BLAME, AND WHERE IT TAKES US
By: Marvin L. Covault, Lt Gen US Army retired,
June 29, 2022
One thing President Biden is finding very difficult to do is to get through a prepared speech or an answer to a reporter’s question without blaming someone or something other than himself or his administration. I recall the Clintons doing it in the 1990s; they called it “spin” and they took it to a new level. Call it what you want, it is disgusting, distasteful, and an egregious failure of leadership. It is inevitably a failing leader’s last resort; blame, blame, blame.
He has blamed the Afghanistan debacle on, “the generals”, blamed tangled supply chains on “inflation”, blamed the overall economic nose-dive on “COVID and Putin” blamed surging lawlessness on “COVID and guns”, blamed out-of-control fuel prices on “Putin and the Ukraine invasion”, blamed gas prices on “fuel company CEOs”, Blamed increasing meat prices on “CEOs” and on and on and on.
TRUTH: Truth just doesn’t seem to matter to President Biden; he will say whatever it takes to get past the moment. “The border is not open.” The truth: Every statistic associated with illegal immigration tells us just the opposite. Biden June 2022: “We have the fastest-growing economy in the world.” The truth: More than 50 countries are growing faster. Biden: “People have record savings.” The truth: Wealth losses in the U.S. have exceeded $10 trillion so far in 2022, the most significant catastrophic vaporizations of wealth and savings in U.S. history. Biden’s spokesperson recently explained that “The economy is in a better place than it has been historically.” The truth: During the Trump presidency, before COVID-19, median household income rose by $6,446, the largest three-year gains in income for middle-class families in history. Under Biden, median income lost $5-6,000 in average wages and salaries when adjusted for inflation over the last year. Biden: “America is in a position to tackle a worldwide problem (inflation) that’s worse everywhere but here.” The truth: U.S. inflation is higher than in Japan, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, and Canada.
Why is he doing this? Here is one theory.
Politicians have a reputation for conveniently playing loose with the truth, yet they keep getting reelected. I’m no psychologist but it seems to me that if that behavior (routinely lying) is repeatedly rewarded (reelected) they just may begin to believe lying doesn’t matter; it’s not a big deal.
Our president spent his entire adult life as a professional politician. Until 2021 he had never led an organization, built anything, met a payroll, balanced an organization’s budget, been responsible for a dozen or so “senior executives” or had a staff of hundreds or thousands of subordinates.
Does congressional experience provide an individual with the building blocks to be president of the United States? Well, here is what we-the-people have been saying about that. For about 50 years Gallop has been conducting an annual poll to gather findings on a couple of pertinent questions.
The first has to do with confidence in a long list of American institutions. The 2021 poll tells us that Congress as an institution is very near the bottom of the list with 12% saying they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the U.S Congress. By contrast, the U.S. Military has consistently been at or near the top with (in 2021) military at 69%.
A similar Gallop poll deals with Honesty and Ethics: In that poll, 2021, Members of Congress were rated “high/very high” by only 9% of the public and “low/very low” by 62%. By contrast Members of the Military were rated 81% high/very high and 1% low/very low.
One obvious conclusion from these two Gallop poles is that if the members of an organization are getting an “F” in honesty and ethics, the overall organization will get an “F” in confidence from We The People.
ACCOUNTABILITY: There is another very serious issue associated with blame and lying. It is his abrogation of one of the foundational elements of leadership, accountability. He talks to us about “the buck stops with me” but his level of hypocrisy on the issue of accountability is palpable. Saying and doing are two very different actions.
This is not a “blame game”, it is much too serious to be referred to as anything as trite as a game. This is about having a leader who is lying about two of the most important issues in this country that are negatively impacting every single person every day; inflation and gas prices. There is no factual data to back up his assertions and everyone knows it. For example, in 2020 the national average gas price dropped below $2.00 per gallon. It was $2.25 when Biden took office, $3.32 one year later and a month BEFORE Putin invaded Ukraine. Today, the national average gas price is $4.90 per gallon. Americans can rightly conclude if he will look at us through his teleprompter and lie about the big issues, he will likely lie about anything else to cover his tracks.
We all know what blame means, an attempt to deflect responsibility from one’s self. Another way to look at it is to define the exact opposite of blame which is accountability
The seriousness of the absence of accountability goes further. Very high up on the line-up of desirable leader character traits are trust and respect. Without accountability, neither trust nor respect will become part of the leadership equation. We cannot trust someone who lacks the moral courage to tell us the truth about the most important issues facing America. Without trust and accountability, how are we going to respect that person as our leader? The president’s pathetic pole numbers prove this point.
If you are looking for a single word that sums up the attributes of accountability, trust and respect it would be integrity. A person of integrity will consistently display moral commitment, selflessness, and confidence to speak out and act out with honesty and honor. A mid-1900s radio personality, Edward R. Murrow summed it up accurately with this, “To be persuasive you must be believable; to be believable you must be credible; to be credible you must be truthful.” Amen.
CULTURE: Having discussed the president’s character, or lack thereof, we also must consider the larger issue; it is about the organization, i.e., the collective U.S.A.
Culture is a powerful and pervasive force in every organization and every organization, no matter how large or small, has a culture. Culture is an organization’s personality; caring, hateful, fast, honest, energetic, visionary, risk-taking, and vengeful. Culture will change over time for better or worse. Too many times senior leaders pay little or no attention to the culture of their organization until they wake up one day and figure out that it is a disaster and is dragging the entire organization down. The point is, that culture needs attention all the time. A leader does not build an organizational culture by sending out an email or memo. The leader defines what the culture currently is, decides what he/she wants it to be, and then sets in motion all the initiatives necessary to institutionalize it. It’s a lot of work; a leader must get every subordinate leader on board, make them actively participate and sell it, and talk about it openly and frequently. Everyone in the organization should be able to define the culture and its impact on the environment in which they work.
Here is the key question facing us on the subject of culture; what is happening right now, today at the leader level (the president), at the headquarters level (i.e., the entire Executive Branch), and the organization as a whole (the U.S.A)? There is no reason to rehash what the president is doing; he is consistently using blame as a leadership tool and it is a disaster.
Blame is spreading. It has become obvious that the secretaries of the departments, State, Defense, Transportation, Energy, Homeland Security, etc. have, by choice or otherwise, adopted blame as a leadership mechanism. A perfect example is Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas during a recent congressional hearing on the disaster on the southern border singing directly from the Biden sheet of music about no such thing as an “open border, we are doing everything we can to contain illegal immigration.” Or to listen to Energy Secretary Granholm explaining that energy CEOs are the problem and if we-the-people would all buy an electric vehicle our energy problems would go away.
Finally, throughout the organization, the political left picks up on the blame culture, it spreads, and it is deemed an acceptable course of action by our liberal media and liberal institutions of higher learning. We become capable of creating a next generation of leaders who believe that blame is an acceptable leadership tool.
But others in the organization see culture for what it is – corrosive behavior that eats away at the foundation of leadership and the organization. Morale suffers and pride in workmanship declines among those who realize they are supporting a lie.
With two schools of thought on a culture of blame, ultimately the nation becomes more divided. Our president, the “great unifier” is failing the American people and the foundation of the republic.
Why are great leaders great? Some people will refer to a successful leader as a, “born leader.” No such thing. First is desire. If a leader does not want to lead or is uncomfortable in the seat, they will likely fail. Secondly, is preparation. Great leaders have years of experience at the first-line leader level, the operational level, and finally at the strategic level. They are good at what they do as a result of a combination of formal leader development training, self-initiated study, having been properly mentored, and having experienced many successes and failures along the way.
I believe we can all agree that being president of the United States may be the most difficult, the most demanding leadership position in the world. A best-case scenario would be for the president to have experienced at least years if not hopefully decades of leader development at tactical through strategic levels, experienced near-term and long-range planning successes and failures, learned how and when to deal with direct-report subordinates as well as dozens, then hundreds or perhaps thousands of worker-bees at the lower levels, experienced how to deemphasize self-interests by always seeking the greater good for the organization as a whole and keeping that thought in the forefront of every action and reaction.
President Biden has none of this training and he is, therefore, failing the American people on so many fronts. His natural reaction is to turn to what 50 years of politics taught him; play loose with the truth and resort to blame, blame, and more blame.
Almost nothing damages the reputation of a leader faster than attempting to dodge an issue rather than deal with it. Blame is a dodge. Nothing positive will ever come of it.
Our lives are defined by how we deal with adversity. When failure manifests its ugly head, the last course of action should be to abandon accountability because doing so ensures there also will be no trust or respect going forward.
A thought from an unknown author, “The only thing that happens when you throw dirt is that you lose ground.” Blame doesn’t inspire, it breeds malcontent, discord, disarray, frustration, and ultimately failure for we-the-people.
All leaders are held accountable for the welfare of their people, some leaders are additionally held accountable for the welfare of the organization.