United States Of Common Sense

The Moralizer in Chief

Vice Adm. William H. McRaven
Vice Adm. William H. McRaven
President Obama talked with Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, who as the Navy’s commander of the Joint Special Operations Command had operational control of the mission to get Osama bin Laden. | Photo: Aaron Stipkovich, StipkoPhoto.com | William H. Mcraven, Special Operations, Osama Bin Laden, Navy, Barack Obama,

We need leadership not sermons.

I voted for Barack Obama in 2008. After voting for George W. Bush twice I was that disgusted by the incompetence and the arrogance of the Bush administration on display in Iraq and in response to Hurricane Katrina. I was not without reservations about my choice, but I was convinced we needed real change.

Since then I've had a lot of time to think about that decision. Like a lot of Americans I've been very disappointed in this President. I don't know if that means that I would do things differently if I could do it all over now. As much respect as I have for John McCain I still can't really fathom the idea of putting Sarah Palin one heartbeat away from being in charge of the most powerful nation on earth.

What is crystal clear, however, is that Barack Obama and I had very different ideas about the office for which he was running. I believed that he was running to be President of United States, the commander-in-chief, the guy responsible day to day for making sure that the government runs efficiently wisely and correctly.

Obama apparently believed that he was running for the position of moralizer in chief. He was not going to be bothered with actually administering the government. He was simply going to be responsible for delivering long sermon-like admonitions to the country and demanding that we be better, fairer and more just.

His response to the IRS scandal has been absolutely classic. He is outraged just like all of us. Still he doesn't know anything more about how it all happened than any of us do. He is absolutely sure that somebody somewhere is going to have to be held accountable for all of this. He's just as sure that it's not him.

His commentary regarding Benghazi has been on par. He is saddened at the unnecessary loss of life. He is determined to find the perpetrators behind the attack. He even seems to agree that the security in place at the time of the attack was inadequate and that people need to be held responsible. He, however, does not personally know anything about how the security failures occurred, and he is absolutely sure that there is no way that he personally could be held responsible.

This "I know nothing" approach to governance did not begin with the current round of scandals and investigations however. It has characterized this administration from the very beginning.

Several years ago he announced that he was allowing an expansion of offshore drilling. When questioned about the danger of oil spills, he responded by delivering a lecture regarding the wonders of offshore drilling technology. Oil spills, per Obama, were largely a thing of the past.

Hardly had that announcement been made, of course, before we witnessed the Deepwater Horizon nightmare. Our President once again was outraged and promised an inquiry. In due course, the predictable results were announced. The government agencies that were charged with inspecting and monitoring offshore wells were incompetent and corrupt. Favors and gifts were accepted from the companies being inspected. In some cases, the inspections were actually done by the people running the rigs. When infractions were noted, nothing of consequence was done about it.

In the wake of the disaster federal offices were reorganized and procedures tightened up. Inspections were intensified. Still, the verdict regarding the spill itself was crystal clear. In Obama's own words, " Let me be clear. BP is responsible for the leak."

Let me be equally clear. I am not suggesting that any President has the capacity to monitor the daily actions of every piece of the vast federal bureaucracy personally. The machine is far too large and far too complex to allow that.

What a President can and must do, however, is to function as the senior executive officer for the government. That means that in addition to thinking deep thoughts and lecturing the nation on the necessity for its continued moral, political and cultural evolution, he needs to actually run the government.

He is not expected to do that directly from the Oval Office. He is expected to do that via the senior officials that he picks, and with the concurrence of the Senate, puts in place.

Management 101 says, pick good people, put them in place, provide them with clear guidance, provide them with the resources they need and then hold them accountable. You cannot, as President or as a CEO monitor the thousands or millions of people working for you. You can monitor the group of senior managers that report directly to you. You can require those senior managers to monitor those that report to them.

Barack Obama's shoes
Barack Obama's shoes

A sign of a hard-worker, a nervous pacer, or just a favorite pair. Who knows, but the President is not immune to the effects of abrasion on leather and rubber. |
You can do your job. You can run the government.

That this President does not understand that and has no intention of doing so is immediately apparent from his repeated claims of ignorance in response to scandals and controversies. A real leader, with an understanding of what that entails, would consider it an admission of failure to acknowledge that serious problems existed on his watch, were not rectified and were never brought to his attention.

This President does not. He considers it an excuse.
The Veterans Administration has a backlog of over half a million applications for financial compensation waiting to be processed. This is actually good news. The number of claims in the pipeline was significantly higher until recently. In fact, under the Obama Administration, the backlog of claims has grown fourfold. Fifty-three vets die each day while waiting for their claims to make it through the bureaucracy.

The President is, per his press secretary, "enormously concerned." He expects the situation to be fixed. He is keenly aware, we are assured, of the debt we as a nation owe our veterans.

Speaking on Memorial Day he had this to say in part, "They risk their lives, and many give their lives, for something larger than themselves or any of us: the ideals of liberty and justice that make America a beacon of hope for the world. That's been true throughout our history -- from our earliest days, when a tiny band of revolutionaries stood up to an empire, to our 9/11 generation, which continues to serve and sacrifice today."

Fine words. Still, the problem is that the crisis in the processing of claims has occurred on President Obama's watch, and he has done nothing significant to address it. For the Commander in Chief, such a failure on such a front should be unbearable. Perhaps, though, for the Moralizer in Chief, it's just not such a big deal.

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Updated Apr 22, 2017 6:01 AM EDT | More details

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