The Campaign Spot

Goodell and Barra: Students of the Obama Era of American Leadership

From the Monday Morning Jolt:

Goodell & Barra: Students of the Obama Era of American Leadership

Does our president just reflect a broad cultural trend in the behavior of leaders, or does he set the tone from the top?

Consider some recent examples of leaders of large organizations with important responsibilities, once they find themselves in the public eye:

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told CBS This Morning he never saw the second tape of Rice striking his wife before Monday. He said, “when we make a decision we want to have all the information that’s available. When we met with Ray Rice and his representatives it was ambiguous about what actually happened.” Friday afternoon, he announced the league would be making a new effort in dealing with unacceptable player conduct . . . by forming a special committee.

Then there’s General Motors CEO Mary Barra, whose company has recalled 2.6 million cars with defective ignition switches. The faulty parts have been linked to at least 13 deaths and 54 accidents since 2009 and have led to numerous lawsuits. She said, “I don’t really think there was a cover up. I think what we had, and it was covered in the report, there were silos of information, so people had bits and pieces and didn’t come forward with the information or didn’t act with a sense of urgency, and it simply was unacceptable.”

Did anyone at NBC News ever answer for the decision to hire Chelsea Clinton for $600,000 a year for three years?

Freedom Industries, that company that spilled ten thousand gallons of chemicals into the Elk River, forcing 300,000 residents to stop drinking, cooking, washing or bathing in their tap water, will face a ton of lawsuits. Their management and leadership has been hard to identify, much less hold accountable; apparently no one with the company feels the need to stand before the public and face the consequences of their actions and inaction. (Notice this is a story tailor-made for even the left-leaning MSM — evil corporation pollutes water of innocent people — and yet there’s been little coverage outside of West Virginia.)

These are all private-sector scandals, of course. Every administration and every era has its scandals. What our current moment seems to feature is a bumper crop of (alleged) leaders insisting they can wait out the storm, often displaying a glimpse of indignation at suggestions that they resign because something terrible happened on their watch. Somehow tapes of criminal behavior never reach the folks at the top, nor reports of a defect in ignition switches.

Everybody’s got rogue low-level staffers in Cincinnati, it seems.

You get that joke because you’re a well-read audience, but also because we’ve seen leaders point the finger below them so many times. The moves of the unaccountable leader, caught with a mess on his watch, are so predictable now: This is the first I’m hearing of it. I learned about it from media reports. I’m as outraged as anyone. We’re going to get to the bottom of this. I’m promising a comprehensive review. It will report to me, and I will let you know about the results of that review, several news cycles from now. Subtext: Hopefully in a few weeks you’ll have forgotten about it.

No, Obama didn’t invent this “leadership” dynamic, but you can argue America’s frustration with it in the previous administration helped drive the president there: The wrong intelligence about Iraq. “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” The Abramoff scandal. The Wall Street meltdown, jeopardizing the entire economy, with the lingering sense that few of those who made the decision to invest heavily in the “toxic assets” ever paid the price for bad judgment.

The country feels deeply betrayed by its governing and economic elites. Enter Obama. He’s elected. In his inaugural, he declares, “In the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. . . . Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those that prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.”

And you know what we got. Stimulus waste; State Department employees on paid leave over Benghazi; “At this point, what difference does it make?”; the VA, where the secretary belatedly discovered an “unacceptable lack of integrity within some of our veterans health facilities,” Obamacare, where Kathleen Sebelius let the president go out and say things about the website she knew weren’t true, and still kept her job for several months. The NSA.

Now here’s the new IRS commissioner, allegedly in place to clean up the mess of the last one:

Under his management, the agency has ignored and strung out congressional demands for documents and witnesses. Mr. Koskinen waited months to tell Congress the IRS had “lost” the emails of Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center the probe, and arguably only did so because an outside lawsuit revealed that the email record was incomplete. He testified that there were no backup tapes with Lerner emails, but we have since learned there are 760 server drives that may contain copies.

The message has been sent, far and wide: Accountability is for suckers.



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