A Day to Remember Leaders and Leadership

June 11, 2018

June 6th is one of those dates when so much history was made that it causes us to pause. The anniversary of D-Day is really the anniversary of the beginning of the American Century. American-led forces were tasked with the most difficult beaches to take in Normandy and then spearheaded the breakout into France and eventually into Germany. General Eisenhower had managed for two years to keep a coalition of allies united and focused on the goal of winning the war. He put out dozens of inter-Nicene fights, and he faced constant personal and professional attacks from politicians from half a dozen countries and the not infrequent back stabbing from his own allied staff. It was an historic display of real leadership – political as well as military. He managed it through his strength of character: determination, humility that put cause before ego, tireless work and a willingness to listen and change his mind. He famously wrote a letter in the event the invasion failed taking all the blame.

Eisenhower’s character remained in evidence even after he was elected President. On the anniversary of D-Day, President Eisenhower would retreat to Camp David and refuse media interviews because he said he wanted the credit for the victory to be focused on the men who fought and died on the beaches.

June 6this also the anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. He also had a strength of character that allowed him to be an historic leader. He had the same quality of humility as Eisenhower as well. A humility that allowed him to listen to opponents and to change his views that created a remarkable ability to make a difference. His courage was another attribute that he shared with Eisenhower and other historic leaders. He chose to deliver a speech in South Africa against Apartheid, and to face a crowd with people prepared to riot and announced the death of Martin Luther King Jr. He single handedly prevented a riot, showing the power of real leadership to make a difference.

Both men spent their entire adult lives serving the country – in the military and in politics. Both men proved their leadership by uniting people for a common purpose.

They are a remarkable contrast to the current President who shamefully displayed his lack of leadership on the front lawn of the White House yesterday. A man who dodged the draft to avoid service to the Country, using a fake reason to divide Americans and hiding behind the flag. He didn’t even know the words to “God Bless America”! A man who can never admit a mistake, let alone take responsibility for his actions, Trump is in may ways the anti-leader – a man who holds power by dividing people.

How would Ike and Bobby handled the day (other than never generate a fake controversy in the first place)? My guess is that they would have had a meeting with the players, listened to the concerns they had, solicit solutions for a way forward. Leaders unite people and solve problems.


Roseanne and “Teaching Moments”

June 6, 2018

Many historians, sociologists, academics and many Americans consider slavery to be our “Original Sin”. Slavery and the legacy of slavery has certainly been a chronic problem and enduring stain on our national conscience. It has left generations of Americans with a reflexive and mostly unconscious racism. We see it every day in the form of people crossing the street to avoid a group of black teens, suspicion of a black person who seems “out of place”. We hear about in in the news when the police are called to investigate a black family barbequing in a public park, or moving into their own apartment or sleeping in a college dorm common area.

Unconscious racism is an enduring problem, we have to work at recognizing it and feel embarrassed when we do it. What we are seeing now in the Trump era is an unapologetic racism. Roseanne Barr’s Tweet was vile and overtly racist, but she is only the most recent example. Trump’s own speech is racist and unapologetic and anyone attending a Trump rally will hear dozens of comments that would make Roseanne blush.

Not all Trump supporters are racist, but apparently all Trump supporters tolerate racism, because I have yet to ever hear one criticize him for any bigoted rant or action. All racism is rooted in fear and expressed with hate. There are different levels of racism, and certainly unconscious biases while hurtful are not hateful. Overt racism is hateful – and dangerous. If we fail to speak out against the overt racism encouraged by Trump then we enable and encourage hatred. This is a truth that all Trump supporters should recognize.

SpyGate or Delusions?

June 4, 2018

The President continues to spin conspiracy theories with no evidence to support them. The latest, “greatest scandal of all time” suggested by the President is that President Obama (or Hillary, or FBI or whoever) had placed a “spy” in his campaign in an attempt to undermine his campaign. The recent briefing from every agency that may have had anything to say on the matter revealed there was no evidence of a “spy”. Many pundits believe this is an obvious effort to destroy our confidence in the justice system, and/or illegally obtain information on the evidence the Prosecutors have on him. This would be a serious assault on our Democracy, if true. I have a different theory.

I think that resident Trump is mentally ill and delusional when under stress. Consider a few of the more paranoid delusions in the long list of delusions he has voiced in the last decade:

  1. President Obama was not an American citizen.
  2. President Obama “bugged” Trump Tower.
  3. His Inaugural Speech was the most attended of any Inauguration and the clouds parted and the sun came out when he began to speak.
  4. There is a secret society in government called the “Deep State” trying to destroy his Presidency.
  5. A secret group of FBI and CIA leaders conspired to throw the election to Hillary.
  6. The FBI (under Republican leadership) conspired with Federal judges (appointed by Republican Presidents) to obtain illegal warrants against his campaign staff.

All of these delusions have been proven to be nothing more than delusions. He certainly meets every criteria for a personality disorder called “Malignant Narcissism”.  The symptoms include anti-social traits (such as refusing to pay legitimate bills), grandiosity, the need for power, a penchant for creating chaos and disorder to serve his needs, surrounding himself only with loyal sycophants, Using every occasion to self-promote, and pathological lying (believing his own lies) and an inability to admit any mistake. People who suffer from this mental illness decompensate when under a lot of pressure. One of the more pertinent symptoms of this illness is the use of projection as a defense mechanism. How often can we turn Trump’s accusations into something he actually has done (pay for play, abuse of women, etc.)?

Other Presidents have been disabled while in office. Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke, Ronald Reagan developed Dimentia… but no President has occupied the White House disabled by a mental illness or Personality Disorder, at least not this profound.

Whether Trump’s continuing delusions are a strategy to destroy our trust in the legal system and in government in general or just a natural result of his mental illness, the implications could be much more profound if we ever have a true crisis.