“Known and Unknown” is the title of the long awaited Donald Rumsfeld book coming to a book shop near you. At 815 pages, it seems like no one goes unmentioned, no story untold. President Bush’s book only went to 512 pages, and Condoleeza Rice’s 352 pages. It still lags behind President Clinton’s 1024 pages, but he was President, after all. To be fair, Rumsfeld has quite the career to chronicle, going back to Nixon and Ford. But the reviews are all saying the same thing-Rummy is settling scores big time, and no one escapes.
Maureen Down writes in the New York Times that Rummy blames General Tommy Franks for not nailing Osama in Tora Bora, The Geneva Convention for the torture fiasco, Condoleeza Rice for meddling, The National Security Council for being inept, Jerry Bremer for the post-war mess, and even President Bush for not refereeing the internal squabbles. Dana Milbank writes in the Washington Post that Rummy’s tome joins the growing library of “Everyone Else is to Blame but Me” genre pioneered by other members of the Bush-Cheney Gang, aka Tenet, Bremer, McClellan, Rove, etc etc.
Here is what confuses me and let me state it as a simple syllogism.
- If things went from good to bad on your watch, and
- you were in charge of keeping things good but they went bad, then,
- aren’t you to blame???? at least even in part
- presuming that you really had that power.
Things in the economy right now and on the war font in Iraq/Afghanistan have somehow gone horribly wrong, not achieved what we set out to achieve, even made things worse. And the economy and the military are under the control of leaders who have real power to act to change things. They used that power to make these decisions. It didn’t just happen by accident, as if one day Rumsfeld woke up to find stray marines invading Baghdad of all places, or Bernanke woke to discover Wall Street collapsing for no reason.
The Fed were in charge of the economy. They determined that it did not need to regulate mortgages, nor banks trading as investment brokers. The Pentagon were in charge of the military. They determined not to send more troops to invade Iraq. They determined they didn’t need a plan after the battle was won. People in charge took charge, as we expect them to. They made the calls. You win some and you lose some, but that’s life. You live and learn. Even the infallible Pope has to fess up to being human sometimes. Declaring a failure is crucial to future success.
But no, we don’t live and learn anymore. We live to blame. Our own innocence must be protected at all costs.
To read any of these post-Bush era biographies is to be asked to believe that a team of saints somehow conspired to create an economic and military hell. Looking back, they still don’t know how it happened. Must have been the other guys. How could so many smart people suddenly become so clueless?
Their stories makes leadership into a nonsense. Leaders take responsibility. That’s their job. Perhaps that is what we are learning now-these were not leaders at all because they lacked the courage to face the consequences of their choices, then and now. Then a better title of Rumsfeld’s book might be “Hey, Shit Happens. Alright? Don’t blame me and Get over it.” But this “no fault” insanity is stalking the land.
Even now, the new Congress is redoubling its efforts to cut through all the regulations that they say ” kill jobs.” No one wants to admit that it was the criminally irresponsible lapses in regulation that killed countless jobs, killed Lehman Brothers, almost killed Wall Street and the Auto Industry, almost killed New Orleans, killed the Gulf of Mexico, polluted the air, and allows guns to be bought by crazies who kill, etc etc No rules, no mistakes.
If no one has to admit to any wrongdoing, and no one is charged or fired or forced to resign, and the banks and bankers who actually gambled the economy within an inch of total collapse get rewarded with Cabinet posts and bonuses, (see the Documentary Inside Job) then we all now live in a morally hazardous world. Every malefactor wearing a suit and not named Madoff gets rewarded, and vice has become the new virtue.
That is surely the way to make us all crazy and reduce public leadership to a farce. But then, I may be the one at fault, and I at least am willing to admit it. Pity I feel so alone in saying that. Maybe its all your fault!