It’s not about credit, it’s about leadership [McGehee] (see update)
We’ve been treated, these last few days, to a new round of talk about football-spiking in light of the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s long-overdue departure from this mortal coil and his consequent deliverance to unblinking justice.
President Obama has apparently decided to make the timing of said departure a campaign theme as he seeks re-election this November. His critics are arguing that he’s acting like the rooster that takes credit for the sunrise. The fact is, presidents always take more credit than they deserve for the positive results of actions like that when they happen during their tenure in office; what sets Obama apart from predecessors like George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan is the clumsy obviousness with which he’s going about it.
When a military operation went well back in the ’80s, President Reagan would go on TV and tell the American people about the brave men of their armed forces who risked their own lives to carry it out. He made a point, where possble, of making their names and faces known to the American people — the “brought to you by” was always unspoken, because Reagan knew he didn’t have to remind people that he was the Commander-in-Chief ultimately responsible for these things. The more he worked to deflect credit to the boots on the ground, the more credit was nevertheless heaped upon him by an audience impressed with his confidence and his willingness to praise the guys who made it happen.
But when things went badly, as in Beirut, Reagan didn’t deflect blame. That was when he did stand up and tell the world who the Commander-in-Chief was, and went to great lengths to make sure the boots on the ground didn’t come in for public censure. Individual soldiers whose only failure was to make the National Command Authority’s objective happen in the face of enemy fire, didn’t get hung out to dry to protect the politician who sent them into harm’s way. The purpose of finding out what went wrong was to ensure it never happened again, not to make a scapegoat out of some unlucky Marine.
Compare and contrast that to Barack Obama. To be fair, he can’t put the names and faces of a covert special forces unit on public display — still, he needn’t have made it sound, then as now, as if he were personally indispensable to every stage of the process, from the gathering of crucial intel to the firing of the fatal shots in bin Laden’s bedroom. And to suggest that he is unique in being willing to make that call is, quite simply, asinine.
Commanders-in-Chief like Reagan and Bush make it to the White House by demonstrating leadership qualities long before they get involved in electoral politics. Breeding loyalty by sharing credit and shouldering blame is one of the harder lessons of good leadership, but both demonstrated at various times in their respective tenures that they knew how to do it. Meanwhile the incumbent CINC has become a joke for his tendency to throw embarrassing associates “under the bus.”
There are reasons to believe both of the two major parties will be going into the fall campaign with a nominee whose record in this regard is more laughable than admirable.
Update: Obama officials had a game plan in case the Abbottabad mission went south. Color me shocked.