The qualities of leadership are part subjective and part objective, with a smattering of both quantitative and qualitative measures thrown in. An ideal leader is a unique mix, with the definition of "ideal" itself subject to the area in which it is applied. The ideal leader of a jungle expedition may not be the best person to lead a military charge, while the leader of a tactical strike group may not be the ideal business leader. Sometimes leaders must adapt to challenging and rapidly changing circumstances. Ideally, a leader would have the wisdom to select advisors to augment the level of problem-solving skills on-hand.
The Presidency of the United States is a prime example of this.
When troubled times plague a nation, it is incumbent upon the President to project confidence and gain the trust of the nation. Anything short of this is nothing more than a massive failure to perform.
Welcome to the world of George W. Bush and company.
Presidents George: Washington vs. G.W.B.
The Bush-Cheney Presidency is the most toxic administration in the history of our nation. The culmination of a spin-spawned, propaganda-ridden marketing effort to achieve the much-vaunted "Permanent Republican Majority" clouded the judgement of folks like Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich and Bill Frist to the extreme detriment of our nation, our allies and the world. The Republican Party has become a perfect example of the worst danger to our Constitution and democracy -- a danger which our first President, George Washington, warned us about in his farewell address.
Under the Bush-Cheney regime, and with the full and complicit participation of their first-term Republican Majority in Congress, our nation underwent critical changes that impacted our domestic and foreign policies, our readiness and capability to effective address disasters, and a substantial overhauling -- perhaps better termed as "keelhauling" -- of our military. Under their inauspicious guidance, military spending and authority increased dramatically, while civil liberties suffered; while military contracts and the use of both military and civilian contractors grew, readiness and preparedness of our forces shrunk considerably. All the while, our founding freedoms, our civil rights, our liberties and the basic tenets in which our nation was conceived were all critically injured.
In Washington's farewell address, he cautioned us against allowing this to happen:
...avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.
The first President, our first "George" who was not a king, had much to say upon his departure from office. It is within the words of our first president that we find, in truth, a fair warning about the very maladies that have come to affect, infect and infest our nation through the politics of the Republican party and the Administration of George W. Bush. Essentially, the words above echo those of Benjamin Franklin -- also a true Patriot and friend of the nation -- when he said "Those who would sacrifice essential liberty for security deserve neither." It was not simply a marketing ploy or a useful bit of jingoism -- those words and the thoughts behind them were based in truth, and tempered by the fires of war that led to and forged the greatest underpinnings of our nation.
Washington's farewell address contained many other insights that he sought to impart upon our nation, hoping to guide us through the foreseeable machinations of people who would sacrifice the greater good for the purpose of putting their own parties, and their own beliefs, above those that stood for the benefit of the nation as a whole. The whole document is noteworthy, but select items that illustrate the degree of foresight possessed by our first President and Commander in Chief follow.
On the duties of all to follow the law, and subscribe to the Constitution, he said:
The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.
All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.
The politics of obstruction, obfuscation and denial that emanate with such force and regularity from the Bush Administration and their apologists are precisely the type of politics that Washington warned us about, but how many people are even aware that our first President ever spoke those words?
If you search the State Department site for George Washington's Farewell Address, you won't find the highlighted paragraph. It is conveniently missing from the text provided. Did this change occur as part of the Republican push to establish a permanent majority? Could their conscience have been bothering them, and they felt it best to eliminate anything that conveniently called their machinations out on the carpet -- esp. by our very first President? Regardless of whether this was a result of artful deception or simply rank incompetence, it is an unfortunately apt example of the absent integrity that is a hallmark of the past ten years of Republican rule.
The very braggadacio of the party members who sought to achieve single-party dominance is, itself, a very telling sign of how far they have departed from the just and true purpose of our Government. Washington's words pertaining to party alliance are particularly damning here:
I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.
It doesn't sound like George Washington would much appreciate the profound emphasis upon party affiliation that serves as a trademark of the Republican Party of the George W. Bush Administration. The implementation of and reliance upon loyalty oaths, which this Administration and their partisan "patriots" have taken to with great gusto, would have sickened him.
Washington understood the nature of such zealousness; nevertheless, he warned against it, strongly:
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
"Truly their worst enemy."
The effects of placing party loyalty above the good of the nation is so dangerous, Washington effectively labeled it as "the worst enemy" of the nation. A practice which the Republican Party of today -- particularly their leadership throughout the GOP and RNC -- practice with impunity.
What of the separation of Church and State, or the potential for religious obligation to lead people to bypass or ignore their sworn oaths of government?
Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ?
Looks like that's another caution against electing a neoconservative "bastion of morality" in lieu of protecting true freedom and democracy in this republic. But what of the cries that religion is intrinsic and integral to the maintenance of morality in government? Ah...
And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?
Ah, wait -- then, does this mean that George Washington promoted religious principles as a guide? Not directly; through enlightenment. In my reading of the following, Washington sets the stage for an educated and enlightened public:
Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.
That sounds like a call for a true system of education, and not a structured system almost designed to cripple the enlightenment of the populace and prefaced with a promising name like "No Child Left Behind" -- the very arrogance of the naming convention would likely instill yet another set of conniptions upon our first leader.
How would George Bush's financial management of the nation be viewed with regard to George Washington's advice?
As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it
Poor GWB would not have enjoyed a sit-down with George Washington. Quite the contrary, in fact -- I think Washington would have demanded a resignation from him on the spot.
As for the other interesting methods of financial management that our current George employs, Washington had this to say:
avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned
Mmm...spending down the national debt in times of peace? What a concept. But, what about just foisting the bill off upon the unborn generations?
not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.
Ah ha. Well, that answers that question.
Who's responsibility is it to ensure adherence to these maxims?
The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should co-operate.
And that, therefore, brings it all back to "We the People" once again. Our representatives in Congress have the duty to perform the task of just oversight, but it is our duty to ensure that both they and we remain aware of the state of our nation.
How does that play upon the grand scheme of taxes and tax breaks?
To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.
Mmmm...seems like taxes are a duty of all, and not simply 98% of the folks who don't hold the majority of the money.
How, then, would Washington have viewed the wanton and wayward spending of political capital -- the carefully cultured and tended reputation and national integrity associated with the government, the leaders and the people?
Not very happily, I fear:
Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?
What I find in the words of Washington is a telling caution against the rise and political inbreeding currently engendered within the core of the Republican juggernaut.
But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.
You tried to warn us, George. We now find ourselves beset upon by the very dangers you foretold, all embodied in one diseased, rotting, decrepit and incumbent elephantine corpse that has run rampant through the halls of Congress and Justice, and currently sits enthroned upon a faux pedastal of self-importance as a "Unitary Executive" and "Commander-in-Chief" in a big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Take heart, however, in that we have now recognized the enemy, and -- to quote Walt Kelly -- "...it is us." We are now stepping up and speaking out; our representatives will listen and adhere, or be gone in the next election cycle. The trimmings and trappings of Republican hypocrisy will take a while to scrape from our walls and hallowed halls, but it is our responsibility to see that things are set aright once more. Rest easy, Mr. President. We will not let you down again.
The spit-polished façade that the Republican Party carefully cultivated, aided and abetted by the Radical Fundamentalists of America's "taliban," has finally lost its luster in the eyes of the obedient sheep who blindly supported it. As the pieces flake away we are faced with the grim visage of a nation caught in the last throes of absolute corruption. There is no chance now of a Republican victory in 2008. I state that unequivocally, barring the rise of a heretofore-unknown star completely unattached to the existing infrastructure of prurient power mongering, waste and greed that is the hallmark of the Republican Party today. They have lost the Presidency for the foreseeable future, and -- quite likely -- any chance of regaining even a marginal control of Congress.
The above is not a statement made lightly. It is a statement made in the hopes that We the People will take this opportunity to forge anew the bonds of common interest and strengthen the foundations of liberty and justice upon which this nation stands. It is now that We must take to heart the words "One Nation, Indivisible" and take the steps that ensure our walk toward "Liberty and Justice for All" is vouchsafed by our actions, our words and our deeds.
A Couple of Questions and an Observation for George Bush and the GOP
On Tuesday, 10 April 2007, President George W. Bush spoke at the American Legion Post 177 in Fairfax, Virginia. His words included the following:
"The bottom line is this: Congress's failure to fund our troops will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines. Others could see their loved ones headed back to war sooner than anticipated. This is unacceptable. It's unacceptable to me, it's unacceptable to our veterans, it's unacceptable to our military families, and it's unacceptable to many in this country."
Making military families wait longer for their loved ones, or sending their loved ones back sooner than anticipated: Unacceptable? Certainly.
But, George -- what about all the previous times you have, through the Pentagon and the Stop-Loss program, held over servicemen and women? Weren't our military families waiting longer then, George?
What about all the times you, through the Pentagon and your lock-step synchronized puppet commanders, redeployed the troops -- including the wounded -- before their proper periods of rest stateside had elapsed? Weren't our military families distressed then?
How about the equipment, George? Aren't the military families upset about the lack of proper equipment, or the obvious contradictions over body armor policy, or the state of the military hospitals and services that have been under funded and gutted during your tenure? ...how 'bout then? Weren't our military families upset then?
Was that acceptable to them, and to you, George? Was it then?
Why now, George? What's so special about this supplemental, emergency funding bill? Is it the built-in accountability that offends you? Or perhaps the funding that was left over from your rubberstamp-Republican majority Congress, the work that they purposely didn't get finished in their "Do-Nothing" tenure -- you know, like funding for the Katrina recovery?
The issue at hand isn't one of "partisan politics." It's not an issue of "Executive Privilege" or the power of the "Unitary Executive." It's "Gross Contempt of a Nation," and it is my sad duty to inform you and your staff, Mr. President, that you have the privilege of executing it flawlessly and with the complicit approval of your fellow Republican sycophants in Congress.
This is the opening volley against the wholly corrupt and inexcusable continuance of the Bush Administration's tenure in office, and against those who still toe the line and support this affront to our nation; know, in your continued adherence to this abomination of government and principle, that you betray and deny the sacrifices of our soldiers -- all of them. Not simply the ones currently engaged in Iraq, but all the soldiers of every conflict that has come before. Every man and woman who fights for or fought for this nation, to preserve liberty and justice, to protect and defend the helpless, is spurned by the puny cowardice, avarice and deception that this Administration and their minions are heaping upon the nation. To continue to support the Bush Administration and the Republican leadership is, in fact, the most insidious betrayal of all.
Special thanks for the inspiration to Jim P, who wrote the DailyKos diary Daily Kos: George Washington said this about Bush. That was where and when I realized that the Department of State's copy of Washington's farewell address was missing some key words...
Originally posted to ePluribus Media.