Here’s the quote, from Earnest’s statement on behalf of the President:
“The President does continue to have confidence that the officers of the TSA do very important work that continues to protect the American people.”
Your pop quiz:
What’s wrong with it?
(It is very wrong.)
I’ll give you a minute (It took me 3 seconds) “Final Jeopardy” style:
Here we go….
Such a ridiculous, insulting statement is a violation of the Leadership Competence 101 basic principle “Don’t be an obvious bullshitter!” Does anyone in the country in their right mind have “complete confidence in the TSA” now? It was just shown to be utterly, spectacularly, inexcusably incompetent at the single role that touches American most directly, after millions–billions?—spent on equipment and training, after probing, prodding, humiliating and stripping millions of travelers, many of whom couldn’t possibly be a threat, after 14 years of “perfecting” techniques and technology. The TSA could not find guns—not those other deadly weapons the signs at check points say are banned…you know, “snow globes”…and not those special plastic guns like the one crazy John Malkovich makes to shoot the President in “In the Line of Fire”—just plain old metal guns, or explosives 95% of the time! 95%!
I would think someone pulled off the street could do better than that by accident, wouldn’t you? What reason is there for the President to have “complete confidence” in, other than the opposite of what he told Josh Earnest to say? I have complete confidence that at this moment, there is no reason to trust the TSA management and its employees to do their jobs, any of it, competently, diligently and effectively, because they obviously can’t do this one. Don’t you?
This kind of thing drives me crazy, as someone who studies and teaches leadership. As a young stage director in college and community theater, I was often admonished by my producers because I did not praise a cast when they botched a scene or piece of choreography, or when a full run of a show was flawed, on the grounds that they had “done the best they can.” I would say, “Well, that was lousy, everyone. Here’s what need to be fixed.” “Why can’t you encourage them?” I was asked. “Why not say, ‘Good job, but we can do better’?” My answer, always and to this very day:
Because they didn’t do a good job. It was a rotten job. I don’t care how hard they tried. The objective isn’t to “try hard,” the objective is to perform well. They know that. They know that’s what I demand. If I say “good job” when it isn’t a good job, there are six possible results, all of them disastrous:
1. I give positive reinforcement to poor performance, thus making some think what is inexcusable is really good enough
2. They think what they did is acceptable, when it isn’t.
3. They know it was lousy, and think their leader doesn’t know the difference between good work and bad.
4. They know it was lousy, and know I know it was lousy, and now know I can’t be trusted, because I just lied to them.
5. They don’t think I have the guts to be tough when I have to.
6. It suggests that I don’t intend to fix the problem, which is terrifying to anyone who understands how bad the problem is.
As a performer, I had many directors do what my producers said I should do. I instantly lost respect for every single one of them, and permanently, as directors. Many continued to be friends, because they were kind, and loyal, and sympathetic. But being kind, and loyal, and sympathetic doesn’t make you an effective leader.
That is the answer to the quiz. It is atrocious, incompetent, foolish, careless, negligent, dangerous leadership, You get partial credit if you answered…
- It is jaw-droppingly stupid, so stupid that it would make one question the judgment of the leader who said such a thing, if there hadn’t been so many previous reasons to do so.
- It insults the intelligence of the American people.
- The President negligently or intentionally just made Josh Earnest make a fool of himself by uttering such obvious BS in front of the press and the nation. He didn’t have the guts to spew this garbage himself.
I have seldom seen any leader in any setting be so relentlessly inept, for so long, and so arrogant about it. That this lesson in leadership incompetence is being played out in the White House, and for eight years, is a tragedy.