Before I write my long omnibus news chum (because things have been accumulating), a political thought of the day.
I’ve just had a long political discussion over on Facebook after a Conservative friend posted the meme that is going around about how Obama attacked Bush for flying over the flooding in Louisiana, and now he is staying on vacation instead of being on-site. I’m sure you’ve seen it. I, rightfully, pointed out that the Governor of Louisiana had specifically requested that the President stay away until things had calmed down, and that the President had been directing broad scale aid while on vacation. They responded that at least Donald Trump had gone on-site with a full trailor-tractor of supplies and personally handed them out (‡ – See ETA below); to which I responded that this was specifically against the Governor’s request that Trump not come on site and disrupt relief efforts. I equated Trump’s effort to Eva Peron in “Evita”, with a relief fund that just helped a few, instead of broad based relief. This drove me to investigate Hillary Clinton’s response, which was to not visit the area, but to request her supporters to make donations to relief efforts. To complete the picture, both Stein and Johnson just used the situation to criticize Obama. [ETA: Here’s a good summary of why there is no comparison.]
Two important qualities in a President are leadership and compassion, and I give all of our major candidates a C rating, and our third-party candidates a D rating. I give Obama an A-/B+ rating.
Leadership, in this situation, is getting broad effective relief to the people who need it, in a timely fashion. It is also recognizing that this is just one of many disasters in our nation; in particular, the West is being hit with a bunch of significant wildfires that are also affecting people’s lives. Leadership is setting an example, and that example is not running headfirst into a disaster area to do what you think is right against the wishes of those in charge of relief efforts. How did our candidates do:
- Trump rushed headlong into the disaster area against the wishes of officials, did not serve as a leadership example through a sizable personal donation or coordinate significant relief, did not (to my knowledge) encourage donations, and only focused on one disaster. He did handout some relief supplies. Rating: C. [‡: ETA: Then again, reports are now coming out that Trump didn’t actually donate anything.]
- Clinton did not go to the disaster area, following the recommendations of officials. She encouraged donations, but didn’t serve as a leadership example by making a donation or coordinating significant relief. She only focused on one disaster. Rating: C
- Stein and Johnson only criticized the President. Rating: D.
- Obama coordinated significant relief efforts, and did not plan to visit the area until the Governor said it was prudent. As President, he doesn’t have access to personal funds to make a personal donation. He did sign a declaration that provides significant long-term help. He hasn’t discussed the wildfires or relief there. Rating: A-/B+
Compassion, in this situation, is demonstrating you care. It is showing, in a public way, that you are concerned about their problems.
- Trump showed compassion by visiting people, although there was an offsetting lack of compassion by interfering with relief efforts and putting his potential photo-op ahead of relief.
- Clinton showed compassion by calling for donations and staying away, but she didn’t visibly do more.
- Stein and Johnson did nothing.
- Obama showed compassion through statements, but created a discompassionate image by remaining on vacation. At minimum, he could have returned to the White House to coordinate relief efforts for the day. Of course, the reality is that he could coordinate those relief efforts equally well from vacation, but in this case the image is more powerful than the reality, and the President must be aware of the image that is being conveyed.
So, we’ve seen that no one is perfect in terms of leadership. Except, perhaps, you. How are you going to be a leadership example?