EDITOR’S NOTE: Today marks the debut of Douglas MacKinnon as a Tribune columnist. MacKinnon is a best-selling author and novelist with extensive experience in national politics. He worked as a writer for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and was director of communications for former Sen. Bob Dole. MacKinnon also served as a spokesman for the Department of Defense and participated in three winning presidential campaigns.
Just past Memorial Day and on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, I am reminded of one of the most meaningful examples of personal responsibility and accountability I have ever seen.
When I worked for former Sen. Bob Dole, several times a day I would walk past a handwritten note in a frame on the wall in his office. It was written by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme allied commander in charge of the planning and execution of the June 6, 1944, invasion code-named “Operation Overlord.”
With the Veterans Affairs scandal still growing and the ultimate sacrifice of the heroes lost in combat searching for alleged deserter Bowe Bergdahl now fresh in our minds, it seems especially appropriate to reflect on the words of a man who not only served our nation with such distinction in uniform, but who also went on to become our 34th president.
Just before D-Day and the invasion of Normandy, five-star Gen. Eisenhower sat down and drafted this ultimate note of accountability and personal responsibility. Because the invasion was a success, it was a note and words that were never delivered.
That said, with a very heavy heart and the welfare of the tens of thousands of young Americans about to go into the defining battle of World War II filling his mind, the general wrote:
“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.”
Think about that last sentence for a minute: “If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.”
Now, contrast that leadership and statesmanship with what is going on in Washington, D.C., as President Barack Obama feels the sting of the prisoner-swap he orchestrated — and then sought to exploit in the Rose Garden — between Bergdahl and the five terrorist Taliban commanders who will soon be back in the business of killing Americans. As with Benghazi, “green” energy friends getting special deals, or the IRS and VA scandals, the president and his team have morphed into stonewall and deflect-blame mode.
Can the same be said of past Republican presidents and their staff with regard to other issues and scandals? Absolutely. Failure is failure and unfortunately for the people of our nation, true leadership and accountability are going the way of the dinosaur.
That said, today, Obama and his team are in place. While their instinct still seems to be to blame George W. Bush for every failing attached to them, more and more Americans have grown tired of that act and are deeply concerned about the lack of leadership and accountability coming out of the Obama White House.
We have ever-escalating problems in the United States — millions of Americans out of the workforce, the raging “Obamacare” debate, the multiplying bankruptcies in our cities, counties and states, border issues, gang violence and the continual failures in education. Combine that with the issues of Russia and Ukraine, China’s growing and unchecked power, the Middle East and the threats faced by Israel, jihadists asserting more totalitarian control in Africa, and the destabilization of the European Union to name but a few, and Obama seems increasingly out of touch. Inexplicably, given the high demands of his office, he appears to be more comfortable and more inclined to speak out on openly gay football player Michael Sam, the Donald Sterling “crisis” in the NBA, transgender issues, Beyonce, the “Redskins” logo of the Washington, D.C., NFL team, or his “March Madness” basketball picks.
Given this mind-set of the president, it’s not surprising that more and more politicians from his own party are calling him and his team “flat-footed, detached and incompetent.”
Again, while all presidents and all political parties can be rightfully criticized for failures in leadership, until January 2017, Obama is our president and until that time, he and his Cabinet and staff do set much of our policy and do represent our nation to the world.
With that reality in mind, as some of us pause to remember the 70th anniversary of D-Day, it might make sense for the president and his team — as well as all of our elected officials — to read those powerful words of Gen. Eisenhower and ask themselves if they are being as accountable as needed given their sacred responsibility to the people they have sworn to serve.