Trump leadership fell short
Harry S. Truman, president of the United States from 1945-53, kept on his desk in the Oval Office a sign with the phrase “The Buck Stops Here.”
The sign was his acknowledgment that the president has to make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions.
In the wake of the House of Representatives’ failure last week on health care legislation, President Donald Trump ultimately is responsible for that failure, although he was quick to place blame on others.
The “culprits” identified by the president included House Democrats, for their unwillingness to provide even one vote on the legislation’s behalf; lawmakers in the GOP ranks who said they wouldn’t vote to approve the measure, including some members of the Freedom Caucus; and Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Paul Ryan and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, all of whom the president said wanted the health-care effort to press forward despite some reluctance he had expressed.
However, anytime during the days leading up to Friday’s embarrassing spectacle, the president could have asked that the process be halted, to provide time for addressing concerns about the legislation.
He did none of that, and Friday was the predictable debacle stemming from the absence of real, necessary presidential leadership when it mattered most.
His attempts to “muscle” a favorable vote by suggesting that House members who opposed the measure would be defeated for re-election in 2018, and that he might not support some of the Republicans refusing to support the bill, not only failed to garner the bill’s passage, but might have damaged the administration going forward.
A Feb. 16 Mirror editorial, responding to instances of shortsightedness during the first weeks of the Trump administration, observed that the new president was trying to do too much too quickly. It was suggested that the administration take time to weigh and consider the broad implications of its every move on whatever the issue before it.
That suggestion was aimed not only at the Cabinet and the White House staff, but also at the president himself.
Another perspective: Not only is government vastly different from the corporate world, but the ways in which issues are dealt with are strikingly different, necessitating some degree of learning.
In whatever the job or profession, whenever a new employee reports to work for the first time, he or she doesn’t immediately know as much or more than his or her co-workers or supervisors. It takes time to learn the nuts and bolts of a job and to become proficient in duties and responsibilities — even for a new president of the United States.
Trump, despite his great successes in the business world, is dealing with a new “animal” that he needs to become more skillful in influencing, so he can make good on his presidential agenda.
What’s said on the campaign trail doesn’t guarantee success in office.
First, he’ll have to acknowledge the message that held such a prominent place on Truman’s desk.
Today, “here” means Donald Trump. And, although Friday’s setback doesn’t mean all is lost, recovery from it will be quicker if the president makes clear that he’s willing to accept full responsibility for failures as well as for successes — and keeps that promise.