Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Would Harry Say? Where Does The Buck Stop These Days?

I don't usually talk about politics, but I'm going to today.  So if you don't want to hear my opinion on American politics, it would be a good idea to stop reading now.

One of my favorite figures in American history is Harry S. Truman.  Those of you familiar with my blog know he's been a frequent topic.  I've always admired him for his honesty, his integrity, and his exemplary leadership.  He possessed a style of leadership we just don't see anymore.  He made tough decisions, and stood behind them, and the decision to use the bomb was just one.  Many people have forgotten some of the other very difficult decisions he faced, and some of the remarkable forward-thinking policies he put into place--like the decision to desegregate the military.  When he was successful, he was more often than not modest about it.  When he was wrong--well, like the sign on his desk said "The Buck Stops Here!"  Truman was fond of that expression because he didn't believe in passing the buck.  He was a leader, and back in his day, taking responsibility for decisions was a big part of that. 

It's a very different world we live in today.  It's often impossible to see who is making the decisions in our government today.  Many times it seems as if nobody knows "where the buck stops."  It doesn't seem to stop anywhere--the way the buck is passed today would have driven Harry Truman nuts.  It seems like every time we have a problem these days, the first thing we find out is that the President had no idea about it.  The buck definitely didn't stop at his desk.  The President heard it on the news like everyone else.  That is almost always the very first thing (and often the only thing) anybody makes perfectly clear about any of these problems--the President didn't know about it, and had nothing to do with it.

Our President stands on the sidelines and stomps his foot and shakes a fist, and says he's going to get to the bottom of it because there is nobody madder about it than he is.  Fast and Furious.  Benghazi.  NSA spying.  White House leaks.  IRS abuse of power.  The Obamacare roll-out fiasco.  It's as if nobody has told him he's the President.  It's his administration.  He should know about these things.  He should be involved in these decisions.  But as outraged as he is when things go wrong, he never follows up on this promise to get to the bottom of it.  He doesn't seem to ever actually do anything about these issues besides hope they'll go away. 

Whether you believe these scandals are real or not, the President acknowledged all of them as problems, and yet, not one of these scandals has been resolved.  Nobody gets fired--although a few have been "retired" with full pensions.  Nobody is held responsible, and a few have even plead the 5th refusing to answer questions about their role in these scandals.  Nobody has walked out, given a press conference, and answered honestly the questions surrounding any of these issues.  What the American people get is deflection and deception--and even that attempt is often badly done. 

For instance, the White House releases statements parsing the words so badly it's obvious to everyone what is really being said--nobody is really sure what this accomplishes in the eyes of the White House, besides shining a huge light on the fact there is something more going on than what they're saying.  For instance the White House released a statement about the NSA tapping the German Chancellor's phone saying "we are not tapping it, and will not tap it."  Do they really think nobody is going to notice they didn't say that we hadn't tapped it in the past?  They obviously believe that parsing the words like that is politically clever, but it's glaringly obvious what they aren't saying.  And when questioned on the point, it's impossible to get an answer out of the White House Press Secretary.  He's the only man in Washington that seems to know less about the questions he's asked than the President--like he walks out every day completely unaware that he's going to be asked questions at the press briefing.

It's no wonder our allies are upset over the NSA spying.  It's not that they didn't know.  Sure they did.  They are probably doing the same thing, we just don't know because they can keep a secret!  The problem is that America looks incompetent.  We put a man on the moon in '69, and can't build a website on 2013 with $460 million?  Our allies know we snoop--the concern is whether our government can be trusted to keep their secrets a secret.  We've sure been doing a terrible time keeping our secrets a secret as of late, so they have every right to be worried our incompetence could lead to their classified information being leaked the same way ours has.  We've got a major crisis of credibility in the eyes of the world.   For the first time in our history, America is seen as an unreliable ally, and like it or not--that buck stops in the Oval Office.  I'm sure nobody is madder about that than our President is, and I'm sure he'll get right to the bottom of it.

I've studied American history most of my adult life.  We've had good leadership, and we've had bad leadership--but we've always had leadership.  In our short history as a nation, I just don't recall another time when we've had such an absence of leadership.  It doesn't seem like anybody is running things.  The American people can't even get to the point where they know who made the decisions that lead to so many of these scandals.  But it is definitely been made clear who didn't make the decision, in fact, our President's ignorance on these subjects has been proclaimed proudly, loudly and often.  But is that a good thing?  Are we more relieved that he wasn't involved in these decisions, or should we be more concerned about the fact our President seems clueless on issues of such great importance to our country during his watch?


Todd E. Creason is an author and novelist whose work includes the award-winning non-fiction historical series Famous American Freemasons and the novels One Last Shot (2011) and A Shot After Midnight (2012). He's currently working on the third novel Shot to Hell which will be released in Spring 2014.

1 comment:

  1. Agree 100% re HST; honest and sans personal scandal. I thought LBJ was pretty honest, albeit occasionally having to admit to some errors in judgement, but then I also thought RMN was a good leader; he opened up China and stood (perhaps foolishly) by his men who thought they were helping their boss at The Watergate.


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