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.