The vast majority of the people reading this article will agree that the United States is experiencing an extraordinary lack of leadership amongst our elected officials. Bickering, fighting, blaming — nothing ever gets done, no one is ever happy, and the American people are constantly divided. Regardless of which side of the aisle one sits on, the right-wingers, left-wingers, and the moderates have but one very important thing in common: humanity. And with humanity comes failure. And with failure, inevitably, comes a cover-up.
I’m convinced that honorable political leadership is a dying cause in our day-to-day lives, not because good men have disappeared, but because the men and women who lead have decided that it is political suicide to admit a mistake.
News flash: everyone makes mistakes. It takes real leadership to admit them.
In 1960, after President Dwight D. Eisenhower had repeatedly told the media that no U.S. planes had ever entered Soviet airspace, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over the USSR. You can understand the confusion that ensued on American soil after the captured pilot, Francis Gary Powers, appeared on Soviet television on Nikita Khrushchev’s orders to explain that he actually had been flying an American spy plane over the USSR. The Eisenhower Administration made one crucial error in their attempt to cover up the lie: they assumed Powers had died in the crash.
But perhaps the most embarrassing piece of the puzzle is the public recall of all U-2 planes to investigate ‘oxygen supply’ issues. When the USSR exposed that there was no plane malfunction and that the U.S. had indeed been spying, the administration was left with their pants down.
After the enormous effort by the U.S. government to cover up the embarrassing gaffe, President Eisenhower publicly apologized to the American people for lying to them in the first place. His approval rating subsequently rose by 3 points.
In 1961, during the Cuban invasion, the Kennedy Administration had promised the rebel forces (and the several Americans embedded within) that the U.S. would provide air cover for them to make a beach landing at the Bay of Pigs. Over the course of planning, the USSR had somehow learned of the American plot to help the rebels take control of Castro’s Cuba and informed the Kennedy Administration that any American air attack on Cuba would result in the USSR’s declaration of war on the United States.
After hearing this, President Kennedy withdrew all air support on the day of the invasion, and neglected to inform those on the ground that he had withdrawn the air support for their attack. Dozens (including Americans) were killed. President Kennedy apologized to the American people for the errors that took American lives. His approval rating surged to 78% towards the end of 1961.
In 2010 and 2011, Mexican drug cartels used weapons, authorized by the U.S. Department of Justice, to kill thousands of Mexican citizens and several Americans. In 2012, terrorists attacked the American embassy in Benghazi and killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. President Barack Obama has not apologized for the inaction or policies that allowed for the tragedy, nor has any of his administration accepted any of the blame. This is why his approval rating sits at 44%.
If there is one thing that I learned from my high school football days, it’s that the leader of the team gets both the glory for the victory and the blame for the defeat. And when defeat comes, he must be willing to accept it and ensure that the mistake doesn’t happen again.
I’d be willing to bet that if President Obama were to come clean and apologize for his administration’s mistakes, he’d walk away with this election. But he won’t apologize because his pride is bigger than Texas and the majority of his gung-ho followers believe that he can do no wrong.
Admission of guilt or wrongdoing is always difficult, but those men who act honorably and own their mistakes are remembered as heroes. Barack Obama’s legacy is one of finger pointing and utter disappointment. Is it the failures of our leadership that cause our division, or is it the redemption of our leaders that causes our unity?
Pride always comes before the fall. And if Barack Obama wants a second term, he’d better start owning up to his mistakes.
Zachary Freeman | Editor-in-Chief | @ZacharyGFreeman