I don’t know whether I’ve ever shared this belief with you before but I believe that for most people their virtues are their faults, viewed from a different vantage point. George W. Bush has many faults. Many, many faults. Many, many, many faults. Many you get what I mean. However, he is loyal to his staff, well, to a fault. In fact that is one of his faults. He tends to back his staff and express confidence in them whether they deserve it or not.
Let me be the first to predict that this isn’t one of the problems we can expect from an Obama presidency:
We started covering Sen. Barack Obama’s inability to hire good staffers in June 2007, when he blamed staffers for some opposition research trying to link Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, to outsourcing in India; for injecting some venom in the David Geffen/Hillary Clinton fight; and for missing an event with firefighters in New Hampshire.
In December, we noted again that Obama was blaming the answers on a 1996 questionnaire on a staffer; and was blaming his touring with “cured” ex-gay gospel singer Donnie McClurkin (which antagonized gays and lesbians) on bad vetting by his staff.
Those five buck-passing incidents were apparently not enough.
So, for those keeping track at home, that’s ten instances of Obama publicly blaming his staff for various screw-ups.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10!
(You of course could also add Austan Goolsbee, Samantha Power, Gordon Fischer, and retired Gen. Tony McPeak.)
That would be 14. We will continue to keep track.
And let me offer a little good advice on subordinates courtesy of Nicolo Macchiavelli:
I do not wish to leave out an important branch of this subject, for it is a danger from which princes are with difficulty preserved, unless they are very careful and discriminating. It is that of flatterers, of whom courts are full, because men are so self-complacent in their own affairs, and in a way so deceived in them, that they are preserved with difficulty from this pest, and if they wish to defend themselves they run the danger of falling into contempt. Because there is no other way of guarding oneself from flatterers except letting men understand that to tell you the truth does not offend you; but when every one may tell you the truth, respect for you abates.
Therefore a wise prince ought to hold a third course by choosing the wise men in his state, and giving to them only the liberty of speaking the truth to him, and then only of those things of which he inquires, and of none others; but he ought to question them upon everything, and listen to their opinions, and afterwards form his own conclusions. With these councillors, separately and collectively, he ought to carry himself in such a way that each of them should know that, the more freely he shall speak, the more he shall be preferred; outside of these, he should listen to no one, pursue the thing resolved on, and be steadfast in his resolutions. He who does otherwise is either overthrown by flatterers, or is so often changed by varying opinions that he falls into contempt.
You can identify a strong leader because he or she will have strong, forthright yet circumspect subordinates.