Ready, Shoot, Aim!

The challenge with politicizing everything is that you’d better have your bases covered; essentially connecting politics with policy in, at least, a vaguely consistent fashion.

As the President ‘spiked the ball’ on bin Laden the storyline of his courageous decision began to wither. Gen. Jack Keane reports that his sources say we knew the bin Laden location in May of 2010. Reports have Valerie Jarrett building wall after wall in the attempt to insure that the action against bin Laden would not occur. Some of these reports were seen not long after the completion of the raid and although anonymous at the time, turned out to be true. ( Leon Panetta sent Lawyer Team Six to create documents giving the President ‘political cover’ in the event the raid went wrong and as a way to expedite a White House decision. Leaks have Secretaries Clinton and Panetta vehemently arguing for going after bin Laden as Valerie Jarrett fought to hold them off. Director Petraeus threatened to take bin Laden out of his own volition with a bombing attack. Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey suggests that more information will come “tumbling out about that escapade”.

The essential problem for the President is a question of leadership, and the perceptions that associate themselves with leadership issues. To say your opponent would not have made the ‘courageous decision’ you made, when it seems as if you yourself had an exceptionally difficult time making the decision, based on the advice of someone who, shall we say, is not renown for foreign policy expertise, could be problematic. To require a politically expedient cover to allow you to blame the very people that you count on to execute the raid is a classic example of weak leadership. Heck, even Jimmy Carter did not insist on that manner of ‘cover”! Think about it.

To accomplish leadership skills is generally a function of having had examples good and bad, the making of mistakes and a serious engagement of what leadership dynamics are about. The President’s experience in these areas is, and always has been, in question. This situation answers the question yet again.

Effective leaders don’t blame, they assign accountability, including to themselves. Leaders step up when a failure occurs in their realm of responsibility. Leaders seek out opportunities to turn the spotlight on others. They avoid the word ‘I’ whenever possible. They look to engage talent and unleash potential.

First and foremost, however, great leaders understand that leadership is a moral exercise grown out of communicable values. Leaders credit those they lead with the ability to judge motivations as well as actions. Great people want to work for great people. Leaders generate trust and commitment by doing, not just saying. They understand that no one gets it done in a vacuum and do not attempt to do so. They know that if an action requires a cover up, it’s time to have a second thought. Ultimately your leadership style grows out of who you are at your moral core; good or bad.

The President simply does not stand up to these principals. Blame is omnipresent, twisted logic prevails, what he’s said versus what he’s done is, at best, a 50/50 proposition.

Most critical is the question of leadership as a function of moral grounding. To assiduously protect yourself from the people you depend on (in this case, the military, in the person of General McRaven) is heinous. The President needs ‘cover’, a potential scapegoat, someone to sacrifice so that he can escape blame if the operation goes bad. If the operation goes bad lives are lost, that should have been the primary concern; it clearly was not!

Compare the President with Director Petraeus who was, according to reporting, willing to go it alone to get bin Laden. Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that Petraeus would have stood up to the consequences of his actions? We now know the President had no intention of standing up to the consequences of his actions, he needed cover in advance. He is, however, prepared not only to accept the adulation for his ‘gutsy decision’, but to bestow it upon himself.