Comment of the Day: “Leon Panetta’s Memoirs, and Reconsidering Ethics Alarms’ Absolute Condemnation Of Such Books”

Obama's role model?

Obama’s role model?

Some thoughts as I read the comment below from Ethics Alarms stalwart Steve-O-in-NJ:

  • Woodrow Wilson is indeed, in many ways, one of the best comps for President Obama.
  • Yet there are still many, even those whose updates appear on my own Facebook page, who will shout to the skies that all such criticisms are partisan, racist, unfair attacks on a marvelous, brilliant, misunderstood  Chief Executive.
  • Why is that fading breed of Democrats fading? And where are the statesmanlike Republicans? Is there one?

Here is Steve’s Comment of the Day on the post, Leon Panetta’s Memoirs, and Reconsidering Ethics Alarms’ Absolute Condemnation Of Such Books:

Leon Panetta is one of the last of a fading breed typified by Sam Nunn, Henry M. Jackson, and a few others – the Democrat who still believes in and loves his country rather than seeing it as a power, money, and celebrity cow. I believe he, and probably Gates as well, were aghast at what Obama has done to this country at home and particularly abroad, and were saying so in their writings. Unfortunately, in the end you can’t look into anyone’s mind and heart and know his true intentions, but you can get a pretty good read if you put the action into context. I believe Leon Panetta is trying to do the right thing here. I believe Hilary was trying to advance herself but I believe she also disagreed with Obama. I believe that Paul O’Neill was in fact cashing in and disgruntled, and I believe Arlen Specter was trying to save his own political skin.

Loyalty is in fact a good thing, that keeps most folks somewhat honest and on the right track, but, like a drug which in the right dose can save your life, is toxic if taken to excess. History is full of examples of loyalty taken too far, starting with Roman armies too loyal to incompetent empires and ending with the USSR’s overly deep well of patriotism. There is a reason that we public servants take an oath of office (yes, I actually had to stand in front of a judge and raise my hand) to support and defend the Constitution first, and not any particular party or leader. Parties can get on the wrong track and become all about staying in power, and individual leaders are as vulnerable to corruption and bad decision making as anyone else.

Loyalty also cuts both ways, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect your boss to back you up and to listen to what you have to say, particularly if your expertise is why he put you there in the first place. Obama has shown a stunning level of disloyalty to his own appointees, for example his recent throwing of James Clapper under the proverbial bus with regard to ISIS, and showed a clear disinclination to listen to his own appointees, as is the case here. Panetta and the various generals were very clear to Obama that leaving a residual force in Iraq was critical to preventing a collapse and the waste of what good (mixed with the bad, I’m not ignoring it) we had done there. Obama appears to have listened only to his small coterie of White House advisors, led by Valerie Jarrett, who were focused on one thing, winning in November 2012, and saw withdrawal from Iraq as a key plank in their platform, whatever the cost might be. There is nothing more frustrating for someone appointed to advise than to give a fully worked-up presentation and then see the advisee go ahead and do what he was going to do anyway, without even really giving a reason for so doing. Yes, Obama’s the president, and presidents don’t HAVE to explain themselves except to the voters and once a year to Congress, but, if they hope to keep talented advisers and staff, they SHOULD be willing to do so, even if it’s only in private, after those advisers and staff have made recommendations in good faith that a lot of work has gone into.

Obama is headed for having the worst qualities of a bunch of presidents now thought of as not very good. However, it’s neither Carter’s incompetence nor Harding’s inability to manage scandal after scandal that is the worst of those qualities. It’s Wilson’s arrogance, peevish refusal to listen to anyone who did not agree with him on all points, and disloyalty to his own people that is likely to turn his last 2 years into a repeat of Wilson’s time before the stroke felled him, when his efforts met a brick wall in Congress, his advisors deserted him, and finally his private secretary told him point blank (one of the few people who could)that he had very few friends left. The president’s chair may well be the loneliest chair in the world when the man in it has to make a tough decision and knows the buck stops with him, but it’s a whole lot less lonely when he is surrounded by the loyal and the competent. If he pushes the loyal and the competent away, as he did here, it’s the loneliest it can be, and a lonely, isolated president is not an effective president.

21 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “Leon Panetta’s Memoirs, and Reconsidering Ethics Alarms’ Absolute Condemnation Of Such Books”

  1. The basic problem is that the few people who are smart enough to actually run the country competently are smart enough not to try. Among other things, they would be savaged by the media (Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton vs. Obama, just to mention a few mediocre talents. Imagine what would happen to someone truly competent).

      • Exactly my point. The folks who can do it…well…can’t do it. They can’t get elected. And most of them don’t want to try, for obvious reasons.

    • I’m still praying that Ben Carson runs. He’s experienced in both management and execution (unlike our current president), philanthropic, intelligent, and best of all – humble. I always liked Herman Caine, too -say what you will about that 9-9-9 plan of his, at least he offered up a new idea, and put it forth to be studied, scrutinized, and savaged. Not some “I’ll fix it… somehow” handwaving like Mr. HopeN’Change.

  2. Interesting to compare Wilson and Obama. What do you think is the reason for this arrogance? They were both academics. Is there possibly something in those who teach at or preside over institutes of higher learning that leads to a belief in their own infallibility?

    • Professors are essentially gods in the classroom. There is a certain attitude on their part that they have achieved all there is to achieve and now they have all the answers, at least as regards their chosen field of expertise, though a few let that leak over into other fields as well. Each year they repeat the same lectures, with a few tweaks, to yet another hall of kids interested in getting As, whatever it takes. Usually the surest path to an A is to give the professor’s material right back to him. Of course they become a little smug that their way is the only way.

  3. “Why is that fading breed of Democrats fading?”

    I suppose I’ll beat this dead horse again: because the current crop of democrats lean heavily on an ideology FOUNDED in loathing the very principles the United States is based on – free market, individualism, personal responsibility, due process, entrepreneurism, exceptionalism, etc. When one’s ideology is based on loathing America, one tends not pursue actions that strengthen that base – one tends pursue actions that change us to be more like the rest of the wretched world.

    “And where are the statesmanlike Republicans? Is there one?”

    You mean the ones that aren’t savaged and crucified by main stream media (in complete partnership with the America loathing Democrats) before they even see the light of day?

      • But the fact that you do is helpful, because it shows that the antigay position can be held by intelligent, rational, critically-thinking people. That’s important, and gay advocates need to recognize that. Because intelligent, rational, critically-thinking people will eventually be their allies, if they don’t denigrate them. I believe that. It was true of my father, but it took a loooong time.

  4. “Why is that fading breed of Democrats fading? And where are the statesmanlike Republicans? Is there one?”
    The ones who could do the job, are not interested in playing the celeb game. So we are left with ineffective narcissists, as long as they have their adoring crowds they have accomplished their goals. We’re in a ‘queen for a day’ and blood and circusses world of flash over substance. I could respect politicians of the opposite persuasion because they weren’t lockstep and voted the issue. (Oh the horrors!) As long as they aren’t lockstep,I could have faith that they weren’t letting partyism override common sense. Then elections weren’t always the do or die they’ve become.

    I’d like to see more middle of the road, instead of this party penalizing their moderates.

    • “I’d like to see more middle of the road, instead of this party penalizing their moderates.”

      I’d rather see a hyper-American-partisan as President…which means politically non-partisan. That is to say that even a political “moderate” is partisan. I’d rather the leader transcend politics (as the Founders hoped) to protect the Constitution (as the Founder’s hoped) who left legislative agendas and partisanship to the legislature.

      Give me a leader who loves America and isn’t ashamed and transcends partisanship/agendas and I’ll vote for them.

      • So I haven’t studied Ted Cruz very much, but for what I have seen, he seems like a fairly smart guy, most of the time, so I wonder: Is Cruz just a right-wing version of Obama? I’m deferring to you; you’re the Texan here.

        • Lucky, I know you addressed this to Tex, but if you don’t mind, I’ll reply also (with deference to Tex). Yes, Ted is smart but he is also ambitious. Would he make a good President? I don’t know, but I doubt it. He is a radical, and a knee-jerk conservative rather than a thoughtful conservative. By the way, Tex is not the only Texan here.

          • Cruz is very smart, but a bomb-thrower by nature. Sometimes they make good leaders (Teddy was one) but usually not. He would be unelectable. (As was Teddy, before he became President…)

          • Dragon, I am sorry! I have read here long enough to remember that you are also Texan. I apologize for failing to remember. Thanks for commenting about Cruz. You can probably tell by how I asked: I like Cruz in some ways, but it’s hard for me to trust him with a higher office. What you and Jack said in reply, I trust. BTW I am Texan too – by birth and by current residence. Still, I don’t trust myself to be authentic Texan – not yet, anyway, since I have lived outside of Texas for so many years.

            • No apology necessary, Lucky. “Dragin_dragon” is an old handle from Yahoo mail and does NOT point up being a Texan. About Ted: like you, I like the boy in some ways but him as President scares me. Not as bad as Obama did, but some.

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