Friday, October 26, 2012

Definition of Leadership: Obama 2008 vs. Romney 2012

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." - John Fitzgerald Kennedy

One of my favorite channels is the History Channel. There is a documentary that they air as a series called "The President's." The opening is priceless and in my opinion the most accurate definition I've ever heard applied to the American Presidency. 


"Wanted ambitious individual for leadership position. Be prepared for difficult application process and stressful work environment. Challenges -- Many. Rewards -- Numerous. Failure -- Possible. Your employer, the American People. The few chosen have been The Presidents."

After Monday evenings US Presidential Debate between incumbent President Barack Obama and former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, I noticed a new talking point make an appearance from the Republicans - "Presidential Test." As we all know, Mitt Romney lost the third and final debate on foreign policy to President Obama. However, the Republican establishment, as always, went into spin mode and labeled Governor Romney's performance as "passing the Presidential Test" and the definition of "a true leader." They basically gave him a win. For the purposes of this election, leadership in its truest definition refers to our candidates showing up as "Presidential."

One of my favorite bloggers Lincoln Blades of This Is Your Conscience wrote an excellent post on this leadership debacle in which he expressed my thoughts perfectly - "Mitt Romney Did Not Look Presidential By Any Standard." The word that stuck out to me is "standard." If you watched the debate Monday evening or read The Janitor's recap on Tuesday then you know exactly why the word "standard" stuck out to me. If not join me after the jump.

The job of President of the United States is not like your typical run of the mill gig. In our day to day lives regardless of our career paths we are all working to gain skills, learn new things and build experience. In Job A we petition for Job B and our experience plays a big factor in the outcome. Sometimes when petitioning for a job we may be lacking some of the necessary experience, but we quickly resolve this issue by A) admitting that we are lacking the experience or particular skill set  B) expressing that we are willing to learn or make adjustments to compensate for whatever we are lacking C) if necessary, we take the time to go and do other projects and/or tasks to help us build that experience or skill set. More than likely things will turn out for the good and our petition for the next job or promotion is awarded to us. 

In 2008, then Senator Barack Obama was bashed by his democratic challengers in the Democratic Primary, and then by his Republican challenger in the General Election for lacking experience. Senator Obama understood his short comings, acknowledged them and made a series of strategic decisions to rectify the problem. Similar to this years election, foreign policy was the Achilles Heel for Senator Obama. Despite international trips and Senator Obama taking the studious route of reading and speaking to people, it still didn't make up. No problem! Senator Obama selected the Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Joe Biden. He surrounded himself by the smartest and most knowledgeable people he could find. He overcame and won the presidency. On January 21, 2009 President Obama hit the ground running. He has admittedly made some mistakes along the way, but has shown us that he was indeed who he said he was -- someone who could learn on the job and be effective. 

Fast forward to 2012 and  take a look at Governor Romney. We have not heard this candidate admit to any mistakes and his decisions and strategies are indicative of someone who believes them self to be perfect. The Achilles Heel -- foreign policy belonged to Governor Romney, but he refused to accept it. This tells me that he didn't care. He selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate to strengthen his image with conservative voters, who overwhelmingly have decided to concentrate on social issues. This is not to say that social issues are not of importance, because I strongly believe that they are. However, what if then Senator Obama had neglected foreign policy and focused on social issues. Let's say Obama selected Dennis Kucinish as his running mate, would he be President today? I highly doubt it. 


Governor Romney stood firmly  against the Obama Administration's 2014 Afghanistan withdraw date. He made it well known. However on Monday evening he sat on stage and told 60M people that he agreed with this position and plans to bring the troops home in 2014, if elected President. What if Senator Obama in 2008 had stood on stage with John McCain and told us all that he supported the Iraq war and didn't think we should go after Osama Bin Laden? Even better, what if Senator Obama stood on stage and repeated everything that John McCain said? Right. You know the answer. 

A true leader stands for something and is willing to fight for their beliefs until the end. They never waver, nor do they miraculously adopt the positions of their opposition. 

I'm not sure if this quote belongs to him or if he took it from someone else, but Cory Booker often says "I'd rather sink my ship at sea, than rot in the harbor."  I love this quote! 

President's are leaders! If Monday night was a reflection of our "standards" as a nation and the debate served as a "Presidential Test" to determine a "true leader," and Romney was the winner, then collectively we are an epic failure. 

**Side Note** Be sure to tune in on Sunday for this week's episode of "That's Wsup" - The Urban Politico Radio Hour. We are going to analyze this last debate and weight it against the prior two.  We'll have some good company -- Lincoln Blades of This Is Your Conscience is joining us to add an international perspective to our discussion.You may already be familiar with him, he had a guest post here earlier this year.  This show will be a lot of fun, so you won't want to miss.

Let discuss.....

1. What is your definition of leadership?
2. Do you find Mitt Romney's reversal of position on major issues offensive?
3. How do you think the US defines its standards for Presidential Candidates?
4. What is the most important attribute that you believe a President should have?
5. With 11 days to go, what are your overall thoughts on the 2012 election?
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