If character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking, World War II Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower radiated it on the eve of D-Day, writing "any blame … is mine alone” in remarks to be delivered “In Case of Failure.”
In making one of history's toughest and most consequential decisions - unlike those chronicled in former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's new memoir Hard Choices - Eisenhower prepared for the worst as 160,000 Allied troops readied for what could easily have become a suicide mission 70 years ago this month.
Willing to shoulder the responsibility for failure, even without knowing its reason, Eisenhower publicly attributed the anticipated victory to liberty’s cause and the Allied troops’ “courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle.”
Trusting him to put the national interest before his own, Americans liked Ike, twice electing him president, assuring America’s reliability as a guarantor of peace, prosperity, stability and freedom.
Unfortunately, as a parade of disturbing scandals and glaring incompetence engulf Washington and our national psyche, one thing is certain – Eisenhower’s style of servant-leadership is in short supply today.
More prevalent are self-serving leaders who routinely do the wrong – yet politically advantageous – thing, even in the Rose Garden when everybody’s looking and refusing to assume responsibility for their misdeeds, never mind apologize.
Like the Soviet Union, where dissidents once joked that “the future is known; it's the past that's always changing,” today's U.S. leaders promise the unattainable, spin the news cycle with false narratives, stonewall investigations, smear adversaries and label self-inflicted controversies “phony scandals.”
Absent honest disagreement or accountability, the “truth” becomes any story that sticks as they coast on benevolent intentions, above the devastation.
Through successive controversies - Operation Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS, the National Security Agency, Obama's red line in Syria, the Obamacare roll-out, and the Veterans Affairs scandal - this responsibility-evading strategy has worked, thanks to a mythologizing mainstream media who “censor or block stories that don't fall in line with the message they want sent,” as former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson described.
Now comes the Bowe Bergdahl deal in which President Obama - perennially unwilling to negotiate with Republicans labeled “hostage-takers” by his allies - struck a deal with actual hostage takers to trade five Taliban commanders for Bergdahl, the lone U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan.
Bob Woodward of Watergate fame called the Bergdahl decision “nefarious and stupid” because it ignored military and intelligence recommendations and flouted federal law requiring congressional notification.
As happened with the video claim in the Benghazi scandal, Obama administration Svengalis crafted and “bull horned” fraudulent talking points, this time to cast a possible deserter as a war hero who “served with honor and distinction.”
But, as with Benghazi, the story didn’t stick and a bipartisan uprising ensued. Without a YouTube hate video to blame for the spontaneous demonstration, Obama promised no apologies and dismissed the Bergdahl protests as “a controversy whipped up in Washington.”
Clinton also dislikes questions and apologies. Asked on her book tour if she will turn over her Benghazi-related notes to the congressional committee charged with investigating the murders of four Americans at the U.S. consulate, Clinton instead suggested they read her memoir – called “a newsless snore” by Politico’s Mike Allen.
With genocidal insurgents overtaking Iraq and beyond, Clinton may regret her flippant response to a question about the swap. “These five guys are not a threat to the United States,” she asserted, as if 9/11 wasn't hatched in the very petri dish to which the jihadists are returning.
With such out-of-touch and unaccountable leadership, it’s no surprise that nearly two-thirds of Americans say the nation is headed in the wrong direction, a new Bloomberg poll revealed.
But as Clinton might ask, what difference at this point does it make?
Amid so much failure, Americans must deny politicians amnesty for their incompetence, selfishness, dishonesty, and abuse of power. After all, to preserve liberty for successive generations, don’t we need leaders who are prepared to declare “any blame is mine alone?”Examiner contributor Melanie Sturm is an opinion columnist for the Aspen Times.