Stating the obvious

The last week and three days have been a whirlwind for our country and the US President. I am both incredulous and stunned at how the events and verbiage spilled out. Let me state the obvious.

The US reputation around the world is in tatters, with many allied leaders saying and thinking they can no longer trust the word of the US President. Some have said we must prepare to move forward without the US. It should be noted the EU and Japan just inked a trade deal yesterday. And, Germany is increasing its business relationship in China.

This has been happening for some time, but the President’s sojourn included the following lowlights:

– He belittled the German chancellor and country once again, this time for doing business with Russia. This is ironic as Trump wants to do more business with Russia.
– He bullied NATO and questioned its veracity. How about seventy years of no major European conflict Mr. President? Even when he has a point, his overbearing manner is both offputting and insulting.
– He insulted his host in the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May, in a recorded interview. Then, when questioned, he did not accept accountability saying it was fake news. The news organization stood by its story.
– He then met with the Russia President after an indictment was issued by Robert Mueller’s team for twelve Russians for meddling in our election. To make matters worse, he not only sided with the Russians on Putin’s defiance, he said Americans were to blame, in particular Democrats and the media. He threw his intelligence folks under the bus and like most bullies, he appeared weak in the heat of the moment.
– He then returned home and faced heat from his own party and a cadre of Fox News presenters for denying his intelligence people’s findings. He tried to weasel out of the mess, by saying he misspoke focusing on one line. But, he did not correct several other sentences where he sided with the Russians and even threw in that others also may be culpable, which also differs from the intelligence community’s findings.

Overall, this was as shameful a performance by a President that I have ever witnessed. It was worse than I expected. Specific to the Putin press conference, Senator John McCain called it disgraceful. Other Republican legislators chimed in with varying degrees of criticism.

I do walk away convinced of three major points. I have no doubt that Trump is guilty of more than obstruction of justice with respect to the Russian meddling. I believe he is a compromised asset as he is aiding and abetting Putin’s long term strategy of diminishing NATO and the US relationship with our allies.

I also am convinced that global leaders clearly see this man for his lying, bullying and lack of accountability. My guess is they talk among themselves and to other leaders in the US about working around this man.

Finally, I am convinced that most of his staff believe what Rex Tillerson was reported to say about this man last year. My guess is more departures will occur, as he is not listening to their advice and they have to cover for the scorched earth he leaves in his wake.

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The Buck stops wherever he places it

Harry Truman has been lauded as one of America’s best Presidents. He is famous for a line that exemplifies his accountability saying “the buck stops here.” Truman was a man of quiet, but steely determination.

When I hear how supporters of the current US President define him as tough, I do not see that. I see a man who talks tough with a large sense of false bravado. It is akin to an ape beating on his chest before a fight.

What I also see is a lack of accountability. When the President has made a bad decision where push back occurs, he rarely, if ever says it is his fault. He is not accountable. He places the blame on others or he says he did not do what he is accused of. Yesterday’s press conference with Theresa May is a prime example where he denied saying things that he was recorded saying.

My favorite example occurred before he was President. After several years of promoting the “birther” issue saying Obama has not proven he was born here, Trump held a press conference just before the election to come clean. Rather than say he is wrong, he blamed it on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign. Clinton is not a perfect person, but she did not go on TV like Trump did for years saying Obams was not born here.

Sadly, this lack of accountability continues to this day. I think the above example reveals his lack of character through his lying and not saying he was wrong. A man who does not accept his culpability is not my definition of tough. To me, it means he is acting like a weasel.

Let me close with there is an accountable and responsible man leading an important effort in the US. He does not beat on his chest and served as a US Marine and a public servant to several Presidents. He is also a Republican. His name is Robert Mueller.

So, like Truman and Mueller, be aware of the quiet, tough guy. A man who has to tell you how tough he is does not exhibit toughness. It is false bravado.

Daytripping sans chemicals

If you are a fan of the Beatles, you know one of their earlier songs was “Daytripper.” Its meaning is quite different from mine which requires no chemicals.

With my single sister living nearby with some recent medical needs, our ability to travel for lengthy periods of time has been compromised. Instead, my wife and I are doing weekly day trips to towns near our city.

The key to all of this is a destination date for us. It usually entails seeing a memorable site or restaurant and just strolling the town or a beautiful park. The trips usually amount to three or four hours of time, but it is just nice to get away and see something different. Plus, many of these small towns have undergone a metamorphosis to restore old buildings or lost business.

In Rock Hill, we went to eat at a cafe where one of the first African-American counter sit-ins occurred. While there, we checked out a beautiful 11 acre park while holding hands along the walking paths.

The next week we visited Black Mountain meeting two of our children for breakfast and a walk about. The following week, we checked out a restaurant that a popular band bought for their mother in Belmont The food was excellent, plus it allowed us to shop at an unusual specialty shop and drop in on a photo museum which was quite interesting as we got a guided tour.

And, this past week, we ventured to the town of Shelby where we visited the Earl Scruggs museum. The interactive museum focused on the innovative banjo player, but also devoted time to other musicians from North Carolina. The subject matter and interactive nature actually exceeded our expectations. After an obligatory diner lunch, we visited the Don Gibson Theater, which was reopened about seven years ago to regional and national acts.

Along the way, we have met extremely gracious and helpful people. A police officer strolling the streets of Belmont was extremely kind and pointed out some places. The manager of the theater gave us a neat your behind the stage.

We are looking forward to our next daytrip. If you have not done these kinds of trips, give them a try. If you have, please share some of your surprising and wonderful visits.

From whose perspective?

A mentor of mine had a very common question he would ask of colleagues. A colleague (including this one) would be recounting that a client meeting went well. The mentor would simply ask “From whose perspective?”

Let this question sink in. I mention it today as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met the past few days with his North Korean counterparts. At the same time he was recounting how much progress was made, the North Koreans were sharing their view. What we saw as progress, they referred to it as the US’ one sided “gangster-like” demands.

Further, there is footage of the North Korean officials asking Pompeo if he slept well on the second day of meetings. After he said he did, they said you should not have after the previous day’s meeting results. This statement is pretty telling that perspectives vary.

I am all for dialogue between countries that have issues. That is far better than the alternative. The Presidents of the US and South Korea deserve credit for rhe discussions with Kim Jong Un. But, it has been clear from the get go, the expectation levels are vastly different. Also, the preparation levels were and are very different. The North Koreans have studied this issue far more than the US leader’s team. For example, the key question we failed to understand is “why would North Korea cede a nuclear arsenal that they built to get people to respect and fear them?”

Perspective matters. This same mentor advised to “put yourself on the other side of the table.” In other words, do your best to understand what the other side wants and would accept. It applies to more than these discussions.

Make America Alone

Unless you are on a diet or workout regimen, you cannot shrink to greatness. Yet, that is precisely the path America is on under the leadership of a man who announces his intent to make the country great again. Instead, he is pursuing a path of making America alone.

Jim Melville, the US ambassador to Estonia announced his resignation last week. Ambassador Melville, a 33 year state department veteran who has served under six Presidents, four of them Republucan, cited his reasons on Facebook. He said he could not support a President who has belittled NATO comparing it to NAFTA and saying it was formed to tap the American piggy bank. He also noted the President’s attack on the European Union as shameful.

Melville is not a lone voice. Other long service ambassadors have departed under this regime and there are a scary number of open diplomat positions. I have made reference to the number of Americans attending global conferences is dwarfed by the number of Chinese who are “working the room.” Diplomats both glean and share information to benefit a country.

This becomes even more troubling when the ultimate US diplomat sitting in the White House is bullying and lying about long time allies, imposing unwise tariffs on such allies and other trading partners, resigning from an important United Nations human rights committee, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Change Accord leaving us as one of three countries to do so, ignoring our allies on not staying with the Iran deal and leaving or discrediting two major trade agreements, one of which went forward without us.

An EU ambassador noted many months ago that America’s strengths are its military and allied relationships. So, going it alone is not a wise move. What is further troubling is this is the path Vladimir Putin wants us to go down, but he is not the biggest benefactor of America’s retrenchment. This path leads to an ascendant China, which has been forecasted for many years. The US President is helping them blaze the trail.

Making America alone is not a fruitful path, at least for America. Please think about that. If you agree, reach out to your Senators and Congressperson.

A Sunday morning love story

Since I am tired of writing about “he who shall not be named,” let me offer a quick love story. It is all true and happened to a good friend and his charming and funny wife, who passed way too early.

My friend Jack was divorced with two sons. He was also a talented consultant who was devoted to his clients. He traveled to an internal two day meeting in the headquarter city of his company.

There he met Paula who was in for the same meeting from a different office three states away. They hit it off extremely well, but the flirtatious relationship was limited to just that. They returned to their cities parting on good terms.

Just before the seminar, Jack had shared his frustration with David, another consultant in a different office, who was delinquent on an assignment for his client. Again, Jack was devoted to his clients.

David felt badly for slighting the client and Jack, so he sent him a card saying “You are in my thoughts,” signing it with a big scribbled “D.” The card arrived after Jack returned from the seminar.

The card made Jack wonder who had sent it. To him, the scribbled “D” resembled a “P.” He was not certain, but hopeful that it was from Paula. So, he sheepishly called her and asked if she had sent such a note and, if she did, the feeling was reciprocal. Paula said she had not, but wished that she had. She had similar feelings.

So, with a misinterpreted card about a different issue, two kindred spirits had the most straightforward of conversations. They remained in love until she passed away. They were a delightful couple. My wife liked Paula so much, they would get together when Jack and I traveled.

When I think back on this, it is like an adult’s version of anonymous Valentine Card. It wasn’t until later that Jack learned of the real author of the card. As I got to know the author later, he liked to retell the story as well. Everyone likes a good love story.

That Jesus saying

That Jesus saying. You know the one I am talking about. In my bible it says something about “do unto others.” What I told my kids quite often is the paraphrase “treat others like you want to be treated.”

We should aspire to be like this, but we are human and fall short of this goal. Often, we recognize this and make amends or feel poorly about ourselves for offensive behavior.

Even when we vehemently disagree with someone, we should approach them the same way we want to be approached. The best way to discuss differences is through reasonable dialogue. Facts help. Listening helps even more. A colleague used to ask “help me understand,” as a way of starting dialogue when he had a hard time understanding where someone was coming from.

We must not emulate the coarse behaviors exhibited by the President of the United States. When we do, truth and civil discourse suffer. This kind of behavior sows seeds of division. It also harms our country damaging our reputation and trustworthiness around the world.

We must not follow the suggestions of Congresswoman Maxine Walters to harass members of the President’s team. That is not how she would want to be treated and is a very slippery slope. And, unless a patron is causing an uproar, service providers should not decline service because they disagree with a patron’s politics. That is also a slippery slope.

As an Independent voter and former member of both parties, neither party has all the good ideas and both have some bad ones. We must listen to each other and work toward solving real problems. We must reach out to our politicians, but do so in a civil way. People can be strident in their opinions without being a jerk. I reach out to leaders often with this modus operandi in mind.

My blogging friends Jill and Gronda published excellent posts on this subject yesterday. I would encourage you to read them. Let me leave with this thought to remember along with Jesus’ powerful words courtesy of an old boss. “You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion.”