Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Thin-Skinned President

When I first starting preparing to enter acting as more than just a hobby, one of the things I kept hearing over and over and over was that performers have to have a thick skin. Rejection is a constant in the business and for every job someone says yes to you, you'll get at least 100 nos. People will constantly be judging and evaluating you and if you want to be successful, you can't take everything that's said personally. You have to have discernment and grow some "rhino-skin".

Though there are differences, the same advice goes for politicians. Everything you say or do will be examined, judged, and critiqued and you have to have discernment and some rhino-skin. That doesn't mean you don't listen to the people who elected you, but it does mean that you can't take every little thing personally.

Apparently President Obama doesn't have much discernment nor a very tough skin. Yesterday he fired the commanding general of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, for some comments he and some of his staff made in an impromptu interview with a Rolling Stone reporter. Neither McChrystal nor his staff disrespected the President, but they were rather critical of Vice President Joe Biden and other members of Obama's administration. Some media sources have been quoted as saying that McChrystal's "resignation" came about because of his insubordination to the President which is utterly absurd. Insubordination involves a willful disobedience to a direct order and though it is frowned upon and usually punished, there are times when insubordination is called for (e.g. raping women that you are supposed to be protecting). McChrystal's comments were NOT insubordination. Perhaps they were foolish and misguided, but that's about it.

There have been comparisons to Obama's firing of McChrystal to that of Lincoln removing Gen. George McClellan of his command during the Civil War and Truman's dismissal of Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War (the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is one such newspaper that made the comparison). Such comparisons are invalid and show a willful ignorance of history. Lincoln gave McClellan every opportunity to win the Civil War early and fast, but McClellan was indecisive and lost numerous battles and a high cost and even his few victories came with large numbers of casualties over an extended period of time. McClellan wasn't a very good war-time general. Truman's dismissal of MacArthur was for the opposite reason. The U.S. was fighting in Korea as part of a U.N. conflict. Under MacArthur's guidance, the early part of the war went well. However, China started flooding North Korea with troops and equipment and the early victories were eradicated. MacArthur wanted to make a full fledged invasion into North Korea and if needed into China. Truman was against it because it would mean the U.S. fighting alone and Truman didn't want to upset those countries who were allied with us. MacArthur, however, was convinced a massive invasion was needed and continued making plans not only to invade the northern part of Korea, but even into China. Truman fired MacArthur for that, something that is closer to insubordination than McChrystal's criticizing politicians and poking fun at Vice President Biden. (By the way, MacArthur was probably right, in my opinion).

President Obama's firing of McChrystal is more akin to a spoiled teenager having his parents bail him out for breaking a school rule than that of a Commander-in-Chief leading a country's military. It was an action that was far more dictatorial than Presidential.

No comments: