Leadership: Preliminary report cards

It’s sometimes said (by me, anyway) that you never know how you’ll react to a crisis until you’re in one.

We’re past the initial shock now, and perhaps it’s time to assess how our leaders have performed so far. Who has risen to the occasion and who has not? Who has shown empathy for the victims, compassion and solidarity for the rest of the people, and been a uniting force? Who has laid out a vision of what needs to be done next, and gotten us to agree? Who among our political leaders has failed?

Here’s one man’s preliminary list. Anyone I haven’t mentioned is due to lack of information on my part. Feel free.

Rudolph Giuliani: A+. The mayor of NYC for a few more months, he was going to be remembered for an administration of police thuggery (the Louima and Diallo cases most notoriously), moral priggishness in public and hypocrisy in private (moving his mistress into the official mansion before his divorce came through), and Disneyizing Times Square. But instead, he’ll be remembered for being there in the middle of it, ash in his hair, saying the right things and taking the right steps, showing his command of all the details of the city’s administration. I never found anything to like about him before, but it’s all forgiven and forgotten now. Rudy, you rawk.

Bill Clinton: A-. See the thread about him, with the admiring comments from people accustomed to hating him. He has been doing what he always has, with an uncommon touch for empathizing with people of all walks of life. I’m marking him down slightly for not having pursued bin Laden more forcefully during his administration - the cruise missiles were a good idea, but he may have been too sensitive to the “wagging the dog” accusations from people fascinated by blowjobs to have done more.

Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth: A+. From a nation with too much knowledge of terrorism at home, all the right things were said and done. Apparently the Coldstream Guards playing of the Star Spangled Banner was the Queen’s idea - the TV coverage did me in. Never again let the British tabloid press say “Show Us You Care”, the way they did after Diana’s death.

Jane Swift: B+. The acting Governor of Massachusetts, dismissed as ineffectual and arrogant through last week (though her baby twins are cute), was on top of the situation last week, and said and did all the right things regarding security at Logan Airport. In a state whose politics are defined by endless power struggles to the detriment of its people, she may have simply used Massport’s shot credibility as an opening to put one over on a nearly-autonomous agency she’s had quarrels with, but the results count. Jane, you’ve surprised me. Well done.

Jean Chretien: D. All we’ve heard from the Canadian government, beyond pro forma sympathy statements, is quotes from lower officials about how there’s “no proof” the hijackers entered from Canada. See the other Canada thread for background info. This is not an F only because there may be things going on we don’t know about, but there has been no sign down here that Chretien even recognizes a problem. Canadian perspectives may be different. (And I used to like the guy).

George W. Bush: Incomplete. This is charitable, and given only because appropriate retaliation has not yet happened. The trend is toward an F. The few things he’s said have been either scripted or banal and awkward, with that goddamned smirk still showing up on occasion (see that prayer service?). His handlers have kept him from having even 1 prime-time news conference in his administration, when his predecessors used to do it about monthly. All you need to know is that the people we’re looking toward to take the necessary action are Powell and Cheney and Rumsfeld, advised by Bush Sr.

Anyone else care to add to the list, or rebut these grades?

I’d like to recommend a “C” for Millard Filmore. He hasn’t said or done anything wrong, he hasn’t smirked, and I believe he has a far greater cranial capacity than George Jr.

CNN interrupts its coverage of America Under Attack to bring you this shocking new development:

At the Straight Dope Message Board, ElvisL1ves rates George W. Bush’s handling of this crisis as “trending toward an F.”

None of us saw this coming. We’re speechless.


I was surprised at how bi-partisan the response had been so far.
I just hope Elvis’s response isn’t indicitive of our elected leaders. I would think that we could bury our differences for more than a couple days.

I think that kind of partisan political harping is in extremely poor taste, just now, and doesn’t really warrant a response.

I’ve said before, and apparently will have to continue saying, that we don’t know what George Bush has been doing. There is really no precedent for what a President should do in this circumstance. We can assume that between getting a $40 billion emergency spending bill through Congress, visiting New York, attending church, spending countless hours in intelligence briefings, considering options for military action, avoiding the very real possibility of an assassination attempt, visiting the Pentagon, addressing the nation, and trying to figure out exactly what mood to set for the American people, the guy could be excused for not spending enough time worrying about his own PR.

I’d like to see a little more done to condemn hatred towards Arabs in general, as well as the Mulsim faith. Other than that, I can’t really find anything to fault the guy on.

As for Canada, they did let the US divert a whole shitload of aircraft there, and perhaps the reason that we haven’t heard much from them is because the media here don’t really care about what Canada says.

waterj2, I did grade Bush an “Incomplete”, and the final grade won’t come in for a while. I was grading his performance as a leader on what he has done - and leadership is more than reading a few scripts and scheduling a few photo ops, and sitting in on a bunch of meetings. The criteria I’m applying for leadership are emotional ones: Has this person been a uniting, inspiring force? Has this person understood in a greater sense what role s/he has had to play?

freedom, Milossarian, and panzerman, you’ll note that I’ve given Republicans a 2-1 favorable score, same as Democrats/Liberals/Labourites. What’s your beef?

Now, does anyone have some thoughtful assessments of their own to add?

Bill Clinton gets no gad because he’s not in the game. He has no power and no role.

Elvis post reminds me of the New York Times today, which critiqued Bush’s appearance in NYC as if the reporter were a theatre critic.

One reason Guiliani did a good job is that things worked. The people and equipment and arrangements for going through the wreckage were effectively organized.

I agree that it’s too soon to grade Bush. We can’t grade Bush and we do it and it works or it doesn’t. This could be years.

We now know that Clinton totally failed his terrorism crisis, although we wouldn’t have know it last week. But, Clinton has nothing to do with this crisis. It’s Bush’s to succeed or to fail.

december: a slight disagreement, here. Bill Clinton, a former president, does have a role, and a very difficult one. As a leader (even if he is no longer pres.), he can be a very important and inspirational symbol, behind which people can rally and find comfort.

At the same time, and especially as a former president, he absolutely cannot be seen to be usurping executive prerogatives, or of criticizing the current administration.

So far, Bill Clinton gets a very good grade for accomplishing that.

To the OP: it’s a matter of leadership or management style. Many are finding our President’s style comforting, as he has no blatantly jingoistic messages. Calmly focused, matter-of-fact. Anything else may precipitate the more irrational members of American society into widespread injudicious action against religious and ethnic groups identified with the terrorists.

And the partisan BS is inapproriate right now. If certain jackasses, be they affiliated with either the left or right, seek to decend to that level, why should you lower yourself to that level just to keep up with them?

Clinton chose not to strike at Bin Laden in December of 2000–when we had a fix on the elusive one–after Bin Laden was named the number one most wanted criminal. This failure to act should be juxtaposed against his willingness to strike at Iraq during impeachment. Clinton was (is) one of the most charismatic sociopaths I have ever seen, not a justification for an “A” grade however. You are “slightly down” on him for doing practically nothing as President, when he was the ONLY one who could act. This ensured that Bush would inherit the mess Clinton refused to deal with. To show “empathy” now is hollow. If he was a Japanese general Clinton would have stabbed himself in the stomach.

Your tired DNC “BJ” arguments show your true colors. Clinton could have taken the Fifth. He chose to lie (poorly for once) in front of a grand jury.

Presidents–the supreme military decision makers–have important duties, that when shirked can cost thousands of lives. Bush has yet to act and you have him pegged for an “F” already, based on a smirk and awkward banality–or something. Clinton failed to act and he gets an “A” for empathy. Now tell us how Bush stole the election, or how he “talked down” the economy.

I dislike both major political parties precisely for their propensity (and yours) to raise superficial arguments like these.

If you aren’t paying attention, don’t hand out a grade. And you’re not paying attention.

I would give Bush a much higher grade just for refraining from going off half-cocked. The pressure to do “something” must be great and growing, but it looks like are government is doing a deliberate build-up and waiting for proof before doing anything.

I would also give both houses of Congress an A+

I can’t believe I did that. are = our

(trying to avoid looking like an idiot)

Has it occured to anyone that Clinton was extremely limited in what he could do? Launching cruise missiles was pushing it, going any farther would have been bad. The public at home wouldn’t have supported an invasion of another country to reach the terrorists, and world opinion wouldn’t be with us to do so anyway. Patriotism is at a high that hasn’t been seen for decades, and this is probably the first time in the history of the world that 99% of all governments have spoken out as one: We condemn this. Bush is in a position to take out the terrorists now because of these factors. Clinton had none of them.

Sure, he could have taken out bin Laden, but those that condemn Clinton now for not doing so would have been the first in line to criticize him for doing so then. Recent events could not be predicted. A week ago, if someone had posted a thread saying “Should we have taken out bin Laden no matter the cost,” the response would have been an overwhelming “no.” Now… it isn’t.

-Psi Cop

Clinton Declares War On Osama Bin Laden
August 24, 1998

Bush’s Faustian Deal With The Taliban
May 22, 2001

Your tired RNC “grand jury” arguments show your true colors. Read up a bit on how Ken Starr stretched any reasonable definition of “lie.” For example, one of Starr’s examples of Clinton’s “perjury” was when Clinton answered a question by saying “you already know the answer to that” rather than yes or no. And of course there was the horrible “lie” about whether the relationship with ML started in late December or early January- shameful.

Now as to W.:
From here: http://www.cnn.com/2001/US/09/13/bush.terrorism/

I just got done watching this performance on the BBC and it’s very interesting how CNN edited this, dropping a few words in order to make Junior sound a bit less boobish. Try listening to it on the BBC:
First off, the unbelievable callousness of the POTUS: referring to NYC under these circumstances as “your part of the world” is apalling. I suppose that that is just a salesman’s banter, but it is hideously inappropriate for a “leader.” Just compare this to “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” (and I don’t even like JFK all that much). I know that NYC didn’t vote for Bush, and Guiliani supported McCain, but come on- “your part of the world” is unacceptable. And then there is the incoherent, redacted-by-CNN “really is real-” I shouldn’t criticise incoherence in a spontaneous emotional outpouring, but this whole thing looked very laboriously staged to me and when I compare it to Tony Blair’s clarity and focus in his statements- well compare is the wrong term, it stands in definite contrast.

I’m sure the Cheney administration is aware that the typical day for an Afghani is spent wandering around the barren hillsides of the country gathering cow shit to heat his home with, and most of those people probably aren’t even aware of what’s going on outside of the valley they live in.

Before draft dodging duhbya declares war and drafts my sons to go kill nomads in the Afghani wastelands so we Americans can beat our chests and grunt like savages, I’d like to know the who what when where and why’s of Tuesday.

I think it’s unamerican not to critique the president when he’s being an idiot. He’s pretty much told the arab world that if we think a terrorist lives in their patch of sand, we’re gonna vaporize them. Somebody please tell him that’s not the way to make friends in the middle east.

I’m all for a slow painful death for those responsible for Tuesday, and I’m flying my flag with pride, but duhbya needs to go back to kindergarten. In a situation like this, it would be better to have a leader who knows how to get things done while keeping the calm, a leader who actually won the election.

Very well put, E72521. I strongly agree that a massive “show of strength” will be meaningless, at best, and most likely very harmful to U.S. relations with the middle east. I believe that good citizenship includes the on-going critical assessment of government actions and policies. The government is, after all, supposed to be representing the people.

Let’s let Dubya off the hook about saying the right or wrong things, unless they’re wrong in substance, rather than merely conveying the wrong mood or impression, OK?

He and his speechwriters may have a tin ear. I’m not particularly concerned with that - as long as his Administration does the right things, America’s morale will need no special tending or stoking. And so far, I’ve got to say that he and his experienced crew are doing just fine, thanks.

Dammit, I hate this crisis. It’s got me saying good things about Dubya. :eek:

And Rudy - yeah, he’s been a mensch throughout all this.

This post brought to you by the Pod People.

I cannot possibly top waterj on this; well said.

Elvis, giving Canada a bad grade? Give… me… a… break.

A President’s grade is always incomplete as long as he is president. I think that “leaning towards an F” would only occurr around impeachment time, if even then. I would only give a president an F for being impeached or resigning, maybe. Quite simply, the Prez has a lot of shit to do besides coddle you and make you feel all warmand fuzzy.

Take your partisan soapbox and -----