Bloviating Is So Last Year

“Every time you have to speak, you are auditioning for leadership.” – James C. Humes

Jamie Humes should know. He has written for Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, and Reagan. Frankly, no matter what you think about that list itself, each man on it was certainly auditioning for leadership at a particular moment—and certainly auditioning for Clio’s approval at that moment and moments to come.

As writer, historian, and public speaker Humes opens his 2002 book, Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln, “Leadership is selling. And selling is talking.” To repeat myself, he should know. And many ghostwriters, myself included, appreciate Humes’ sharing of the 21 powerful secrets of history greatest speakers.

I also appreciate the vignettes Humes shared throughout the book—particularly one featuring the thoughts of The Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan. In the chapter titled Power Button, Humes relates a discussion with speechwriter Tony Dolan about Reagan’s aversion to bloviating.

Dolan shook his head, saying, “The governor doesn’t like that kind of thing. He thinks it sounds like Senator Claghorn.” (Claghorn was a comical windbag politician on the Fred Allen radio show in the 1940s.) And it’s true, if you lard your talks with phrases like “so, my fellow citizens,” or “and so, ladies and gentlemen,” you might sound like some state senator bloviating at a county fair.

Reagan had his own test for a talk. He would imagine the way he’d talk to his barber, Jack, in Santa Barbara. He liked language that you would use in talking at the kitchen table or over the back fence.

Might be an idea for the new presidential entourage come January: a no-bloviating zone. The Donald and his underlings might want to read Reagan In His Own Hand, which was published about the same time as Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln.

The book, with a foreword by George P. Schultz, proves that the former President was not the simpleton that liberal detractors made him out to be. Schultz, who served as Reagan’s secretary of state, writes:

Reading through the essays in this book, I thought about all the times I had been with him when he spoke without notes or briefings, forcefully and clearly spelling out what would be the policy positions of the United States. Somehow he always seemed to know what to say.

To many people, President Reagan was a mystery….

The answer to that mystery may lie in these essays, which were written well before he became President. Apparently, even then, he knew quite a bit.

The new President will do well too, I suspect.

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. While at IndustryWeek magazine in the early ‘90s, he wrote a series on Total Quality Government and chaired TQG conferences across the country. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their dog, Lord Max. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com

Fashioning a Crusade for the Fairer Sex

When men and women agree, it is only in their conclusions; their reasons are always different. George Santayana

By Doug Magill

In the days following the election one of the fascinating themes coming from the need-to-be-committed Democrats is that Hillary Clinton lost the election because she is a woman.  The Democrats’ rant is that there is so much sexism in our society that a woman cannot be elected President.

Some of our crestfallen media have pursued this line of reasoning with vigor, and it crops up randomly from otherwise intelligent women on Facebook and in the loony left Internet media.  It’s one of the more stubborn ideas to come out of this election.

The line of reasoning, I suppose, is that like all else in the realms of politics, education, business and media there should be privileged classes and they need to have their turn.  We had a black President so now we should have a female one; later on, we will need to have a Hispanic one and maybe then a transgendered one, or at least a homosexual one.  Sort of a checklist of the currently fashionable parade of the perpetually aggrieved; by designating success for their representatives, we can eliminate perceived discrimination.

Something like that.  But logic doesn’t always seem to be a necessary component of such things.

However, if one were to spend any time with a gathering of conservatives and ask about, say, Margaret Thatcher, there would be instant agreement about her leadership, toughness, vision and success.  And, of course, her integral role in winning the Cold War with Ronald Reagan.  The same would be true of Golda Meir and her ability to navigate the complex and contentious politics of the Knesset while winning a war.  And our conservative Indian friends would have great compliments about Indira Gandhi.

Those of us who study history have great admiration for strong women leaders throughout history –  including Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth I, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hatshepsut, Isabella and Catherine the Great.

Today the Republican Party lays claim to some of the most prominent female leaders throughout our country:   Kelly Ayotte, Nicki Haley, Joni Ernst, Sarah Palin, Susana Martinez, Marsha Blackburn, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Carly Fiorina, Mia Love and Ohio’s own Mary Taylor.      There are a significant number of capable women in the halls of Congress, all of the state houses, and in established and startup businesses.

The problem with conflating Hillary’s defeat with the status of women is not complex: Hillary was a disastrous choice as a Presidential nominee.  Narcissistic, corrupt, dishonest and unwilling to act as a leader rather than a scold, she was thoroughly unlikeable and a vapid and boring campaigner.  Even now she is pointing fingers in every direction but her own for her failure, and most analysts are breathing a sigh of relief that she is soon to be exiled from the body politic.

A recent Pew Research study showed a large majority of Americans accept the idea of a female Chief Executive.  In fact, one recent study showed more men than women are indifferent to the sex of their leader.  The same study showed that political party was more important that sex in determining who to vote for.  The results of the election show that while the country may be ready for a female leader, it isn’t Hillary.

No conservative organization I know of doesn’t have women involved or in leadership roles, which are never a topic of discussion relative to their sex.  We have absolutely no doubt that women can lead local, state and federal organizations all the way up to and including President.

The deep and abiding problem for Democrats is their constant lurch leftward, leaving them with marginal ideological candidates for leadership roles, such as the ever-partisan Nancy Pelosi and the demagogic Elizabeth Warren.  It is even worse when one looks to the ranks of Democrats that could normally be expected to be rising and assuming prominence.

Eight years of the always-about-me Barak Obama have left the party in shambles.  His legacy is the worst party infrastructure since Reconstruction.  When he took office the Democrats had large majorities in both houses of Congress, 29 governorships and control of 27 state houses.   Today it holds only 18 governorships, and 12 state legislatures and neither house of Congress.  The raw numbers are staggering: Under Obama Democrats have lost over 900 state legislature seats, 12 governors, 69 House seats and 13 Senate positions.  Adding insult to injury, Republicans took decisive control of the Kentucky State Senate for the first time in 91 years.

It is a Republican America and the media ensconced comfortably in New York and Washington have failed to notice, with a few notable exceptions.  CNN’s Amanda Carpenter commented “Who thought Obama’s legacy would be the destruction of the Democratic Party?”  She even tweeted about Hillary being the worst candidate in modern history.

The Democrat Party is seemingly intent on a massive flameout as they are considering the radically left-wing Keith Ellison to chair the DNC.  One of the few people in the world that could possibly make Debbie Wasserman-Schultz look competent.

President-elect Trump has clarified a movement in the Republican Party that most prominent members didn’t acknowledge.  He has also caused an enormous fissure in the Democrat Party that may take years to resolve.  If they continue to fully embrace radical progressivism, they may in fact cease to be credible.

Women in leadership are an integral part of the Republican Party, and it is highly probable that soon we will see a female President.  A Republican one.

By the way, did someone mention recently that Ivanka Trump will be taking a prominent role in her father’s administration?

 

Doug Magill is the Communications Director for the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County, a consultant, city councilman, freelance writer and voice-over talent.  He can be reached at doug@magillmedia.net.

 

 

If it’s Hubris, it Couldn’t be Hillary

By Doug Magill
 
Dang it, I never did get the hang of using these dumbass things.
 
Computers are for little people – I prefer the voice-activated conveniences of power.  When I yell for a minion, someone comes and adjusts whatever thingy I need to change.  Especially TVs, I hate trying to figure out remotes.  After all, that’s what my worshipping followers are here for.  Now, if I could get them to wear those cute yellow outfits with the goggles….
My neurologist – that nitwit – thinks I need to do more mental exercises in case my brain was scrambled with that last stroke so he suggested I write stuff.  Who cares?  My scrambled brain is better than the unbroken ones of the yokels who adore me.  See – yolks – a joke!  I’ve still got it.  Oh, I said yokels and meant yolks.  How do I change that?  Oh hell, Cheryl never seems to be around when I need her.  Someone will fix it for me later.  Someone always does. 
What the heck?  I have to get a new TV.  Who knew a shoe could break one?  My arm is still good.  Ha, lots of practice throwing pottery at Bill.  Too bad he didn’t get brain damage from all the earthenware I’ve bounced off that horny little skull.  The stupid TV kept showing clips of my comments about that basket of deplorables.  What’s the difference?  I thought the basket thing was a nice touch, you know – a place for towels and kittens (disgusting creatures).
Besides, I meant to say basket of deportables.  I mean, Trump Top wants to get rid of all of the illegal aliens – good little future Democrat voters.  Did I say little?  I mean dependable.  Same thing.
Anyway, if he wants to get rid of our little brown brothers (crap, I said little again – must be the medication).  So why can’t I say I want to get rid of those pathetic morons who think that more Democrats is a bad idea?  Put all those Bible-loving gun-carrying freaks in a boxcar and ship them out of here.  Let Mexico deal with them.  Hah, then who’d want to build a wall?
Speaking of walls a couple of my mansions need better fences – mostly to keep the bimbos out if I get elected.  Bubba boy will be partying his little deplorables off and I can’t stand coming home and throwing out lingerie that’s lying about.  If only they knew.  Well, maybe some of the clones at CNN do, they figure they’ll get in on the action if they keep hiding Bill’s bacchanalian blowouts – as if I didn’t know how to hire private eyes. 
Been doing that since Little Rock.
Oohh….alliteration. “Bill’s bacchanalian blowouts.”  Stroke, shmoke.  Love it.  And they say I’m a wooden speaker.  Speaking of wood, haven’t been laying it down for a while.  Gotta get this weight off.  To think, that mousy little writer from Powerline called me a “muffin- top of mendacity.”  Gotta talk to the boys.  What’s power if you can’t use it?  We’ll see how many pieces we can make her pedestrian car explode into.
What was I saying?  Oh yeah, blasted adorables.  That’s what I meant to say.  I mean, aren’t those fanatical, hairy beer bums that like Trump just cute?  Cute like in spiders that need to be squashed.  I know that’s what I meant.  I love everyone, even snakes.
Ooh, gotta go, Huma is coming with those funny green pills she keeps making me take before she puts on those weird Accepting the Koran tapes.  I always fall asleep anyway.  Maybe I can get her to get another keyboard too, this drooling thing gets really messy, especially with the H key in the middle when I want to keep typing all the wonderful things that start with H….
Doug Magill is a communications consultant, city councilman, voice-over talent and freelance writer.  He can be reached at Doug@MagillMedia.net

The Debate Is Over: America Celebrates a Platinum Exec

By J.F. McKenna

To this day Britain cherishes its Iron Lady, the tough-talking, tougher-acting former PM Margaret Thatcher. Now we can send our counterpart, America’s Platinum Executive, to the White House.

That is, if we’re smart enough as a nation to elect her.

(Just in case you’re thinking I’m writing about Hilary Whatshername, please leave the site immediately. CBR has a closely administered IQ minimum for readers.)

With the digital housekeeping rules executed, let’s get back to Carly Fiorina, and to her exceptional performance at that sometimes chaotic CNN presidential debate. All totaled, hers was a 13-minute performance marked by facts, honesty, clarity and toughness.

No surprise, though, given the source. Here’s a bit of what I wrote about Carly from this corner back in March—  https://clevelandbusinessreview.org/2015/03/17/taking-occams-razor-to-campaign-2016/ :

Former business executive Carly Fiorina is no stranger to success, and certainly no stranger to making mistakes and failures out in the open. What really stands out—and makes her ideal for the toughest exec job in the world—is that Fiorina has learned management lessons in the unforgiving private sector.

As The New York Times recently chronicled, “When Ms. Fiorina, formerly a top executive at Lucent Technologies, took over at Hewlett-Packard in 1999, it was the largest publicly traded company ever to be led by a woman. Yet she also outraged some feminists by saying, ‘I hope that we are at a point that everyone has figured out that there is not a glass ceiling.’ Her business career ended a few years later in one of the more notorious flameouts in modern corporate history. After orchestrating a merger with Compaq that was then widely seen as a failure, she was ousted in 2005.”

An unabashed and outspoken conservative, Fiorina has stayed on the nation’s radar, even after losing a Senate challenge to California’s Barbara Boxer in 2010 and sharing such sentiments as “America is the most innovative country” while cautioning the U.S. that it can’t keep said status if its runs away “from the reality of the global economy.”

And, as noted, she’s not above owning up to her own failings. When the Los Angeles Times showed she had failed to vote in most elections, Fiorina responded: “I’m a lifelong registered Republican but I haven’t always voted, and I will provide no excuse for it. You know, people die for the right to vote. And there are many, many Californians and Americans who exercise that civic duty on a regular basis. I didn’t. Shame on me.”

Certainly this 2005 Fiorina quote suggests a Lincolnesque job-readiness for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: “The worst thing I could have imagined happened. I lost my job in the most public way possible, and the press had a field day with it all over the world. And guess what? I’m still here. I am at peace and my soul is intact. ”

These days, the Platinum Exec’s soul looks even stronger. Only days before the CNN debate at the Reagan Library, Carly had been asked about The Donald’s smarmy comment about her face. Her answer was that she didn’t “really care what Donald Trump thinks about my face.”

The question came up again at the debate, and Carly shut it down by saying that all American women had clearly heard the comment. Case closed.

On the far more serious issue of foreign affairs, she won my heart with her comment on her first planned day in the Oval Office. She’d call PM Bibi Netanyahu to say America has Israel’s back again and then call Iran’s leadership to employ a much-less-friendly tone about nuclear inspections.

Likewise, when the debate turned to the issue of abortion and federal law, the Platinum Exec donned her executive cloak on behalf of all America and spoke about “the character of our nation,” a phrase that has been misused as a thin and tasteless rhetorical topping as of late.

“I can win this job,” Carly said the day after the debate, “and I can do this job.”

As I wrote in March, I tell myself that it would be great to elect a woman president.  The right one, I said then. The Platinum Exec, I say now.

J.F. McKenna, a former resident of Cleveland’s West Park, has worked as a reporter, business editor, speech writer and communication specialist. He is a former staff editor of such magazines as Industry Week and Northern Ohio Live. The Cleveland native and his wife, Lady Carol, now live in Pittsburgh with their dogs, Duchess Holly and Lord Max. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

Warmly Ruthless Holiday Greetings

By J.F. McKenna

As the old year winds down, if not outright unravels, here’s to happy holidays and a warmly ruthless coming year.

Sure, I know such end-of-the-year sentiment won’t make me the No.1 draft pick at American Greetings in 2015. But it’s a sincere wish for the hometown and the nation, even as I review the collective disaster generated by cop-citizen controversies, a generally party-pooped economy, a well-earned wimpy image on the international stage, and a generally lousy national self-image that has replaced self-evident truths and the securing of “the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

All that noted, you ask, why stock up on ruthlessness for the new year? A fair question deserving a reasonable response.

What initially triggered my novel holiday greeting was the reading of these lines from speechwriter and author Peggy Noonan’s Character Above All: “Ronald Reagan is always described as genial and easygoing, but [economist] Marty Anderson used to call him ‘warmly ruthless.’ He would do in the nicest possible way what had to be done. He was nice as he could be about it, but he knew where he was going, and if you were in the way you were gone. And you might argue his ruthlessness made everything possible.”

The Reagan legacy of peace and prosperity, of course, has migrated from the pages of contemporary history to the Big Book of Legendary Leadership. As even one of his successors—the current President—acknowledged, “When the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, I had to give the old man his due, even if I never gave him my vote.”

It may be a Paine to admit; but these are most certainly the times that try men’s souls. So a generous dose of so-called Reagan ruthlessness—that vision for the better America, one that must trump the vain and the venal—is my holiday wish for the nation that the 40th President called the “the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom.”

Without question, a Reaganesque renewal of American commitment to freedom on the world stage must top the coming year’s agenda. Nothing continues to blur our notion of war’s frontline more clearly than the jihadists’ perversion of the old Disneyland saying “It’s a small world, after all.” Yeah—small, lethal, unmerciful and aimed right at us.

For all those in office now, as well as for all those considering leadership roles in the future, Ronald Reagan’s words from May 1993 remain a guide to future success: “Despite the spread of democracy and capitalism, human nature has not changed. It is still an unpredictable mixture of good and evil. Our enemies may be irrational, even outright insane, driven by nationalism, religion, ethnicity, or ideology. They do not fear the United States for its diplomatic skills or the number of automobiles and software programs it produces. They respect only the firepower of our tanks, planes and helicopter gunships.”

President Reagan likewise recognized that a strong nation requires a strong economy, aka free enterprise. For that chief executive, there was no substitute—especially government. And the former movie star knew first-hand the personal tragedy of a weak economy. In a town of deals and connections, he was a ruthless advocate of the American worker, the man or woman who had to bring home the paycheck.

“To me, there is no greater tragedy than a breadwinner willing to work, with a job skill but unable to find a market for that job skill,” Reagan recalled in a 1976 speech. “Back in those dark Depression days I saw my father on a Christmas Eve open what he thought was a Christmas greeting from his boss. Instead, it was the blue slip telling him he no longer had a job. The memory of him sitting there holding that slip of paper and then saying in a half-whisper, ‘That’s quite a Christmas present,’ it will stay with me as long as I live.”

And undergirding the Reagan Era’s strong nation and robust economy were always the people who cherished the values that guarantee a lasting civilization. As Reagan recalled in his autobiography, “I learned from my father the value of hard work and ambition, and maybe a little something about telling a story. From my mother, I learned the value of prayer, how to have dreams and believe I could make them come true.”

If that be the portrait of the ruthless man, the nation needs many more ruthless folks, this holiday season and beyond.

Former West Park resident J.F. McKenna is a journalist, copywriter and communications consultant. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Pittsburgh, to which he serves as Cleveland’s unofficial foreign minister. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com  .

 

Similia Similibus Curantur

By J.F. McKenna

Sitting in The Clock diner on East 4th Street, I watched Richard M. Nixon depart the White House for good August 9, 1974. Neck-deep in political scandal and facing Clio’s eternal scorn, the 37th President of the United States announced his decision to resign the office the night before, skipping over any admissions of guilt while shamelessly borrowing from Teddy Roosevelt’s celebrated “man in the arena” address.

Every patron contributing to that lunchtime crowd was investing full attention in the TV near the bar, realizing that as a citizen he was certainly a part of the Watergate story itself. The moment was the most interesting sidebar story coming from my reporting internship at the weekly Universe Bulletin. Russ Faist and Jim Kramer, old hands at the craft I was learning, offered comments as Nixon left the world stage by helicopter; I simply absorbed this slice in time.

The common opinion generated from that scene, as I recall now, was that the President had chosen the best course for himself and for a constitutional republic whose structure was wobbling. This callow apprentice journalist (and, I should add, a Kent State history minor) finally asserted to his elders that such an event could never happen again in America.

Those memories came to call this week as I read and watched 2014 pundits consider the new White House crisis, its historical ties and the long-term implications.

Duquesne University’s Ken Gormley, in a Sunday op-ed, summarized the potentially nation-busting shenanigans of the Nixon Administration, from the third-rate burglary of Democratic headquarters in 1972 to subsequent obstructions of justice that provoked bipartisan ire across the Beltway and generated three articles of impeachment from the House of Representatives. “The final straw for Nixon,” the constitutional law scholar wrote, “was the landmark ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Nixon. In that unanimous 8-0 decision, handed down during the final hot weeks of July, the Supreme Court held that no person, not even the President, was above the law.”

What was obviously clear to any bright seventh-grader back then was the source of non-stop social and political discord in America. Up to his final departure, POTUS 37 was saying clever things such as People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook.

But Nixon, himself a lawyer, was not a stupid man. As Gormley explained in his article, “Richard Nixon’s agonizing decision to resign, while he continued to deny any wrongdoing in the Watergate affair, was likely driven by the calculation that it might be the only way to keep himself from going to federal prison.” President Ford pardoned Nixon shortly thereafter, and excused the rest of the nation from an even longer national nightmare.

Which brings me to another current op-ed, this one written by Andrew P. Napolitano, a sage judicial analyst and a former Superior Court judge in New Jersey.  Addressing every President’s constitutional duty to faithfully execute the nation’s laws, Judge Napolitano wrote of POTUS 44:

The word “faithfully” appears in the oath of office that is administered to every president. The reason for its use is to assure Americans that their wishes for government behavior, as manifested in written law, would be carried out even if the president personally disagrees with the laws he swore to enforce.

President Barack Obama has taken the concept of discretion and so distorted it — and has taken the obligation of faithful enforcement and so rejected it — that his job as chief law enforcer has become one of incompetent madness or chief lawbreaker.

Time after time, in areas as disparate as civil liberties, immigration, foreign affairs and health care, the president has demonstrated a propensity for rejecting his oath and doing damage to our fabric of liberty that cannot easily be undone by a successor. He has permitted:

  • unconstitutional and unbridled spying on all Americans all the time
  • illegal aliens to remain here and continue to break the law, even instructing them on how to get away with it
  • his Internal Revenue Service to enforce the law more heavily against his political opponents than against his friends and to destroy government computer records in order to hide its misdeeds

Obama has done these things with a cool indifference and he has threatened to continue to do so until the pressure builds on his political opponents to see things his way. The Framers could not have intended a president so devoid of fidelity to the rule of law that it is nearly impossible to distinguish between incompetence and lawlessness. But the Framers did give us a remedy — removal from office. It is the remaining constitutional means to save the freedoms the Constitution was intended to guarantee.

Almost immediately after reading the judge’s opinion, I heard the voice of Mark Twain—who, by the way, would have enjoyed the company at The Clock in downtown Cleveland. “History,” Twain observed, “doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

In 2014 ours is an unhappy rhyme, and one whose next lines will have to be written by the President himself.

The 24-hour news cycle and the venal political pros relish the drama of battle between the factions, but they have yet to weigh the constitutional consequences. Just as the nation was challenged back in the Watergate Era, so the nation is challenged today. The only difference is that ours is a world after 9-11, a largely angry place that watches and waits for democracy’s finest model to stumble and fall. To borrow a phrase from historian Joseph J. Ellis, “the awkward truth is that we have been chasing our own tails in an apparently endless cycle of partisan pleading.”

“Obama has lost much of the country’s support and the world’s trust—but he does have a phone and a pen,” a friend recently remarked to me. “He should call the Speaker and ink his resignation. It’s time.” A harsh analysis and remedy, certainly. And one that can be executed only by a leader generous enough to put immediate concern for constitutional integrity above personal and political aims.

To be sure, the nation finds itself at a Watergate-like juncture—only with greater possible, and likely destructive, consequences. But the age-old Similia Similibus Curantur—Likes Cure Like—remains a valid option of homeopathic remedy. As our history has shown, the carefully dosed constitutional disruption can save the patient in the long run.

————————————————————————————–

J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a veteran business journalist and marketing-communications consultant. He is a former staff editor of such magazines as Industry Week and Northern Ohio Live. The Cleveland native and his wife, Carol, now live in Pittsburgh with their dogs, Duchess Holly and Lord Max. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

Of Duty and the Well of Fortitude on the Fourth of July

By Doug Magill

On a moonless Pacific night during World War II, the pilot of a Hellcat fighter returning from a routine patrol desperately searched for the comfort of an aircraft carrier he would never find. My father, directing fighter operations on the ship that was the home of the lost plane, listened in horror to the static-roughened panic in the young man’s voice. His radio direction-finding equipment had failed and fleet orders prevented the carrier crew from illuminating the ship due to nearby Japanese submarines.

Disappearing into the blackness of the sea, terrified and alone, the pilot was not considered a coward by his shipmates. My father first told me this story when I was young, and I asked him how a brave military pilot could panic. With a soft and faraway look in his eyes, he replied, “It’s just that his well of fortitude ran dry. We all never knew how deep it really was for any of us.”

Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War I combat pilot once said, “There can be no courage unless you’re scared.” He understood that there is a well of fortitude within that can be drawn upon time and again, under even the most terrifying circumstances.  And yet, military men know that there are occasions when even that is not enough, when fear can overcome even the hardiest soul, when there is no more bravery, no more strength, no more belief. Still they are drawn beyond what can be humanly expected by their sense of duty – to themselves, to their comrades, to their country.

During the war my father was aboard a jeep carrier, the USS Cowpens, which was attacked by kamikaze aircraft, and barely survived the monstrous waves of Halsey’s typhoon (Typhoon Cobra), a ferocious cyclone in the Pacific Ocean that struck the Pacific Fleet with one-hundred twenty mph winds and sank three ships.

Cowpens

USS Cowpens (CVL-25) during Typhoon Cobra
18 December 1944

The Cowpens was also sent as a decoy into the Sea of Japan without escorts.  When I asked Dad if he was scared, he would only say that he was able to draw from his well of fortitude during those times, and hang on. At times he was so frightened that he couldn’t move, but when he saw his shipmates doing their duty he felt he had to do his job and not let them down. He never boasted or showed pride, only relief that he had performed his duty and not failed his shipmates.

Landing on the beaches of Okinawa with the 1st Marine Division, my uncle Tom suffered from migraine headaches which prevented him from seeing. All he could do was hang onto the web belt of the man in front of him. His comrades would tell him where to aim so that he could shoot. Though he didn’t share many details of that bloody island, he told me of times when he was so afraid he couldn’t move, or shoot, and that the chaos of war gave countless opportunities for heroism and panic, often to the same person in the space of moments. He described the jungle and the insects, the heat, and the constant fear. He told me, “I was afraid all the time, and felt suffocated because there was nowhere to hide. It was a relief sometimes to dig leeches out of my legs with my combat knife. The pain was real, and distracted me from the fear.” He drew deeply from his well of fortitude, time and again shaking and panicked. Wanting to do his duty for the men around him he would take that next, halting step which kept him going for one more minute, one more agonizing hour, one more terrifying day.

Proud of their service, both my father and my uncle never described themselves as heroic or deserving of special consideration. They knew that brave men could panic, and cowards could become unexpected heroes. Incredible feats of courage were often not recognized and medals were awarded for trivial things, or for momentary political purposes.

To most veterans, medals and awards are not indicative of the value of one’s service, and do not imply a hierarchy of bravery. They do not judge the value of one’s duty, as they know that even clerks in Washington are important, as are the bases and supply ships manned by tired and overworked sailors and airmen – who will never be recognized. They, too, perform their duty and may have had to draw upon their wells of fortitude due to accidents, weather, or other events that required bravery unrelated to combat.

A childhood friend of mine declined a Bronze Star during his service in Vietnam because his sense of honor caused him to feel that others deserved it more. Dan felt it would have been false pride to accept a decoration that he didn’t feel he deserved, though he knew he had performed his duty and saw combat that tested him.

Most veterans understand that medals aren’t scorecards for manliness. Performing their duty was all that mattered. The rest was randomness and fate.  A man performed his duty when required, regardless of acknowledgement or reward, and without complaint. The concept of duty is something that these warriors passed on to their children.  I have many childhood memories of completing required tasks, hoping in vain for recognition from my father. Acting responsibly was not worthy of note.

Most military men would react with disdain to a leader who attempted to take credit for the actions of men at arms when all he did was to make a politically-calculated decision to send them in harm’s way.  Particularly after requiring the overall commander of the operation to sign a document that would place blame on him should the operation fail.

A leader takes responsibility first, and credit last.

Military men know that courage is what is shown, not claimed.  And, that duty is what takes them beyond courage.

To shiver for days on end while being underfed and improperly clothed, waiting as your comrades slink away, knowing that you will soon be asked again to fight a professional enemy vastly better equipped and trained than you are.

To walk in ramrod-straight pride up a hill in sweltering July heat knowing that those you are attacking are entrenched and will soon devastate your comrades in a hail of grapeshot and gunfire.

To endure endless days and nights of rain and snow while your ship becomes coated with ice and knowing that a relentless foe is marshalling submarines and aircraft to send the ships you are bound to protect to searing moments of hell followed by the iciness of the depths.

To be starving and shivering in the relentless snow, surrounded by arrogant troops believing they will crush your dwindling forces as you run out of ammunition, and finding those last moments of pride when your leader responded to a request for your surrender with a single word, “Nuts!”

To be asked that one last measure of energy and strength to defend a wind-blasted hilltop in cold so deep your weapons have frozen and your arms are so heavy it is a burden to place your bayonet on your rifle to repulse one more charge of a fanatical foe.

To find the heat of the jungle dissipate and the sweat on your body chill as you crawl into a tunnel pursuing a mind-numbed enemy who plants traps to maim you and hides behind children and executes women as an example and who will never stand and fight directly.

To step carefully through the blasted remains of buildings knowing that a relentless foe wishes to take your legs or arms without ever having to fight you as you search through the stench and the garbage in deadening heat for men for whom cowardice is a moral code.

And yes, to feel the vibrations of the helicopter engine in your back as you prepare to leap into the night of a foreign country where you don’t know the strength of your enemy and the deviousness of his waiting traps.

Because your country needs you to.

Because you have been ordered to.

Because your comrades depend on you.

Because in all, it needs to be done.

These are the men who have found the meaning of courage, and duty.  Not those who issue commands and boast in comfort and security behind the protection that they and their comrades provide every day.

These are the men we remember today.

As the young Hellcat pilot found in his last moments before entering the silent embrace of the sea, duty doesn’t always involve the risks of combat. His service and death were nonetheless noble and honorable. Military men will forever salute him because of that. Today, it would be fitting for those who profess to lead us, and for those who evaluate them, to humbly remember all of those who have died nobly, regardless of circumstances. They owe the opportunity to do such things in a democracy to those who performed their duty for all of us, even if their well of fortitude ran dry in darkness and solitude, far from home.

 

Doug Magill is a communications consultant, freelance writer and voice-over talent.  He can be reached at doug@magillmedia.net

‘Take Me to Our Leaders’

By J.F. McKenna

Brace yourself. As sure as summer follows spring, the call for leadership always follows the long train of crises. This time will be no different, as the nation surveys a bankrupt City of Detroit, a busted Veterans Administration, a limp economy, a dithering Congress, renegade bureaucrats, the Benghazi “mystery,” an unstable Eastern Europe and a tottering Middle East, a crippling health-care strategy, a worried and skeptical electorate, and so on. As a fellow who watched the Watergate era unfold before an incredulous America, I’ll bet my quite collectable 1978 press card on it. (Yeah, the one with the photo featuring the garish sport coat.)

As columnist George Will recently wrote, too many so-called leaders “have exaggerated government’s proper scope and actual competence, making the public perpetually disappointed and surly.” In turn, we citizens of this so-called constitutional republic have demanded the emergence of real leaders.

Can the demand be satisfied this time round?

To try to answer the question, I sought guidance from the fountainhead of managerial brilliance: the writings of the late Peter Drucker. In the pages of The Wall Street Journal nearly three decades ago, the father of modern management addressed “leadership as work.” Noting that the topic was “all the rage just now,” Drucker first disabused those Journal readers of the notion that leadership is the same as charisma.

Insisting next that performance is the essence of leadership, the business philosopher par excellence stressed the context of leadership, writing that it is “not by itself good or desirable. Leadership is a means. Leadership to what end is thus the crucial question.” To underscore his point, Drucker ticked off a few charismatic leaders who even today inspire malevolent actors on the world stage—Mao, Hitler, Stalin. Call him a name-dropper, if you will; but the good professor knew how to hammer home a point.

Most certainly, Drucker went on, leadership is grounded in “thinking through the organization’s mission, defining it, and establishing it, clearly and visibly. The leader sets goals, sets the priorities, and sets and maintains the standards.”

The leader “makes compromises, of course; indeed, effective leaders are painfully aware that they are not in control of the universe,” wrote Drucker, whose The Effective Executive remains a beloved business classic. “But before accepting a compromise, the effective leader has thought though what is right and desirable. The leader’s first task is to be the trumpet that sounds a clear note.”

To Drucker’s way of thinking, the true leader is the exceptional musician who knows how to create great music, but does not delude himself into thinking that he’s the whole band.

Further, Drucker argued that exceptional leaders—think those in the category of Lincoln or Churchill—understand “leadership as responsibility rather than as rank and privilege,” offering this illustration: “Effective leaders are rarely ‘permissive.’ But when things go wrong—and they always do—they do not blame others….Harry Truman’s folksy ‘The buck stops here’ is still as good a definition as any. ”

Maybe the most telling point for we the disillusioned to take from this Drucker tutorial is that “an effective leader knows that the ultimate task of leadership is to create human energies and human vision.” Better known in my old neighborhood as “all for one and one for all, all the time.”

Which gets me to thinking about a Druckeresque gentleman whom almost any American would like to invite back into a leadership role—if it were possible.

“I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: It was the content,” Ronald Reagan said in his 1989 farewell, the year after Peter Drucker’s op-ed appeared. “I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation—from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief….”

The next time you hear a discussion about leadership, keep Drucker’s and Reagan’s words in mind. The next time you’re inclined to say “Take me to our leaders,” check the mirror first.

 

J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a veteran business journalist and marketing-communications consultant. He is a former staff editor of such magazines as Industry Week and Northern Ohio Live. His online work also appears on the site Steinbeck Now. A native of Cleveland, he and his wife, Carol, now live in Pittsburgh with their dogs, Duchess Holly and Lord Max. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

The Coming Year, Our Critical Gambit

By J.F. McKenna

The year 2014 will long be remembered as another of America’s epiphanies, a time at which the nation began to recapture its sense of leadership.

Not a moment too soon, say 2013 citizens and allies who have watched and worried as their nation wobbles when not lurching from crisis to crisis. The Affordable Care Act surely stands out as its most expensive self-inflicted wound, casting one-sixth of the gross domestic product into unmatched chaos. Meanwhile, Pax Americana, that long-revered notion of the U.S. as guarantor of a sane and just world, continues to fade from view on the world stage; events such as the deadly bungle in Benghazi keep the global whispering alive—Uncle Sam is not the fellow he used to be. And, in that wider philosophical sense, America has traded the free marketplace of grand ideas for the back alley of political correctness.

But America is again ready to take up the work of leadership. And, don’t kid yourself, it’s work—not magic. Peter Drucker, the revered architect of modern management direction, made that clear when he wrote so perceptively a quarter-century ago:

“Leadership does matter…. But, alas, it is something different from what is now touted under this label. It has little to do with ‘leadership qualities and even less to do with ‘charisma.’ It is mundane, unromantic, and boring. Its essence is performance.”

The Austrian-born polymath, who died in 2005, goes on to say that the foundation of effective leadership “is thinking through the organization’s mission, defining it, and establishing it, clearly and visibly….What distinguishes the leader from the misleader are his goals. Whether the compromise he makes with the constraints of reality—which may involve political, economic, financial, or interpersonal problems—are compatible with the mission or goals or lead away from them determines whether he is an effective leader.”

Simple stuff. Only the acceptance and the execution are difficult. That and getting the right leaders in place.

That’s our job, of course.

Or as the late, great business journalist Stan Modic once told me, “I need an editor, and I know you know how to do the job. One more thing—if you don’t work out, I’ll fire you in three months.”

Modic knew Drucker, and vice versa. I’ve long thought that they each had a great influence on the other’s thinking about effective management. (See https://clevelandbusinessreview.org/2011/04/19/stan-modic-guardian-angel-and-one-hell-of-a-journalist/. ) Both were all about the results of any venture, from running a corporation to running a nation. Both knew what success took.

Twenty years ago, Drucker wrote that there is “no better way to improve an organization’s performance than to measure the results of capital appropriations against the promises and expectations that led to their authorization.” As Drucker told Harvard Business Review readers, “how much better off the United States would be today had such feedback on government programs been standard practice for the past 50 years.”

His was simple, direct and effective counsel then. So it remains. I’ve argued from this digital corner more than once that today’s government executives—including those from the so-called most transparent administration since Warren Harding’s—should diligently apply Drucker’s yardstick. Let them evaluate if that stimulus appropriation is indeed deserving of renewal. Or if a particular spending program has yet to meet its goal of utopian bliss.

Otherwise, to borrow a working concept from Modic, let’s fire them. That’s what leadership is all about at its core: getting the job done, no matter what it takes.

Certainly the most troubling weakness of the current administration, as well as its successors in waiting from both parties, is the philosophical wrongheadedness arising from government first, last and always. A decade ago, Drucker warned America about the danger, pointing out that “the challenges we will face in the next economy are management challenges that will have to be tackled by individuals. Governments will be able to help or hinder. But the tasks themselves are not tasks governments can perform….Government will not become less pervasive, less powerful, let alone less expensive. It will, however, increasingly depend for its effectiveness on what managers and professionals are doing in and with their own nongovernmental organizations, and in and with their own lives.”

Just substitute the word “we” for “managers and professionals” above. That’s the thinking from which epiphanies spring and nations regain strength.

J.F. McKenna is a business journalist, communications specialist and former editor and associate publisher of the national manufacturing magazine Tooling & Production. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

‘All I Want for Christmas Is Real Leadership’

By J.F. McKenna

What we regular folks really want for the holidays is obvious. Just look around.

Face westward toward our neighbors in Michigan, for starters. Right now Detroit, once called the Paris of the West by culture mavens, is scrambling to mitigate the damage of what may be the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation’s history. A long-growing global economy has finally had a head-on collision with narrow-minded politics. The result is that Motown’s better days are behind it, with one Canadian observer declaring that the city is “a classic example of failed obamunism and personal responsibility; it played out the union-controlled socialism to the bitter end and it lost the destructive game—eventually all socialists run out of other people’s money, as Margaret Thatcher used to say. Detroit is now a picture of litter and filth with few suburbs left that take pride in their appearance.” Frankly, don’t be surprised to see Detroit headed to the global pawn shop soon, toting its donated art treasures to cut a 10-cents-on-the-dollar deal to keep afloat and out of court.

Things just as close but eastward, though not as tragic as Detroit’s tale, show the effects of an American economic engine fouled to the point that it can’t trigger a confident restart. In Pittsburgh iconic corporations such as Heinz struggle alongside longtime family businesses. As one small businessman told me there just last week, “My landscaping business was a moneymaker for years, but now I’m really cutting into my capital just to keep today’s bills paid. Frankly, Joe, I don’t understand it. I can’t recall it ever being this bad.”

“At the risk of getting biblical on you, we’re reaping the whirlwind of a lot of lousy leadership,” said Robbie Adair, my occasional partner in journalistic mischief. “In my opinion, it’s not so much the failure of leadership in the front office or at the front counter—but the ‘hired’ leadership at the government level, where regulations reproduce like rabbits and dim-witted bureaucrats concoct new ways to taser the business community.

“If things continue to go on this way,” Brother Adair lamented, “you’re going to see the term free market soon identified in crossword puzzles as an ‘archaic expression.’ I’m telling you straight—all I want for Christmas is real leadership. And, yes, that can be sung to the same tune as that classic Yuletide ditty.”

No argument from me. The only commonality between most government types, particularly feds, and the foot soldiers at the chamber of commerce is a taste for ugly ties. After that, one identifies the government folks by their general lack of business smarts and their overall disinterest in the core of wealth creation. You know, the making, mining and growing of things for customers.

To pinch a line from Adair, “There is a little-known second half to the saying I’m from the government and I’m here to help. The other half is I just don’t know how.”

Think I’m being harsh? No harsher than the latest, and the greatest, model of government ineptitude and overreach. So once more unto the breach, dear friends, to slash at the misshapen monster called Obamacare, our government-sponsored Grendel.

Even as I write from my digital corner, journals such at The New York Times deliver cheery countryside dispatches: As a small coterie of grim-faced advisers shuffled into the Oval Office on the evening of Oct. 15, President Obama’s chief domestic accomplishment was falling apart 24 miles away….HealthCare.gov, the $630 million online insurance marketplace, was a disaster after it went live on Oct. 1, with a roster of engineering repairs that would eventually swell to more than 600 items. The private contractors who built it were pointing fingers at one another. And inside the White House, after initially saying too much traffic was to blame, Mr. Obama’s closest confidants had few good answers.

No real answers look likely to appear anytime soon, either. And that’s because bureaucratic tinkerers don’t grasp the basics of business, management or real leadership. I wish I could report that they’ve forgotten everything they learned from Peter Drucker; but, truth is, most of them think Peter Drucker is a fashion label or a brand of Scotch. And those government whiz kids who do vaguely remember the father of modern management dismiss him and his thinking as old-school.

That’s a pity. For the rest of us, that is.

A couple of years ago, I briefly tub-thumped for a Drucker revival, noting that the late Austrian-born polymath remains the best guide not only for businessmen but for bureaucrats who like to play business. I pointed to a 1994 Druckerism that insists there is “no better way to improve an organization’s performance than to measure the results of capital appropriations against the promises and expectations that led to their authorization.”

Now let’s apply this Drucker yardstick to Obamacare—Santa Gov’s answer to coal in your stocking. According to to one poll, nearly 60 percent of the nation never really had government-managed health care on its Christmas list. Even worse, now that it’s here, the rear end of Obamacare, the payment and delivery segment, is still being built, making the President’s signature legislative effort the health-care version of a deluxe vehicle that boasts an expensive dashboard but includes no drivetrain.

As Drucker told Harvard Business Review readers, “How much better off the United States would be today had…feedback on government programs been standard practice for the past 50 years.” Drucker wrote that 20 Christmases ago. Apparently most of America’s leaders missed that issue.

So here we are this holiday season, caught in the iron grip of government-designed largesse but still holding out a little hope for that holiday miracle from the Obama Administration. “On Thanksgiving Eve, it announced a one-year delay for ObamaCare’s small-business health insurance exchange, a major part of the law,” wrote Colin McNickle of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. “Just before Independence Day, it announced a delay in requiring large companies to provide health insurance for their employees. Perhaps Mr. Obama will announce a one-year delay of ObamaCare, in toto, at 11:59 p.m. on Christmas Eve.”

Perhaps.

To paraphrase Tiny Tim, “God help us, everyone!”

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna is a veteran business journalist and communications consultant. While at Industry Week magazine, he coined the expression “Total Quality Government” and co-chaired a series of national conferences on quality in the public sector. He still wonders why. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com or through his LinkedIn profile: Jos. F. McKenna.