Credit and blame

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is stepping down today. This imperfect person has received a huge amount of blame for the failure to deliver a Brexit deal. Yet, I believe she had an unenviable task of herding the many and varied egos in Parliament who did not focus on getting the job done.

Living in America, we see this first hand, as posturing is more important than doing. Even before the fear-mongering and storytelling that has replaced civil debate, I have been disappointed in the demise in bipartisanship behavior.

Ironically, the last period of significant legislation occurred when GOP Speaker John Boehner ignored the Freedom Caucus and worked with moderate House Democrats to pass bills the Democrat led Senate would pass into law. He did this enough, that he retired before the Freedom Caucus rebellion ousted him.

Now, only handfuls of significant laws are passed as neither major party wants the other side to get a political win. Actually helping people is secondary to the perception of looking good. We have a president who does the same focusing too much on perception. He even controls his messaging taking credit for things he has little to do with and laying off blame on others when he the finger could be pointed at his efforts.

Blowing a problem out of proportion, making it worse by not addressing the real issues, threatening an action that gets push back from all sides and then coming to agreement on efforts that are already underway, is all a show that is harmful to relationships and commerce. People and companies need more stability in their lives, not less. When applecarts are upset, they have to look at other options.

This month, the US economy will be celebrating ten years (120 months) of economic growth. The president has been sure to pat himself on the back for this and he did provide some short term tailwinds with the tax cut and regulations cuts. Yet, he has only been president for going on 29 months. That means, 91 months of this growth were under Obama and the stock market more than doubled under his watch.

To be frank, presidents get too much credit and blame for the economy, providing at best headwinds and tailwinds. The headwinds this president has caused are more long term – debt, tariffs, immigration focus, pulling out of trade deals, etc. The economy is slowing its growth and more slowing is expected to occur. But, a given is this president will lay blame on others as it slows – he started last fall making the nonpartisan Federal Reserve the bogeyman.

Credit and blame. I have often quoted a leadership consultant I know, who said a great leader deflects credit to others; a bad leader accepts credit even when not due. Think about that as you hear or read tweets from leaders.

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.

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.