If you’ve read this blog with any sort of frequency (not that I recommend it but, you know, it’s possible), you’ve noted that I have commented frequently on the leadership crisis in America. On this topic, the Wall Street Journal has, over the last week, published two opinion pieces concerning America’s leadership crisis that I think are worth reading, both by Daniel Henninger.
The first was published after last week’s huge election victories by Republican candidates for governor. Henninger says, essentially, that it would be a mistake for the Republicans to assume that this is because things are swinging their way, BUT not because things are still swinging the Democrats’ way, either. His point is that Americans sense a leadership vacuum — they sense that there is no one really leading out there, and they are hungrily looking for leadership wherever they suspect it might be. His article is here: “The Permanent Tea Party: Independent voters have become like a herd of cattle looking for political leadership.”
Here is a quote after Henninger denies the spin from both Democrats and the GOP, saying that they miss the deeper picture:
What was learned Tuesday is that the American voter is absolutely, totally, unremittingly disgusted with both political parties. More than anything, the American voter is desperate for political leadership.
That electorates in two politically significant states, led by the widening independent movement, could swing within one year from enthusiasm for electing Barack Obama to support for Virginia’s OK Republican Bob McDonnell and New Jersey’s lackluster Chris Christie is simply astonishing.
So the Republicans “won” Tuesday. Now what?
Just as the Democrats in 2008 ran mainly against “Bush,” the Republican political model seems to be to let Democratic failure dump states like New Jersey and Virginia into their control. But I think most voters, no matter their party registration, know that in the past 12 months the stakes for them have suddenly become larger than political “control.”
Unless leadership emerges equal to the new world voters see they have fallen into, volatility in America’s election returns is going to be the norm for a long time.
The stakes are, indeed, larger. But it will take more than new election cycles to change things, I’m afraid.
Then there is Henninger’s opinion piece showing up today in the online WSJ: “Why Fort Hood Really Happened: In war, uncertainty gets you killed. It just did.”
In today’s article, he points to the confusion and lack of leadership in the war on terror, discussing what he calls the “war over the war on terror” and the effects it has had on the ability of those asked to “make the call” to actually do their job and make the call.
I like his discussion of political correctness and how that is an oversimplification of the problems that happened concerning Nidal Malik Hasan, pointing out that it isn’t political correctness so much as it is the confusion that comes from lack of clear leadership. Here’s that section:
The most-heard reason for the possible failure is political correctness. No doubt. But Sen. Lieberman’s committee should avoid making this its main line of inquiry, because that is a problem without a policy fix. It minimizes the real problem.
The problem is confusion. The combatants at each end of the spectrum in the war over the war on terror know exactly what they think about surveilling suspected terrorists. But if you are an intel officer or FBI agent tasked with providing the protection, what are you supposed to make of all this bitter public argument? What you make of it is that when you get a judgment call, like Maj. Hasan, you hesitate. You blink.
Now everyone thinks the call was obvious. But it wasn’t so obvious before the tragedy. Not if for years you have watched a country and its political class in rancorous confusion about the enemy, the legal standing of the enemy, or the legal status and scope of the methods it wants to use to fight the enemy.
In war, uncertainty gets you killed. It just did.
I think that is a great point: “Now everyone thinks the call was obvious. But it wasn’t so obvious before the tragedy.”
I’ve certainly thought that way: “How could they not catch this before it happened?” Yet, to those commissioned with the task of “catching” such things before they happen, it wasn’t obvious. Because they are stupid? Don’t care? Of course not. It’s because the lack of clear, commanding leadership has made the obvious not-obvious. Leadership provides clarity. A lack of it obfuscates and confuses.
Henninger’s right: the problem is confusion. And therefore, the problem is a lack of leadership.