I haven’t read the book, but the hype that is preceding it is awesome. Of course, like most movie trailers, we are hearing the hype. And, apparently, the Republicans want to make this a war cry for the November elections. Instead, I see it — at least from all the press reports — as a rallying cry for the Dems to come out and support the Democrats in November and to rally around the efforts of the President.
Woodward seems to court the idea of dissention and division in the White House. Personally, I see that as a positive. To quote Lee Iacocca, “When two people agree on everything one of them is unnecessary.” The last thing we need in the White House is an administration that agrees on everything. Where would new ideas come from?
I am left to vaguely remember the Kennedy days during the Bay of Pigs episode. At the time I was too young to understand exactly what was happening, but I knew we were in danger — if not personally, as a nation. By the time I was at the university more was coming to light on what led to the stand off between the U.S. and Russia over ships heading toward Cuba — the Cuban missile crisis.
Years later when I was working in corporate America the Bay of Pigs incident was a learning tool. And, it all leads back to the Lee Iacocca quote. As a manager for a major corporation, there were plenty of people who were more than willing to agree with me — the “yes men” and the “ass kissers.” They offered nothing to the conversation. Instead, they sat quietly until I made a suggestion, then suddenly jumped on the bandwagon. It was not until I hired people who had the balls to openly disagree and question my decisions that I became a good manager. I was forced to explain my decisions, at least to myself. I had to defend my position. I was forced to look beyond my normal thought patterns.
During the Bay of Pigs, President Kennedy was surrounded by people who agreed with everything he said. No one dared speak up or disagree with any of his decisions during the crisis. So, instead of adding ideas and exploring possibilities from other perspectives, Kennedy took one look and led the way down the tunnel. We were on the brink of nuclear war. Luckily, everything worked out. But, group think can be one of the biggest handicaps any administration or management team can face. And, administrations and managers who are not willing to listen to an open debate are not willing or able to defend their decisions.
As I recall, President Obama went into the White House with full knowledge that he was teaming up with highly educated capable personnel. He knew there were opinions and ideas with which he would disagree. However, instead of looking to surround himself with ass kissers, he selected those who would challenge his thinking and his decision making.
And, for all those who are shocked that President Obama wants to get out of Afghanistan, this should come as no shock. And, for all the Republicans who are saying the President is pandering to his liberal base, they should be reminded that our President has always taken the decision to end the war as soon as possible. And, no! We should not be nation building — except here at home.
We have enough on our plate to last quite a few years. So, for those who want to continue the wars well into the future, I can only say that they remind me of some of my fundamentalist neighbors who are always telling everyone how they should live their lives while their household is falling to pieces. It is easier to tell others how to do better than it is to try to do better ourselves.
Well, let’s just thank Mr. Woodward for a book that describes what we expect from the White House. If his book follows the hype line, President Obama is living up to our expectations.