not resort to violence to get them back but would get them back by negotiation. Surprised by this, the Ayatollah Khomeini said he had feared the U.S. would attack and he would therefore release the prisoners but upon hearing that Carter preferred to negotiate, he made a fool of Carter and held them for over a year. Carter never understood the mentality of the people of that region and blundered into making egregious decisions. How about Obama’s red line with Syria. Talk is cheap if you do not follow up.
So what about the public? Are we more interested in the latest game show and what the Kardashians are doing today? Every generation has its heroes or idols. There was Frank Sinatra and how his very appearance—when he was younger of course—would cause girls, who were called bobby sockers, to faint. Then there was the beetles and now we have Beiber and Kardashian and what viewers clamoring to know what is the Jenner clan doing today.
However if there is any distinction, it is that today issues in the world are far more serious and more people are disconnected. There are mad men who have declared war on all civilization; They engage in using the computer to enlist others around the world to join them and blow themselves up along with anyone they can find. It is their warped view of the Koran and like the pirates of the Barbary coast, all is fair game with non believers—meaning us only in this case they include all other Muslims who do not share their radical beliefs. So now even bombers blow themselves up in Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world.
These extremists are not only ISIS, Al Quada and their ilk, but take on as well the fanatics in Pakistan who just blew up a clinic giving out polio vaccinations because they think it is a plot of the west to kill them or Boko Haram in Nigeria that captures kids and makes boys part of their army and sells off the girls.
Lest we not forget the pair in California that went on their own terrorist raid. The woman slipped into the U.S. without our knowing about her radical beliefs and although we have the greatest opportunity for people in the world here, she decided to punish us for not sharing her own twisted values. They were even aided in getting weapons from another young man who was a relative and U.S. citizen.
Lack of education equals ignorance. Education by fanatics however equals fanatical followers and that is what concerns me. The Saudi’s, since the founding of their country, entered into a pact with the Wahhabists to establish the most conservative and radical form of Islam that has created much of the turmoil in the world today. President Franklin Roosevelt, when he met Ibn Saud, thought he would prevail on Saud to moderate but did not understand the pull of the Wahabbists. There was never any moderation and their teachings have spread and inflamed more and more until some have come back to try to take over the government so the royal family now has to fear their own creation.
The world does little to complain that the Saudi’s are funding radical clerics around the world to adopt the Wahhabis’ values. So in the name of cheap oil, our presidents have all bowed to the Saudi’s, figuratively speaking, except for President Obama who actually bowed to the King, and we have let them instigate and foment this radical behavior. What will happen when the radicals decide to overthrow the King, take over the country and then deny oil to the world unless it coverts? Far fetched? There have already been terrorist attacks inside Saudi Arabia, while the clerics continue on their mission to radicalize all Muslims. Also support for the King, among his own royal family is low as he changed the rule of succession and eliminated many of those in line for the throne.
So we know today the vast majority of the world trade center bombers were Saudi’s and Bin Laden was Saudi and their efforts to undermine peaceful Islam with fanatics has spread to all continents. Yet, these are our allies. In the crazy mixed up world of Islam, we need them to defeat ISIS in Syria but Saudi Arabia will only assist if we agree to get rid of Assad. Assad meanwhile is backed by the Iranians whom Obama has been courting and we will shortly give hem $150 billion as a reward for signing the treaty. Also because of weakness in our administration, Russia now has bases in Syria, supporting Assad and bombing our allies fighting ISIS.
The crazy mix also includes our ally Turkey who is more interested in bombing our other ally the Kurds then going after ISIS. This is the situation that president Obama finds us being in no danger and there is no threat to us from this. Wishful thinking or just lack of excellence in understanding the world as it is today?
Iran, which has made no effort to conceal their desire to destroy the State of Israel, is viewed now by the Obama administration as having been contained, while the U.N. has found that their 2 recent missile launches violated treaties. Yet, our president and secretary of State would say isn’t the world better off this way with this treaty? What would president Jefferson, after his treaty with the Barbary Coast pirates which was violated shortly thereafter, say to Obama? President Carter should also be a good source to look at, since he left office thinking he was right and in his decision because to tell Iran he would not go after them because he was a pacifist and still does not understand the Palestinians any more than the Iranians as he blames Israel for lack of peace in the area.
Walk Softly and carry a big stick said president Teddy Roosevelt. Today it is walk nosily and threaten but carry no stick. We have failed in Syria, failed in Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Additionally, Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan could be added to the list. Where is the excellence we have needed in our leaders who are more interested in grandstanding, creating legacies or making speeches—and I mean both parties?
Our most important event will be coming soon, election of someone who may help prevent world catastrophe? Because unlike our current president who believes the attacks by fanatics is but a small pimple, I doubt he would say that to the French, the families of the people who died in New York, California or Boston. We need strong leadership which eliminates those running on the democratic ticket. Bernie Saunders is more interested in raising the tax rate to 90 percent so it will give him more money to give out in social programs and fails to understand it would drive more large corporations to leave the U.S., bankrupt smaller corporations that cannot afford the rate, lessen employment and incidentally lower the amount of tax revenue. Meanwhile his followers see no problem.
We need less show and more wisdom to tackle the important issues. We do not want a president who lets his aids make decisions for him which has happened with some in the past or a president who is ignorant of the issues or the mentality of those he must deal with or who lacks support of the world. That unfortunately also eliminates most on the republican ticket as well.
Ted Cruz gets huge applause with his program of a flat tax and his promise to eliminate the IRS. I am sure he thinks that all Americans will just send in the correct amount of tax automatically. Is he living in lala land? Who will send the bills, who will do the audits, and who will enforce it as we have enough tax cheats now? I assume he may be thinking he can use the post office or boy scouts. Get serious. The plan is stupid and to think we can delete the IRS just because people do not like paying taxes, where will the money come from to pay our every day expenses the nation needs if we leave it just to people doing the right thing and sending in a payment? In fact we need more enforcement to lessen tax cheats and also remedies to bring back money overseas that is parked by corporations and closing tax loopholes.
Americans need to stop acting like they want to see the return of the gladiators in Rome so they can sit and watch them all do battle in the area. We need more and we have a right to expect more from our officials if only the people would demand excellence and understand that their petty issues need to be cast aside. You cannot decide you want someone as president just because of his family values. You cannot decide you want a president just because of his view on guns or abortion. You cannot select a president who thinks that the world is safe and we should just concentrate on local issues.
We can no longer be isolationists. Those days are past. Everything in the world affects us. A virus can get on a plane and come half way around the world to us the same day. A bomb can get here from anywhere in minutes. Our satellites that regulate power, banking, agriculture, utilities and every we do, can be knocked out in a second. We need competent people we can depend on to handle these issues.
When you see one political party dominate a state for 16 years as in Illinois, with it going deeply into debt and spending beyond its means, you need to get rid of the people that have become demigods. We need true representation, not another Tammny Hall like in New York starting back to the 1800’s. When politicians get too much power, they forget whom they are representing and think they are indispensable.
Chicago just lost the new headquarters for GE. Why? Is it that the city is stuck with teachers who want to go on strike again and demonstrators blaming the city for everything that is wrong while the State will not agree on a budget for one year? The Mayor is on fire because of misdeeds by some policemen yet killings in the street and especially in the impoverished area is up while cooperation by the community to apprehend those responsible is down due to the code of silence. At a recent community forum in Englewood about appointing a new chief of police, one young man shouted, things will only change when we have a black police superintendent. Does he really think gangs will stop killing because a member of color is put in charge and they will willingly agree to end the indiscriminate killing? Does a black superintendent mean that the community that often complains but does little to support the police is going to change overnight? How can you stop killing if the people that see the crime done, refuse to cooperate with the police and then later complain that they do nothing or shoot the innocent?
So GE turned down Chicago because of Chicago and also because it is in the State of Illinois. It was once one of the most powerful States in the Union but now stuck in a political battle as the governor tries to exert authority from a majority leader who controlled everything for as long as some readers of this article have been alive.
Elections take place not for true representation but in gerrymandered districts set up by the party in power to stay in power. They know if they win, they do not need to be responsible to “all” the people, just their party.
Don’t we deserve more? Do we need however a Donald Trump to act out for us on stage and use every trick in the book to get headlines and pander to his supporters saying he will bill Mexico for a fence, ship 11 million people back, and all his crazy concepts? His supporters are the ones who would swoon at Frank Sinatra, the Beetles or Justin. They do not see the big picture. If you listen to him talk, he often goes on with incomplete sentences and makes all kinds of statements that make no sense. However the public loves it.
We need responsible leadership, not a Ted Cruz who likes to brag he shut down government and does not need to get along with anyone. Where are the people we need and we deserve? We will never see that day if the public does not start to act like they are sincere and want and demand excellence, not a new reality show. We want and deserve true leaders and men we can respect. We must join together and not pull apart. We cannot stick to one issue to decide the fate of the union. Two party have pulled more and more apart and left the center open. Both sides seem to detest anyone in the middle who sees some good in each side but not enough and our candidates are loathsome to find a middle ground, all to the detriment of our country.