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Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

Many psychologists and pundits have commented, over the years, on Barack Obama’s aloofness, stiffness, weird sense of humor and apparent emotional disconnect from those he is supposed to be serving. In the last few days, this topic has again come to the fore, as many Americans have noted the rather strange discrepancy between Obama’s knowing, as of Friday, about the planned attack on Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, and the jolly, partying, normal (for him) way he spent the weekend — even having to be called in from the golf course on Sunday (after only nine holes!) to be present in the White House situation room to follow the unfolding events.

Frankly, though, nothing ever surprises me about Obama’s “emotional disconnect” — because way back, in the fall of 2008, I saw this:
[Click on image to see video]

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From Michael A. Walsh, at the New York Post:

Lost in the reaction to Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future” budget resolution — which seeks to reform “entitlements,” abolish ObamaCare, retire the national debt and put the country again on a sound financial footing — is the plan’s moral underpinning. Simply put, Ryan is asking Americans to grow up, stop whining and take back control of their destinies from the nanny state.

Finally, somebody has started an adult conversation in Washington.

“Our debt problem is not just a fiscal challenge involving dollars and cents,” the Wisconsin congressman said in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, as he was formulating his plan. “It’s a moral challenge involving questions of principle and purpose . . . A government that would solve problems without limit must necessarily have power without limit to do it.”

Democrats have been quick to grasp the moral — and mortal — challenge Ryan’s “roadmap” poses to their New Deal/Great Society conception of government. On cue came a circus parade of sound-bite donkeys, led by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, each braying that Ryan’s proposals are “extreme” and the cuts “draconian” and that, naturally, the GOP wants to kill the elderly, children, women and minorities.

Restructuring the tax code, fixing Medicare and Medicaid to ensure their solvency, cutting corporate welfare, jettisoning the “green jobs” bedtime story — all these reforms strike at the heart of the cozy Washington establishment protected for decades by a national media obsessed with the chimera of “bipartisanship.”

This largely imaginary concept, which posits that no differences between the political parties are too big to be papered over, has fueled much of our national discontent over the last two decades. It has resulted in one half-measure (minuscule cuts in “discretionary spending”) or half-baked notion (Bush’s No Child Left Behind act, prescription drugs for seniors) after another being forced upon the body politic. And it has put us where we are today.

Some commentators on the left have gotten the message.

“If the GOP gets behind his proposals in a serious way, it will become for the first time in modern memory an intellectually serious party — one with a coherent vision to match its rhetoric of limited government,” wrote Jacob Weisberg in Slate. “Democrats are within their rights to point out the negative effects of Ryan’s proposed cuts on future retirees, working families and the poor . . . but the ball is now in their court.”

Which brings us back to the moral issues. What, if anything, do we owe “future retirees” that those retirees ought not to have provided for themselves? What, if anything, does society owe “working families” in a functioning capitalist system? What, if anything, does society owe “the poor” that charity cannot provide and that, in any case, ought to be voluntarily offered instead of coerced?

And what does any of this have to do with a federal government of limited enumerated powers?

These things can and should be vigorously debated; they aren’t issues that were permanently settled in 1936 or 1965. If we can no longer afford a vast welfare state (and the evidence is that we can’t), then what is the “moral” response — not to real or imagined needs but to lack of means?

The answer won’t be pleasant for some. “Morality” doesn’t simply dictate that the nation’s productive taxpayers allow themselves to be bled dry in the name of some vague notion of “fairness” or, worse, “economic justice.”

Rather, morality must apply universally, not just to so-called protected classes. Indeed, the notion of “protected classes” is something that should be seen for what it is — fundamentally un-American — and dispensed with. Either we are all in this together or we really have become “two Americas” — the givers and the takers.

President Obama’s infinite budgetary horizon of trillion-dollar deficits needs to be called what it is — electoral bribery — and stopped. There’s nothing humane about a system whose unspoken purpose is to keep people dependent, resentful and impoverished.

Is Ryan’s plan perfect? Of course not. But the perfect should never be the enemy of the good, especially when the system is failing the country so signally. Ryan’s plan is groundbreaking not for its number-crunching but for changing the subject from process to principles, which is where the next election needs to be fought.

If the Republicans are to have any chance against the billion-dollar Obama campaign gearing up to crush them next year, they’d better wise up — fast.

Paul Ryan and Allen West have had very different careers — but it sure sounds to me like they’re on the same wavelength. Both of them are all about restoring limited, Constitutional government; and both of them are genuine, principled leaders who believe in being honest with the American people about the challenges we face.

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Yesterday this space was dedicated to the great Winston Churchill.

Today we dedicate this space to another great British leader, albeit merely a fictional creation:  Captain Jack Aubrey.

As I sat watching my DVD of Master and Commander the other night for the sixth or seventh time in as many years, I once again found myself, during a couple of scenes, with my eyes tightly shut, my stomach churning, all hunched up with my arms wrapped around myself, thinking,  “Now WHY am I watching this darn thing again?”

For one thing, I forget, from one year to the next, just how horrifying and nauseating the horrifying and nauseating parts really are.

On the other hand, the beautiful parts are really, really beautiful:  that awesome water; the Galapagos Islands; the jolly dinner-table scenes; the music — ah, the music!  Perhaps it shows that I’m a shallow person, but such aesthetic considerations are enough to hook me on a movie.

But the real reason I love this movie?  If you’ve seen it, you already know the answer:  It’s all about Aubrey.

The “master and commander” of the HMS Surprise — Captain “Lucky Jack” Aubrey — is one of the most memorable heroes in historical fiction. Russell Crowe brings Aubrey to life in what may be his greatest role — and Crowe has had many.  The reason even a queasy, violence-averse landlubber like me can be drawn over and over to this disturbing and bloody tale of one phase in the Napoleonic Wars is Jack Aubrey.  He is an unforgettable embodiment of true leadership — with all its complexities and moral quandaries, interpersonal challenges, relentless urgency, and heartrending no-win moments of decision.

The movie, released in 2003, remains highly popular.  I’m far from being the only one out there who’s bought the DVD and watched it multiple times.  I think that’s because we live in an age when true leadership seems rare among those in positions of leadership, those who should have it, but don’t. We crave that kind of leadership — and when we don’t see it in evidence among our real-life leaders, we look for it in literature and movies.

Jack Aubrey is the kind of leader we can respect.  He does whatever it takes for his men, his ship and his country.  His creed is the opposite of everything connoted by “political correctness.”  He sees good and evil in the world, and gives his all to the fight for the good.  He may not always make the right decision, but it’s not for lack of earnestly trying to do the right thing.  His mistakes result from errors in judgment, not slip-ups of moral character.   He is motivated by justice and loyalty, and for those things he is willing to sacrifice everything he has, up to and including life itself.

And, most important of all in a leader, he knows how to inspire his men to do the same.

One of my favorite scenes from Master and Commander begins at the 2:34 mark in this rousing medley of great pre-battle speeches from the movies:

After watching the “Do you want to see a guillotine in Piccadilly?” scene the other night, I couldn’t help but imagine a contemporary version.

Visualize, if you will, Lt. Col. Allen West rallying his “troops” (that would be us, folks):

“Do you want to see a mosque at Ground Zero?”     “NO!!!

“Do you want to call that raggedy-ass Ayatollah your master?”     “NO!!!”

“Do you want your children to chant ‘Allahu akbar!’?”     “NO!!!”

Well, then, patriots… to your battle stations!

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