A Leader Like Harry

My regular readers know the respect I have for Harry Truman. This blog takes its name from a famous incident during the 1948 campaign’s whistle stop tour. Were he still alive Truman would be celebrating his 134th birthday today. My dog is named in his honor and is two years-old today. Sunday I was watching my grandson play soccer when I received a message from the Washington Post. Except for my dog’s birthday, this all ties together and illustrates a lesson in leadership. Let’s explore.

President Truman was famous for having a sign on his desk that read, “The buck stops here.” As President he was forced to make some difficult decisions. One involved dropping two atomic bombs on Japan. He did that to, on net, save lives. It is not as well known that he rescinded an open ended order authorizing the bombings when he decided that World War II was effectively over and further bombings would simply cause unnecessary casualties. The sign meant that he accepted responsibility for everything that took place on his watch. Whether you agree with them or not, the actions were those of a prudent and thoughtful person after consultation with knowledgeable advisors. That is leadership!

Today we have a much different situation with Donald Trump occupying the Oval Office. Trump refuses to admit a mistake, never apologizes and blames anything bad that happens on someone else. In addition to being a serious character flaw augmented by a plethora of lies, that is a total lack of leadership.

The Sunday news report was that on Friday CIA Director nominee Gina Haspel had offered to withdraw from consideration. Haspel is a thirty year plus CIA veteran and has held senior positions. On paper she is certainly qualified. My problem is that like Trump she lacks the moral character to lead the agency. While details are somewhat hazy, (as would be expected when dealing with a spy agency), Haspel was involved in enhanced interrogations (read: torture) at black sites. As long as we are willing to disregard American and international law we can have a legitimate debate about those practices. The part that I find disqualifying is that Haspel took part in the destruction of evidence of the torture. This is a case where in my mind the cover-up is worse than the crime. I can entertain a defense of the torture but I cannot entertain a defense of the destruction of the evidence. The action of destroying evidence means that you do not agree with your own justification of the actions. That is an admission of guilt.

On Friday Trump dispatched Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and Marc Short to Langley to talk Haspel out of doing the right thing. Her pulling out would illustrate another Trump failure to vet a nominee. Coming right on the tail of the Ronny Jackson debacle this would be too much. Also, people are not exactly knocking down the door to serve in Trump’s Cabinet. Who would be the next in line, Keith Schiller?

The “heroic and brave” Trump took to Twitter on Monday to defend Haspel and blame others in the process. Here is the text of his tweet: “My highly respected nominee for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, has come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists. Think of that, in these very dangerous times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want OUT because she is too tough on terror. Win Gina!”

If I went point by point you would be reading this column all day so I will just critique a few. Tough on terror and terrorists is not the complaint. Breaking laws and destroying evidence are. When did the President of Access Hollywood infamy and hush money to mistresses become the champion of women?

As of this writing Haspel’s confirmation hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled for Wednesday. At this point it’s a “Who knows?” situation. What I do know is that we could use a leader like Harry Truman in the Oval Office.

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